Here a Danger, There a Danger. Everywhere a Danger!

We are all concerned for the safety of our beloved pets, so it is important to realize there are many household and personal items that can be dangerous to them. The kitchen is probably the main room were our four-footed friends get into trouble, because they associate that room with pleasant smells and tastes. They are always on the lookout for a treat to snatch, and, besides food, there are always medications, cleaning products, and trash bins that pose threats. Keeping items off the counter, and keeping lids on trash bins are important if there are pets in the home.

We know that goodies containing raisins, grapes ,or currents can cause kidney problems in dogs, but It isn’t only food that poses a threat to pets. Batteries, plants, and fragrance products that are found throughout the house are common dangers. Laundry detergent pods, and dryer sheets are both hazards. It is important to keep laundry products in a closed cabinet and pick up any dropped dryer sheets or detergent pods

While most dogs love to feel the wind on their faces, allowing them to ride in the beds of pick up trucks or stick their heads out of moving car windows is very dangerous. Insects and flying debris can cause ear or eye injuries or even lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury. Pets should always ride inside the cab of a pickup, and even inside a car they should be secured in a crate or wear a seatbelt harness designed for them.

Garages can be extremely hazardous places for our four-footed companions. Most people store a variety of chemicals in the garage which pose serious concerns for pets, and often times rodenticides are stashed there. All chemicals should be securely closed and placed up, out of reach of curious paws.

Pets love spending time outdoors so watch out for poisonous plants. Toxic species common at this time of year include lilies, daffodils, and azaleas. Daffodils can be toxic, especially the bulbs, but the flower heads can also cause diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy. All parts of bluebells are poisonous to dogs and will cause discomfort with the risk of heart beat irregularity if a significant quantity is ingested. Dogs who eat ivy commonly develop diarrhea and vomiting. Even contact with ivy can cause skin reactions, itchiness, and skin rashes. Other spring flowers, such as crocuses and tulips, are considered less toxic, but it is best to seek veterinary advice if you suspect your pet has eaten them.

While it is great to have company while working in the yard, be aware of the actions of your dog. Fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients may be dangerous if ingested. When using any chemicals on your yard, it is best to keep your pets away until it is completely dry or watered in.

Just like people, dogs can develop allergies to plants, pollens, grasses and many other spring time substances. Allergies in pets normally appear as itchy skin and ear problems, sometimes with hair loss or inflamed skin. Some will suffer respiratory signs or runny eyes, and need vet attention.

Another common outdoor danger is lighter fluid and charcoal briquettes used for outside grilling. If you are having a springtime barbecue, make sure your pets are kept at a safe distance. Bones, kebob skewers, and alcohol can be dangerous. Warmer weather. and closer contact among animals, encourage the spread of disease. Make sure your pets are up to date on important vaccines. Be aware of the common pests in your area, and use the same common sense you would use for your pets as yourself. By following basic springtime safety tips, you can avoid springtime hazards that could make springtime miserable for your pets.

Summer Has Collapsed Into Fall

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” This quote by Oscar Wilde has certainly proven true out here on the Iowa prairie, and we are all suddenly thinking about winterizing our homes and cars, and making cold-weather-plans for our four-footed friends. It may be true that some breeds tolerate the cold better than others, but few dogs do well left outside for extended periods of time in cold, damp weather.

We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all of the time in any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark. And remember that temperature is not the only factor to consider; wind chill makes conditions even more dangerous for animals.

If, for some reason, you do not want your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, or even a corner in the garage that could be made into a cozy spot for her. If you accepted the responsibility of caring for an animal, you must also recognize the importance of finding a warm, comfortable place for her to stay. If she has behavioral issues, the solution is not to banish her to the back yard, but to spend the necessary time to train her. Dogs are smart and eager to comply to human rules, but they must be taught what the rules are.

Perhaps one of the most important considerations to prepare your pet for winter is nutrition. A high quality nutritionally balanced diet is essential. To find out how different foods rate, you can go to which rates all of the major dog foods. Check out the food you are currently using—you may be surprised at what you find. All dog foods are not created equal and with all the clever marketing techniques used, it is difficult to sort out what is good and what is simply advertising hype.

Every year dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. It smells and tastes good to them, but it is very toxic. Never keep antifreeze where curious dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember that antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at least 10,000 dogs drink antifreeze every year because of the pleasant sweet taste. It takes only a small amount of traditional antifreeze to cause serious problems to the dog’s kidneys, and most dogs who drink it will die.

