Things You Should Know: Xylitol can kill your dog.

 

Easter-Dog

 

With another candy-filled holiday approaching, I wanted to take the opportunity to educate you about XYLITOL.

Do you know about Xylitol?  Have you heard of this chemical before?

It’s not necessarily a new thing; in fact, veterinarians have been doing their best to educate their clients about the dangers associated with Xylitol.  However, I am still finding plenty of people who don’t know why it’s an issue.  Enough people to warrant a blog article.   😉

 

Products containing Xylitol

So what is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of artificial sweetener found in many food and health products.  Typically we think of things like gum and candy containing xylitol, however it can now be found in prescription and non-prescription medications, mouthwash, and even some types of peanut butter.

 

From the Pet Poison Hotline:

Some of the places we have seen xylitol include chewable vitamins, gummy vitamins, lozenges/cough drops, sublingual supplements and medications (over the counter and prescription), liquid medications (over the counter and prescription), breath sprays, medication/supplement sprays, toothpastes, nasal sprays, mouth rinses/washes, essential oil products, cosmetics, and many sugar-free foods and baking ingredients.

 

That’s a long list, and it’s getting longer!  Xylitol may be very safe for humans, but it can be deadly if ingested by your dog.

(The jury is still out on whether it affects cats the same way.  We think they may be sensitive to xylitol, but they are too smart to eat gum, so there’s not a lot of research.)

 

Why is Xylitol toxic for my dog?

Without going into a bunch of technical jargon regarding pharmacokinetics (big fancy word alert!), suffice it to say that even a very small amount of xylitol causes severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver damage in a very short period of time after ingestion.  In as little as 24 hours liver failure can occur.

It might be a little shocking, but I want you to check out this graphic depicting the significance of the small amount of xylitol it would take to kill a dog, compared to chocolate:

 

Xylitol Toxicity Image

 

Did you see that a dog the size of a Border Collie would die if they eat ONE pack of gum containing xylitol??

As you can see, the ingestion of anything containing xylitol is not something to overlook or “wait and see”.

 

What should I do if I think my dog has ingested something containing xylitol?

Initial signs of xylitol toxicity can occur in as little as 10 minutes.  Some of the signs you may see include:

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • ataxia (incoordination)
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • increased respiratory rate

If you see any of these signs, and you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something containing xylitol, take the packaging, any remaining product, and your pet, and GET THEE TO THE VET.

 

Is there any good news?

The good news is that there is treatment available for your pet if they ingest xylitol!  It will likely involve hospitalization, but pets that are treated early typically recover well.  Yay!

 

I hope you feel educated and empowered by this information, rather than scared witless!  🙂

Prevention is key here.  Keep anything that is not dog food, treats, or toys far out of reach of your pooch.

If they can’t reach it, they can’t eat it. 

 

Did you know this information, or was it news to you?  I bet you have a friend with dogs who needs this… Will you share this and help me save more doggies?

Don’t Let Anesthesia Fears Delay Your Pet’s Teeth Cleaning

 

I have many senior patients in my practice, most of which are in need of dental work.  With good reason, the owners of these pets have concerns about anesthesia and the risks involved for elderly pets.

I spend a good amount of time talking with my clients about benefits vs. risks, and all the precautions and monitoring that go into anesthesia for pets (young and old).

Dr. Marty Becker wrote a great article that addresses most of the talking points I cover with my clients. I thought it would be helpful to share this with you on the blog.  Click the graphic to read it!

Don't let your fear of anesthesia delay your pet's dental cleaning.

 

The most important points I’d like you to know are these:

  • There is a risk involved with every single medical procedure and treatment that your pet has experienced, not just anesthesia.  But if your vet is recommending something, they have already determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Your veterinarian will take every possible precaution, choose anesthetic drugs specific to your pet, and will monitor them throughout the procedure and during recovery.  Just like in human medicine.
  • You will be amazed at how much better your pet feels after those yucky, uncomfortable teeth are cared for.

 

What other questions or concerns do you have about anesthesia for your pet?  Send them to me or write them in the comments – I’ll answer every one!

 

Does your pet have “dog breath” or “tuna breath”?  Let Dr. D take a look!  You can find all the contact information on the Small Things website.

Does my pet need insurance?

Q&A: Does my pet need insurance?

Is pet insurance a scam?  Or is it worth every penny?  How can a pet owner decide if insurance is worth the cost for their cat or dog?

