The 15 Most Dangerous Pet Toxins

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The experts in veterinary toxicology at the Animal Poison Control Center recently put out a very useful list of the top 15 drugs, household items, and plants that are dangerous to pets. Here’s a quick rundown. Be sure to check out their website for the complete story, lots of valuable information about pet poisons, and to learn more about the 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661.

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  1. Sago Palm. An ornamental plant that is highly toxic and can cause liver failure in pets. Unsafe as an indoor or outdoor plant.

2. 5-Fluorouracil. A topical chemotherapy treatment which can be deadly to pets.

3. Baclofen. A human muscle relaxant that can cause seizures, coma, and death in pets.

4. Isoniazid. A treatment for tuberculosis, this drug can cause severe toxic reactions in pets.

5. Calcipotriene/Calcipotriol. A synthetic form of Vitamin D. Even a tiny amount can be toxic to pets.

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6. Lilies. Lilies are especially toxic to cats…even the pollen. Ingesting lilies causes acute kidney failure in cats.

7. Ethylene Glycol. This is the sweet-tasting but toxic ingredient in antifreeze that causes kidney failure and central nervous system distress in pets.

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8. Metaldehyde. An ingredient in snail and slug bait. Causes seizures, tremors, and hypothermia in pets.

9. Baking Xylitol. This type of sugar substitute is especially toxic to dogs, even more so than the xylitol in gum or candy, because it is 100% xylitol.

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10. Golden Malrin. A fly bait that can cause the same symptoms as organophosphates (see #11).

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11. Organophosphates. A type of insecticide that causes severe central nervous system, heart, and digestive reactions in pets.

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12. Rodenticides made with Vitamin D or Bromethalin. Two very dangerous types of rodent killer that are designed to be attractive to animals. Ones made with Vitamin D cause kidney failure and those with bromethalin cause brain swelling.

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13. Japanese Yew. All parts of this ornamental plant are toxic to pets. In fact, horses can die if they graze on the trimmings.

14. Caffeine Pills. This includes diet and fitness supplements that contain caffeine. Pets are extremely sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

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15. Grapes and Raisins. Can cause severe kidney failure in pets, even just a small amount.

 

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Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance in Dogs

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When our dogs are experiencing problems like itchy skin or an upset stomach, many owners will begin to suspect that their pet has a food allergy. Veterinary experts say that food allergies in dogs are not as common as people think, and that a food intolerance may be the cause of your dog’s issues. What’s the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Read on.

While an allergy is caused by an immune system reaction, an intolerance is a sensitivity.  According to the nutritionists at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, out of all the dogs they see for suspected food allergies, only around 10% of them have an actual food allergy. What about the other 90%?

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Some of the dogs with skin issues are having allergic reactions to airborne particles in the environment like pollen, dust, and mold. For dogs with digestive problems, a food intolerance is more likely to be the culprit than a food allergy. Food intolerance can be more subtle than a sensitivity to a particular ingredient. For some dogs, it could be the amount of fat or fiber in a dog food, or even how it was cooked.

What are the most common food ingredients to cause intolerance in dogs? According to the experts at PetMD, owners should be aware of lactose, gluten, artificial additives like coloring, and table scraps containing things like spices.

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Of course, all dogs are different, so you should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s particular food sensitivities. The standard way of identifying an intolerance or allergy is to exclude likely causes one at a time from your dog’s diet and see if the symptoms improve. Once the food is identified, avoid feeding your dog anything containing the offending ingredient, and be especially careful about people giving your dog “treats.”

 

New Report Highlights Parallels between Human and Pet Health Care Spending

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The National Bureau of Economic Research recently released a Working Paper that discusses key similarities between our own health care and the care that we provide for our dogs, cats, and other pets. The authors point to 4 main areas where U.S. economic data indicates that our human and pet health spending patterns converge. Here’s a brief rundown:

Rapid growth in human and pet health care spending over the last two decades.

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Pet care has experienced greater growth than all other areas of household spending categories. Next is human health care, followed by housing, and lastly, entertainment. Data shows strong growth in pet care spending beginning around 2005-2006 that continues at a high rate today.