With winter just around the corner, don’t think that the fleas have all gone south. Most of us don’t associate fleas with dropping temperatures, but the fact is that fleas are more prevalent now than at any other time of the year. Throughout the summer, flea populations have increased and are peaking in the fall. They are also seeking out warm bodies and other warm places to feed and exist, so it is important to continue using flea preventatives well into the winter. A little extra prevention is better than having to deal with a flea infestation.

The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler outdoor temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets, so if you use these products, be careful to put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Don’t use cooler weather as an excuse to skip walking the dog…an exercise-deprived can get a serious case of cabin fever, which often leads to frustration-induced behaviors such as destructiveness and hyperactivity.

We are surrounded by potential dangers for our four-footed friends, but with a few extra precautions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy during these crisp, cool autumn months.

Halloween Pet Dangers

Halloween is a fun time for the kids, but it can be a time of stress and anxiety for your pets. PLEASE do not leave your dog outside where it can become the prey for pranksters. Many animals are teased, injured, stolen, or even killed on Halloween. If badly frightened, a pet may escape even from a fenced yard and get lost or injured. If you, or someone you know, keep pets outside, we encourage you to make changes and keep them indoors. It is best to keep them in a separate room during trick or treat time. Too many strangers in weird costumes can frighten even the calmest dog, and a frightened pooch may bolt out the door.

Very few dogs enjoy being dressed up in a costume. It is big business for pet stores and the internet to offer really cute doggie costumes, but we really advise you to forget the costume. As cute as they are, costumes pose a danger to your pet’s well-being. Depending on the outfit, the temperature, and your pet’s hair coat, it’s easier than you might think for him to overheat while all dressed up. Pets have also been injured when their range of motion, vision, or hearing is restricted by a costume, or when they frantically try to remove it. Many costumes contain buttons, bows, and other small accessories that can be pulled off and swallowed. It is important to make this about your pet. If he seems anxious, fearful, or uncomfortable, don’t force him to wear it. If you can’t resist dressing him up, just use a decorative bandana!

Candles, including the small ones inside jack ‘o lanterns, are fire hazards. You don’t want your dog getting too friendly or feisty with a carved pumpkin with a candle inside it. Make sure that any of these types of decorations are up well out of the dog’s reach.

We also discourage taking the dog along trick-or-treating. He may become overexcited and break loose. Leave the dog home.

Do not leave Halloween treats where the dog can reach them. Dogs do not properly digest sugary treats, and chocolate and candy with zylitol are toxic. (Zylitol is a sugar substitute that is showing up in all kinds of products, including sugar-free candy, gum, mints and baked goods.) A small amount of xylitol can cause a rapid, dangerous blood sugar drop and acute liver failure.

Halloween candy isn’t the only health hazard for pets. Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, which can intrigue your pet. Ingestion of cellophane wrappers or foil can case life-threatening bowel obstructions. Emphasize to everyone, especially the kids, the importance of keeping all candy wrappers out of paws’ reach.

Some people give non-candy treats, and a recent fad is the small boxes of raisins, or small bags of trail mix containing raisins. Raisins are toxic to dogs and very small amounts can trigger kidney failure. Chocolate covered raisins pose an even larger risk.

Talk to your children about the importance of respecting animals, and not pulling pranks on dogs. Encourage them to tell you if they see anyone annoying an animal. It is a good opportunity to discuss respect, responsibility, and compassion toward both humans and animals.

Taking just a few common sense precautions will make Halloween a lot more fun for both four-leggeds and two-leggeds. Have a safe, happy Halloween.


Keeping Cool in the Summer Sun

Who doesn’t love the long, summer days with lazy walks, a dip in the pool, and the aroma from a neighborhood cookout? It is great to include your dogs in the activities you enjoy during this warmest time of the year, but be sure you understand how he handles the heat and other summertime hazards. A dog processes hot temps totally different from the way humans do. Sweat glands, found throughout the entire body, regulate your body’s temperature, but the only sweat glands your dog has are on his nose and the pads of his feet. The primary way he brings his body temp down is through panting and breathing, meaning that his body is not as efficient at cooling down as yours is.