 

I was going to write a blog post answering this question, and then someone else beat me to it.  And to be honest, she does a fabulous job of addressing this controversial topic – better than I could have!

 

So, if you are questioning the idea of pet insurance, I wholeheartedly recommend this article.

 

I used to think pet insurance was a ripoff.

 

Go check it out, and then let me know if you have any questions about pet insurance!

Q&A: Does my dog need to wear sunscreen?

In Colorado, we live close to the sun.  We never leave the house without sun protection in the form of sunscreen, hat, or sleeves.  But what about our dogs?

 

Dog Hiking in the Summer

 

If your dog has light-colored or thin fur, then it’s a great idea to provide their skin with protection from the sun!  Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t use any old sunscreen lotion.

The sunscreen that you use for yourself MIGHT be okay for Fido, but only if you use one that doesn’t contain zinc oxide.  And most of them do.  Zinc oxide, the same ingredient that helps with diaper rash, is toxic to your dog.  If ingested, it will cause their red blood cells to explode, resulting in anemia.  Major summer buzz kill.

You also need to make sure that you are protecting your dog’s skin from both UVA and UVB rays (to prevent both sunburn and skin cancer), so look for a sunscreen that is labeled as “broad spectrum”.

Here’s an option that I recommend and is safe for your dog:

 

Bull Frog Sunscreen

(P.S.  Don’t put this sunscreen on your cat.  It contains salicylates, which are toxic to cats.)

There are some “pet-friendly” sunscreens you can purchase at pet stores, just read the labels first.

And if you really want your pet to be protected from the sun, there are places that you can get dog sunglasses, visors, and sun shirts!

Now get out there and have some [protected] summer fun!

Dr. D’s Tips For Hiking With Your Dog in Colorado

Oh, how I love the summer in Colorado!  Every year I can’t wait to strap on my hiking shoes, grab my pack, and hit one of the many amazing trails along the Front Range.  And more often than not, I took along my best hiking buddy – my dog.

Because hiking with your dog is one of the greatest pleasures of living along the Front Range of Colorado (there are so many great dog-friendly trails!), I put together a list of tips for you so that you and your pooch can have the best experience.

(And so can all the other trail users…)

 

Backpacking with Dogs

 

1.  Make sure your dog is in good health.  Consider getting your dog an exam to make sure they are fit for some serious exercise.  If they are elderly, definitely have them examined by your veterinarian for any joint or limb pain before you start hiking with them.

2.  Don’t be a weekend warrior.  If you and your dog aren’t getting any exercise during the week, it’s not a good idea to jump into a 4-hour hike on Saturday.  You’ll both regret it.  Start building up your dog’s endurance with walks, runs, or fetch sessions during the week.  Increase the time and intensity gradually.  You should also gradually increase the intensity of your hikes over time.

3.  Strengthen your dog’s recall response.  Many trails in Boulder County allow your dog to be off leash if they wear a Voice and Sight tag.  If you participate in the program, make sure your dog has practiced and can recall immediately when you signal them.

4.  Bring plenty of water and snacks.  Not just for you.  Hiking burns a ton of calories, and it’s easy to get dehydrated quickly.  Make sure you have some good, energy-replenishing snacks for your pup.

(4a.  Do you know the signs of heat exhaustion?  I had a park ranger in Boulder tell me once that they see tons of dogs with heat stroke, and they wished more people knew how to spot the signs.  Learn all about it in this article!)

5.  Know your dog’s abilities.  Don’t take him on a hike that’s too strenuous for his level of endurance.  He’ll end up with an injury that will put him on bed rest.  If it’s a hot day, pick an easier hike (like one that ends at a pond), or just let them stay home.  Remember, a dog’s paws are more sensitive to hot sand and rocky trails, and they can easily end up with burns.  That would certainly put a damper on your summertime adventures.

 

Dog Hiking on Trail

 

6.  You and your pooch are ambassadors for ALL hikers with dogs.  Be the best at hiker/dog etiquette:

  • Pack it out!  You know what I mean.
  • Obey posted signs regarding leash laws.
  • Yield the trail to other hikers and trail users.  When someone is passing, leash up your dog and hold them next to your side.  Say a friendly hello to the people passing so that your dog knows they are not a threat.
  • Don’t assume that everyone you see is a dog lover.  Some folks might find your exuberant, friendly pooch rather intimidating.  Recall your dog, and keep them by your side.
  • If you see another dog approaching, leash your dog.  It is easier to control the situation if at least your dog is on a leash.  Be familiar with dog body language so that you can avoid an undesirable situation with another dog.  And don’t be afraid to ask the other dog’s owner to leash their dog if necessary.
  • Don’t let your dog chase or approach wildlife.  The trail is their home, after all.