A strong correlation between income and pet & human health spending.

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Not surprisingly, households in the highest income category ($70,000 annually and above) spend more on human and pet health care (as well as housing and entertainment) than households in lower income categories. Pet spending is 114% more in the highest income households than in the lowest.

Rapid growth in the employment of human and pet health care providers.

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The supply of human health care providers and pet health care professionals has grown dramatically over the past couple of decades. While the supply of human physicians has increased 40% between 1996 and 2013, the supply of veterinarians has doubled.

High spending for end-of-life care for both humans and pets.

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A comparison of end-of-life care for pets and humans (using canine cancer patients and human cancer patients on Medicare) shows that there is a distinct end-of-life spending spike (particularly in the last month of life) for both. Human spending begins to increase 3-4 months prior to death while pet spending generally increases just one month before.

 

Animal Lovers Rally to Save San Diego’s “Jetty Cats”

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Many San Diegans are familiar with our famous “Original Dog Beach” (one of the first dog-friendly beaches in the U.S.), popular with locals and tourists alike. But did you know that not far from Dog Beach is a Mission Bay jetty that is home to the “Jetty Cats”—a colony of stray and abandoned cats who have made their home among the jetty rocks?

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The Jetty Cats are not your average feral cat colony. Sadly, many of them are former pets left there by owners who no longer want them. Others are strays who have joined the group. They are quite friendly and approachable, and many locals enjoy visiting them and feeding them. They are also cared for by local animal welfare advocates who make sure they are spayed and neutered.

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The Jetty Cats are under threat. The City of San Diego and the USDA’s Wildlife Services Division have plans underway to trap and euthanize these much-loved cats. The stated reason is to protect endangered bird species in the area, but concerned animal lovers fear that this is an inappropriate reaction to what is generally regarded as a very well-managed cat colony.

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You can learn more about this issue and sign a petition showing your support for the Jetty Cats HERE. Interested in learning more about this unique community of cats? Check out THIS VIDEO from our local ABC New station.

 

What’s the Impact of “Corporatization” on Our Pets’ Veterinary Care?

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Is the solo veterinary practice becoming a thing of the past? Like health care for humans, veterinary care for pets is dramatically changing with the growth of large corporate pet hospitals like Banfield and VCA. Many Americans are choosing to bypass the corner pet store and shop for pet supplies at big box retailers…so it’s not such a surprise to see a vet practice, dog training area, and groomer when you enter these stores. But are we sacrificing quality for convenience?

A recent in-depth article on Bloomberg.com takes a long hard look at the corporatization of veterinary care. It’s a must-read for any concerned pet owner. The article profiles a veterinarian named John Robb who has worked in his own practice, as well as for Banfield and VCA, over the course of his career. He fears that a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach to pet care may be doing more harm than good. What’s the biggest bone of contention for Robb and many other critics of the corporate approach? The over-vaccination of pets because vaccines are such a significant source of income.

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The debate about whether or not we are over-vaccinating our pets, to the detriment of their health, is very complicated. But there is a growing sentiment among experts that “wellness plans” which include multiple, repeated vaccines are unnecessary and maybe even dangerous, given hazards like bad reactions to shots and even injection-site cancers. These risks have many people asking “How much is too much?”

Besides vaccines, another source of profit is diagnostic testing. Did you know that VCA owns Antech Diagnostics, a laboratory that performs testing for 50% of the nation’s veterinary hospitals? This translates to 41% of VCA’s operating profit. While bloodwork and other diagnostic testing can certainly save lives, some critics are concerned that appropriate care can take a backseat to easy profits.

According to the article, corporations now own between 15-20% of all veterinary practices in the U.S., whether they build their own or purchase existing practices from independent veterinarians. Many states actually have laws prohibiting the corporate ownership of veterinary practices, but companies can work around them using complicated management structures.

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The bottom line for pet owners? We should approach veterinary care the same way we approach our own medical care. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a veterinary practice you feel comfortable with, and it’s OK to ask questions and get second opinions about your pet’s care, the same as you would for your own. Whether you choose a small vet practice or a large one, being a well-informed advocate for your pet’s health is the best thing you can do.