Tips for keeping your dog safe on summer days include:

  • Access to fresh drinking water is absolutely essential for all pets at all times throughout the day. It is best to pick up any uneaten food, as it will go stale and may attract flies and ants.
  • Exercise her in the cooler times of the day…morning or evening. Try to avoid midday walks and be sure to stay in the shade, especially when temps hit 90 degrees or higher. Regardless of the time of day, don’t overdo exercise sessions. Don’t walk or subject your dog to hot pavement. Not only can this result in burns to tender paws, but because animals are close to the ground—and the ground is hotter than the air—your dog can quickly overheat.
  • NEVER leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle…a vehicle becomes a furnace very quickly, even with the windows open, and can cause a fatal case of heatstroke. On hot days, your dog will be much happier left home. If you see an animal left alone in a parked car, notify the nearby businesses and request they make an announcement, and if necessary, contact the local animal control or police department.
  • Do not allow allow your dog to hang out of a moving car. Objects such as rocks or debris might hit him, or he might simply jump or fall out. Do not allow animals to ride in the back of pickup trucks. Animals can be thrown from the vehicle if a sharp turn is taken, or get injured if a quick stop is required. Conscientious caregivers do not transport their dogs in the back of a pickup.
  • Check daily for possible signs of irritation. Grass seeds lodged in the eyes, ears, or paws can cause a pet pain and need to be removed immediately, and sore spots can become infected quickly in hot weather. Ticks, fleas, and heartworms are very significant issues, with both internal and external parasite infections more common in the summer, and there is also an increase in skin irritations arising from flea allergies. Safe, effective preventative remedies are available to control these nasty critters, but consult with your vet before giving any treatment. Many over-the-counter products are ineffective, and some are downright toxic. Insect stings and bites can also spell trouble…a sting around the mouth or throat can cause swelling and may restrict breathing, and some dogs experience allergic reactions to stings, requiring immediate medical care.
  • During the summer, your dog will encounter chemicals, plants, and other substances that can be toxic to him. Store all fertilizers, weed killers, rat poisons, and gasoline in safe places and make sure they don’t leak. Keep your pets off-limits when insecticides and fertilizers are being used, and since pets can pick up residue on their paws and become ill after licking chemicals off, be sure any treated area is thoroughly dry before allowing them back. Many plants that you might have in your garden can cause irritation in ingested. For a complete list of plants that are toxic to animals, go to and type in “poisonous plants.”
  • Be a watchdog for animals at risk: chained dogs, dogs left unattended, or kept outside without adequate shade or fresh water. Perhaps just a polite conversation with the caregiver will be enough to make life better for the dog, but if appropriate changes are not made, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement officers. Get involved….it’s the right thing to do.

By taking a few precautions, you will be able to help your dog stay safe and cool during hot weather.

Don’t Feed That To Your Dog

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on food for their pets, but despite the best pet food available, some dogs would rather eat human food. Rich and fatty people-foods are favorites of most dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers, or from getting into the discarded scraps. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, which includes an acute onset of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. A dog may become very sick quickly and often needs intensive fluid and antibiotic therapy, so it is best to avoid giving in the next time your precious pooch adorably begs for table scraps. Dogs love to get into the trash, and a medical problem arises if the trash contains bones or moldy or spoiled food. Keep your garbage in inaccessible places!

Certain foods that are good for humans can be dangerous for canines, causing varying degrees of illness, or even death. This list of forbidden people food includes some especially toxic ones:

  • CHOCOLATE, COFFEE, AND CAFFEINE can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and in extreme cases, death. Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get “caffeine” toxicity, and chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine, which are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog. Dark chocolate is more dangerous than white chocolate, but both should be kept out of paws’ reach.
  • ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES contain ethanol, which can be toxic when ingested, and pets can be highly affected by small amounts of alcohol. Not just the drinks should be avoided. Steer clear of food made with alcohol. The bad effects range from vomiting and diarrhea to death.
  • APRICOTS, CHERRIES, PEACHES AND PLUMS contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include apprehension, dilated pupils, hyperventilation, difficulty breathing, and shock.
  • AVOCADOS contain a toxic component, persin, a fungicidal toxin, which is a fatty acid derivative. The leaves, fruit, bark, and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic to animals. Do not feed your dog any component of the avocado.
  • MACADAMIA NUTS. Although the mechanism behind why these nuts are toxic is a mystery, it has been documented that as few as six nuts have caused severe toxic signs. Dogs develop weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and difficulty walking, but usually the symptoms dissipate In a couple days without causing permanent damage.
  • YEAST DOUGH. If your dog eats yeast dough before the yeast has fully risen, the dough will continue to rise in the dog’s stomach, and as it continues to rise, gas accumulates in the dog’s intestines, which can cause extreme distress or the stomach to rupture.
  • GRAPES AND RAISINS were once offered as treats but it has been determined that these fruits can cause kidney failure. Any dog that ingests more than a few grapes or raisins will need aggressive medical treatment. Without treatment, death is possible.
  • ONIONS. Dogs lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this can result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion are ingested, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. Severe anemia and even death can occur if the dog ingests lots of onions.
  • GUM, CANDY, BAKED GOODS (AND TOOTHPASTE!) Many of these contain a sweetener called xylitol, a sugar-alcohol sweetener, and dogs that eat this can develop a sudden drop in blood sugar, causing weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse and seizures. Ingestion of as little as .1 gram of xylitol per kilogram of body weight can be deadly for dogs, so if you suspect that your dog has ingested a food containing xylitol, seek veterinary care immediately.