7.  After the hike, inspect your dog.  Check all four paws for injury or soreness.  Check their coat and skin for any ticks, thorns, or burrs.  Make sure they are hydrated and not over-heated.  And if they are sore the next day, give them a rest and don’t let them push so hard the next time.

8.  Above all, have fun!  Take your time, stop and smell the smells, listen to the sounds of nature, and enjoy being in the great outdoors with your best friend!

 

GrayTorrey 2011 summit

 

Need to schedule a pre-hiking exam for your pooch?  Give Dr. D a call!

Things You Should Know: Easter Hazards For Pets

It’s that wonderful time of year again – pet hazard time!  It only rolls around once a …. I mean 4 or 5 times a year…  Oh, holidays.

 

Easter-Dog

 

Yes, holidays are the most common times of the year for your pets to be exposed to poisons and hazardous items in your home.   Veterinarians like to use these magical times of year to remind you of all the ways your pet could potentially die.  So morbid.  Ah, well, you DO need to know!

 

Here are the most common hazards for your pets during EASTER:

 

Flowers of the Lily family

 

1.  Lilies, and any flower in the Lily family.  Also daffodils.

If you’ve been around me for very long, you know that I remind you often about the dangers of lilies for cats.  They are extremely toxic.  Only one or two leaves or petals can send your cat into kidney failure.  If you have cats, it’s better to not buy any lilies at Easter.  Seriously.  Don’t buy any.

 

EasterGrass

 

2.  Easter Grass

It’s that pastel colored stringy stuff that lines the bottom of your Easter basket.  And it’s irresistible to your pets.  If they ingest it, it can cause severe problems in the intestines and may require surgery to remove it.  Not a happy ending.

 

Chocolate-Easter-bunnies

 

3.  Chocolate.  Duh.

You all know this one, right?  Chocolate is toxic to your pets.  The darker it is, the worse off your pet will be.  I suggest putting any Easter candy, baked goods, or other treats under lock and key, far away from your curious pets.

 

xylitol

 

4.  Xylitol

Xylitol is that artificial sweetener that’s used in candy, gum, and even mouth wash.  It’s extremely toxic to your pets.  Ingesting as little as 1 or 2 pieces of gum containing xylitol can put your doggie in the hospital for days.

 

Now that you know the hazards, take the time to keep your pet safe!  And have a Happy Easter!!

 

If your pet ingests any of these hazardous substances, get thee to an emergency clinic!

 

Ten Things Your Veterinarian Wants You To Know

Recently I was inspired by an article I read on this topic, so I decided to share with you my own list of 10 things I want you to know:

 

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

 

1.  Annual exams are important.

Not only because dogs and cats age much faster than humans (of course you knew that!), but because early detection of disease gives your pet a better chance at a longer life with you.

2.  Dental care is more important than you think.

I know it sounds silly when your vet recommends that you brush your pet’s teeth at home, and you hate the idea of your pet under anesthesia for a proper dental cleaning.  But trust me when I say that when it comes to oral health, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

If you want to save money on your pets life-long medical care, invest in their teeth NOW, before you have to spend thousands of dollars having all their teeth extracted because they are so diseased, and/or treating their heart/kidney disease that was secondary to their dental disease.  Seriously.

3.  If you love your pet, keep them lean.

Pet obesity in our country rivals the human obesity epidemic.  We are literally loving our pets to death.  An overweight pet has an average life span of TWO YEARS LESS than their healthy counterparts!  Make sure you are feeding your pet the right amount of a high quality food, giving them the right kind of exercise, and not giving them too many treats.  If you don’t know what is appropriate, guess who does…

(uh, that would be your veterinarian, if you didn’t know.)

4.  Microchipping your pet could save their life.

It might sound extreme, but it’s the truth.  Imagine your pet gets lost – they may end up in a shelter, where they could be euthanized or adopted by another family if they aren’t microchipped.  That little $50 investment will tell the authorities where your pet really belongs!

5.  You play an important part in helping your pet have a good experience with the vet.  Start desensitization at home.

If you want a big gold star from your veterinarian, teach your pet to enjoy being touched all over, having their ears and muzzle manipulated, their mouth opened, and their tail lifted.  Teach your cat to think the carrier is fantastic.  And by all means, be sure your dog knows his manners (sit, stay, come, down, heel)!  These are first steps which will allow your pet have a fear-free experience at the vet.