Some favorite people food can certainly cause harm to our dogs, but not all is gloom and doom… there are many dog-friendly human foods to share with your furry friend. Next week’s Paw Prints will discuss some of these foods that are healthy for both two legs and four legs.


Not Every Hazard Has A Happy Ending

I often discuss the deadly summer hazards lurking around the corner for your canine companion, but this past week clearly illustrated that these hazards are for real.

Many dogs do not understand the dangers when they dash out an open door and carelessly run away from their safe haven. We have several TLC residents right now who are convinced that an unlatched gate is an invitation to find “greener pastures.” Thankfully we have a double gated system so that if a dog sneaks out a gate, there is another barrier to conquer…. and I firmly believe that one of the most important commands we can teach our dogs is “Come.” If you have a dog that has a tendency to wander off, we encourage you to work on basic commands such as “stay”, “sit”, and “come”. They may mean the difference between life and death for your dog, and may save you from the traumatic experience of having your pet become a casualty. We spent several hours trying to coax a frightened, obviously lost dog, to trust us. Darkness came and our rescue efforts were unsuccessful. We have not seen the dog again, and can only pray that somehow he found his way home, or allowed someone else to rescue him.

Many mushrooms are toxic to dogs, and the horrible seriousness of that truth hit home when Cooper, our little shelter dog who moved into our hearts and home, found tiny brown mushrooms in his secure pet yard, and apparently felt obligated to eat some. Thankfully, he vomited, which probably saved his life, but he has been one sick little guy, and is still on medication. Most of us don’t realize that some of the mushrooms popping up in our yards are very toxic to dogs and can be fatal. Dogs like Cooper, who like to “graze”, will sometimes eat wild mushrooms along with lawn grasses, resulting in poisoning. The fact is that dogs can become ill by just licking a poisonous mushroom, and symptoms can range from mild vomiting and diarrhea to severe digestive problems to complete liver failure. Cooper is still recovering from very serious digestive illness.

If you catch your dog in the act of eating mushrooms, remove any pieces from his mouth and induce vomiting with either 1 teaspoonful of syrup of ipecac per 10 pounds of body weight, or 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide every 10 minutes repeating 3 times. If there is a short delay in realizing that your dog has eaten poisonous mushrooms, get him to your veterinarian immediately.

Another hazard that I encountered first hand this week involved a dog who had discovered rat poison in a farmer’s shop, and consumed some of it. Rodenticides are used to control the overpopulation of rats and mice, and poisoning by pesticides and rodenticides is one of the most common household dangers to your pet., and if your dog goes outside at all there is possible contact with rodent poison. It might be in a neighbor’s yard, in a trash bag, or in the back corner of a shop or a garage. The health and survival of your pet depends on the amount of poison ingested, and the time before treatment begins. The best prevention is to keep all poisons, especially rodent poisons, totally out of your dog’s reach. Carelessly placed, or stored, they are potentially fatal threats to your dog’s health.

The hot and sunny stretches of summer can create hazards for your pets, but a little extra care and attention can help them enjoy the hot weather safely so that encounters with summer hazards have happy endings.

It’s Beginnning to Look Like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go,  and  the gamut of holiday activities –baking, shopping,  gift wrapping, parties, and house guests—is in full swing.  Busy, busy, busy with many extras vying for your time.   As schedules become frantic, how do our pets fare?  What happens to the daily walk, the game of fetch, and  the quiet snuggle with a favorite human companion?   Taking care of your dog in the holiday season  requires a bit of  caution, because with all the interesting foods and decorations in our homes, there are many hazards.

  • The traditional Christmas tree needs to be placed in an area where it is not likely to be knocked over, and secured well.   There simply are no perfectly pet-safe ornaments, but  glass ones, or easily broken ones should be placed high on the tree.  Ornaments with hooks to attach them to the tree often fall from the tree, and pets may catch their mouths on them , or swallow them.
  • Most dogs (and cats)  are attracted to tinsel, and may try to eat the stuff  which can slice up their gastrointestinal system.   Sweep up the pine needles that drop  to prevent ingestion of needles which  can cause gastric irritation.  Turn the lights on only when you are home because risk is always there with a live tree.   Do not allow your pet access to the tree water to drink.
  • Dogs love to investigate and most don’t understand that the presents are not chew toys.  Inquisitive dogs may tear open wrapped gifts,  and ingest decorative ribbons or strings (not to mention that gifts can be destroyed by a playful pet).  It is wise to limit unsupervised  access to the area.
  • During the holiday season, many lights are displayed, and, with these lights,  come electric cords.  Curious pets can find these cords interesting and fun , resulting in electric shock or burns.
  • Don’t leave lighted candles unattended.  Dogs may burn themselves or cause a fire if they are knocked over.  Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface, out of paws’ reach.  And if you leave the room, put the candle out!  Essential oils are highly toxic and should be also kept out of reach.
  • Fatty, spicy, and no-no-human foods such as chocolate, or anything sweetened with xylitol,  as well as bones should not be fed to your four-legs.  Ingestion of  high- fat foods  or other holiday foods such as yeast breads or fruit cakes with currants and raisins can result in serious gastrointestinal upset.  No alcoholic beverages should be left where an inquisitive dog can reach them.  Make sure your dog doesn’t have access to the trash where you throw away the string or paper used to wrap the turkey or ham!
  • If you have house guests, remind them to keep all their meds zipped up and out of reach.  Handbags typically contain many items poisonous to dogs, including prescription meds, pain meds such as Tylenol, sugarless chewing gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins, and hand sanitizers.

Veterinarian Pamela Perry  emphasizes that the holiday season is stressful for both humans and canines.  “Your dog should have access to a quiet room where he can retreat if he becomes overwhelmed with all the hustle and bustle.  To keep his stress levels low, maintain his routine as much as possible.  Spend a few minutes –one-on-one  several  times a day, so he knows you  haven’t forgotten him.  It is likely that it will lower your stress level too.”

Dogs are treasures and are worth  making a few compromises and taking a little extra care to ensure a  happy, safe holiday  for everyone.

Pet Poisons in your Purse

Did you know that your purse or briefcase is a reservoir for items toxic to your four-legged friends?

The source of the top five pet poisons is actually often found in your handbag.

  • Human medications account for almost half the yearly calls to the Pet Poison Helpline because someone’s pet has ingested a medication found in a purse, duffel bag , or book bag. Human pills come in bottles and the sound of a rattling pill bottle is similar to the noise many dog toys make. Common painkillers like Advil, Motrin, and Tylenol, as well as prescription drugs for depression such as Prozac can be toxic to dogs. NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve can cause GI ulcers and kidney failure, and just one Tylenol can cause liver failure in a dog. Antidepressants can cause loss of coordination, agitation, tremors, and seizures.
  • Asthma inhalers are commonly stored in purses for emergency use, and if your dog bites into an asthma inhaler, it can cause life-threatening poisoning. These inhalers contain highly concentrated doses of drugs like albuterol and fluticasone, and exposure to just a single does of this powerful drug can lead to vomiting, heart arrhythmia, collapse, and ultimately, death.
  • Cigarettes are not only bad for the health of humans; they are equally bad for your pets. Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even stop- smoking gum contains nicotine, and nicotine poisoning causes serious problems, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs of elevated heart and respiratory rates, loss of bladder or bowel control, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death are often the result of accidental ingestion of nicotine.
  • Sugarless chewing gum and breath mints usually contain xylitol, and xylitol and dogs don’t mix. Most sugarless gums, including some Orbit, Trident, and Ice Breaker brands contain this sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Sugarless mints, toothpastes, flavored multivitamins, and mouthwashes may also contain xylitol that, when ingested, can result in hypoglycemia, a life-threatening and rapid drop in blood sugar. Larger amounts can cause liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning include, weakness, difficulty walking, collapse, tremors, seizures and vomiting.
  • In our germ-conscious society, small bottles of hand sanitizer have become common place in purses, briefcases, and backpacks. and most of these products, which are used to kill germs, contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol.) If a dog chews a small bottle of hand sanitizer, it is about the equivalent of a shot of hard liquor, which could cause a serious drop in blood sugar, loss of coordination, nervous system depression, coma, and even death.

If you look around, you can probably find a handbag or other carryall bag within the reach of your pet right now. It is important to designate a common “safe place” as the ‘bag drop-off area, a spot that is out of reach of curious pets. Inquisitive pets are eager to explore the contents of just about anything, and unfortunately will eat just about anything. If you put your human medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container up out of reach of your pet, and never store human medications near your pet’s medications…pet poison hot lines receive regular calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to pets.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something that may be toxic, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. If your vet is not available, call Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison center at 800-213-6680. You will be charged a small fee, but it could well save your dog’s life.