6.  Cats need special treatment.

Many think that cats are low-maintenance pets, and that’s true to some extent.  But they have species-specific needs that must be addressed if they are going to live long, happy, healthy lives.

Environmental enrichment, mental stimulation, appropriate litter boxes, and places to scratch are just a few things to think about.  Medically speaking, you should know that cats are the masters of disguise.  They will keep disease hidden, and even if they are showing signs they will be very subtle.  Any changes in appetite, behavior, weight loss, or litter box habits must be brought to your vet’s attention right away.  And please, OH please, have your cat examined EVERY YEAR.

7.  Make your home environment safe for your pets.

Please keep prescription and over-the-counter medications completely out of reach.  Educate yourself on which foods and plants are toxic to pets.  Pet poisonings are one of the most common preventable emergencies seen by veterinarians, and we would love it if that were not the case.

8.  Marijuana is BAD for your dog.

Okay, this one is specific to Colorado, but important nonetheless!  Marijuana, in ANY form, is toxic to your dog.  If you notice your dog losing his balance, walking like he’s drunk, leaking urine or losing complete bladder control, take them to the vet right away.  And keep your stash, as well as any paraphernalia, far away from Fido.

9.  Don’t self-diagnose.  Dr. Google is not a good veterinarian.

There’s a ton of information out there on the internet…some good, and some not so good.  If you’re concerned about your pet, just call the vet.  Your vet’s knowledge, eyes, ears, fingers, and diagnostic tests are vastly superior to Dr. Google’s.

10.  Don’t wait too long to see your vet.

There is a good chance that whatever medical issue your pet is experiencing is not going to go away on its own.  And even if it might, your pet will suffer needlessly in the meantime.  Early intervention not only gives your pet the best prognosis and care, but could save you money in the long run.  And who doesn’t want to save money?

 

Do you have any questions or thoughts for Dr. D?  Leave ’em in the comments below!

Did you know that Dr. D does house calls in the Broomfield area?  If your pet needs to see the vet, give her a call!

Q&A: Does my dog really need heartworm prevention in Colorado?

I get asked this question a lot.

 

Many folks in Colorado have been under the impression that heartworm disease isn’t anything to be worried about in our state, so their dogs don’t need to take monthly heartworm preventative medication.  While that may have been true many years ago, today the reality is very different.

Take a look at this map from 2013 – it should be apparent that heartworm disease is a problem in Colorado, whether you live in Broomfield, Denver, or the mountain towns.

 

Heartworm Incidence 2013

 

 

The theory behind this increase in heartworm disease is that heartworms traveled here from other states via infected dogs.  Remember Hurricane Katrina?  Remember all the homeless dogs who found new homes around the country?  Those dogs, lovingly adopted by local Coloradoans, brought heartworms with them.  And since our native dogs in Colorado have not historically been treated with heartworm preventative medication, they were at risk.  That’s just one example.

How does a dog get heartworms, you ask?

Well, simply put, heartworms are transferred from dog to dog via mosquitoes.  With Colorado’s unpredictable weather, mosquitoes can pop up pretty much any time of year.  That is why veterinarians recommend year-round heartworm prevention.

In fact, studies have found that most positive cases of heartworm disease in Colorado occur during February and August.  Dogs typically will not test positive for heartworms until six months after they are infected, so that means those positive dogs were infected in the winter AND the summer.

There are plenty of reasons to keep your Colorado dog on heartworm prevention.

If you’re still not convinced that your Broomfield/Westminster/Boulder pup should be on heartworm preventative meds, consider this:  If your dog contracts this disease, he will have to be treated with arsenic-type drugs to kill the worms before they do serious damage to your pet’s heart and lungs.  This treatment costs up to 15x more than a 12-month supply of heartworm prevention.

Keeping your pet on heartworm prevention is easy and inexpensive.  Testing your dog for heartworms is also easy and inexpensive, and should be done every 12 months, whether or not your dog is on preventative medication.

Here’s the bottom line:  the more folks in Colorado who protect their pets from heartworm disease by giving preventative meds, the less dogs will be infected and allowed to spread this nasty disease.  It’s a win-win!

 

Want more info?  Check out The American Heartworm Society’s webpage!

Does your dog need to get started on heartworm prevention?  Give Dr. D a call to set up an appointment!

 

This post was updated to show new data from 2013.