Tag: Garden Dangers
Summer is here – kind of. If you live on the west coast it still feels like winter but still the temperatures are changing and it is important to remember to keep your pets safe for when the heat does come.
The following are a few tips to remember to keep fido safe.
Have a wonderful summer!
Most people are aware that leaving a pet in a locked car on a 100F degree day would be dangerous. However, it is the seemingly mild days of spring (and fall) that pose great danger, too. Driving around, parking, and leaving your pet in the car for “just a minute” can be deadly. Cars heat up fast — even with the windows cracked. Check out these sources for additional temperature information:
void Heat Stroke – How to Help
Order the “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” flyers, posters, and other educational materials from My Dog Is Cool web site to put on cars that have pets in them to alert the owners. (Note: if you see pets or children in cars on warm days, please take action and call the police or fire department – time is critical.)
Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 104-110F degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma, death. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.
If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately! Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.) Do not aid cooling below 103 F degrees – some animals can actually get HYPOthermic, too cold. Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian.
Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this. There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that can be fatal.
Learn more: Tips to prevent heatstroke in your pet
Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape – why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the ‘athletes’ will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heatstroke.
Consider your pet’s housing. If they are kept outdoors, do they have shade and fresh water access at all times? I have treated one case of heat stroke in a dog that did indeed have shade and water while tethered under a deck, but had gotten the chain stuck around a stake in the middle of the yard — no water or shade for hours. If you live in a warm climate, it is a good idea to hose down the dog before work, at lunch or whenever you can to provide extra cooling (if you dog is not overheated in the first place).
Not all dogs are excellent swimmers by nature. Especially if Fido has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet just as your human family — with a life preserver. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold from choppy water or sudden storm, a life jacket could be what saves your pet’s life.
Learn more: Pet Life Jackets – Just Another Accessory or a Necessity?
Antifreeze actually a year-round hazard. With the warmer temperatures of summer, cars over heat and may leak antifreeze. (This is the bright green liquid found oozing from that car with the engine fan on.) Also, people change their antifreeze and may spill or leave unused antifreeze out where pets can access it. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is inviting to pets (and children). It is also extremely toxic in very small amounts.
Call your veterinarian (or physician) immediately if any ingestion is suspected. A safe alternative to Ethylene Glycol antifreeze is available, it is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost a small amount more than ‘regular’ antifreeze, it is worth the piece of mind.
Finally, if you are traveling outside of your normal Veterinarian’s locale, it is wise to check out the Veterinary clinics/hospitals in the area that you are visiting, before the need arises. It is better to be prepared for an emergency and not have one happen than to panic in an emergency situation, wasting valuable time.
Guest Post: Gail T. Fisher
I recently got an email from a friend with the subject line “Mulch Toxic to Dogs”. I’m always suspicious of emails like this. My first thought is that it’s one of those made-up scary rumors that spread like wildfire across the Internet. There was the Swiffer WetJet scare claiming it contained antifreeze – false; or that several pets have died when their owners sprayed the furniture with Febreze – also false.
These anonymously written and widely spread stories sound plausible enough to be real, but are actually the invention of people with far too much time on their hands – or perhaps a grudge against a manufacturer? But this email was different. It included a link to the website I visit whenever I get one of these scary emails: www.snopes.com, the urban legends website that separates rumor from truth. So I checked it out.
It is pretty much common knowledge (at least we hope it’s commonly known) that chocolate is bad for pets, and that consuming chocolate can be fatal to a dog or cat. Whoever would have thought, however, that some bark mulch would contain even more theobromine – the toxic element – than dark chocolate (my dear and good friend).
Here’s what is on the Snopes website (the full link is http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/cocoa.htm):
“This warning began appearing in our inbox in May 2003. Unlike the majority of scary alerts spread through the Internet there is a good deal of truth to this one, although we’ve so far been unable to substantiate the claim that ‘Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks.’”
This page contains further information from the ASPCA: “Cocoa beans contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Dogs are highly sensitive to these chemicals, called methylxanthines. In dogs, low doses of methylxanthine can cause mild gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain); higher doses can cause rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures, and death.)
“Eaten by a 50-pound dog, about 2 ounces of cocoa bean mulch may cause gastrointestinal upset; about 4.5 ounces, increased heart rate; about 5.3 ounces, seizures; and over 9 ounces, death. (In contrast, a 50-pound dog can eat up to about 7.5 ounces of milk chocolate without gastrointestinal upset and up to about a pound of milk chocolate without increased heart rate.)
“According to tables we’ve examined, cocoa mulch contains 300-1200 mg. of theobromine per ounce, making cocoa mulch one of the strongest concentrations of theobromine your pet will encounter in any chocolate product. Yet the question of the gravity of the risk presented by this type of gardening mulch remains a matter of debate. According to Hershey’s, “It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of all dogs won’t eat it.”
While this may sound like a reassuring statistic, it becomes 100% if your dog is one of the 2% that will eat bark mulch. The danger is especially high for puppies, who will pick up and eat virtually anything within their reach. Rather than take the risk, choose another type of mulch, and supervise your dog, stopping him from munching mulch if you walk him off your property.
It isn’t just cocoa mulch that poses a danger to your pet, it’s chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Milk chocolate contains between 44-60 mg. per ounce, while unsweetened baking chocolate contains 450 mg per ounce.
The lethal dosage of theobromine is between 250 and 500 mgs per kilogram of body weight. For those of us who aren’t metric-minded, that’s between two-thirds to one and a third ounces for every 2.2 pounds of weight.
If you suspect your dog may have consumed chocolate in any form contact your veterinarian or animal emergency clinic immediately, or the National Animal Poison Information center at the University of Illinois in Urbana. They have computer-supported telephone consultations and a website www.napcc.aspca.org, as well as a toll free number (888) 426-4435.
Time is of the essence. Again, from the ASPCA: “Theobromine affects the heart, central nervous system, and kidneys, causing nausea and vomiting, restlessness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and increased urination. Cardiac arrhythmia and seizures are symptoms of more advanced poisoning. Other than induced vomiting, vets have no treatment or antidote for theobromine poisoning. Death can occur in 12 to 24 hours.”
It’s our responsibility to keep our pets’ environment as safe as possible. Avoid dangerous products, keep harmful substances safely away from your pet, and supervise them when you’re away from home. You never know what hidden dangers exist in something as seemingly harmful as bark mulch.
Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2007. All rights reserved. http://www.alldogsgym.com
Guest Author – Sandy Moyer
The drab gray and brown of winter are gone, and we’re surrounded by the bright colors of springtime! Flowering trees are covered in pink and white blossoms. From forsythias and daffodils to azaleas and tulips, shrubs and flowerbeds are every color of the rainbow and lawns are turning green and beautiful again.
Everyone loves lush green lawns and Spring is the right time to apply lawn treatments …. fertilizers for healthy lawns and products to kill weeds and control crab grass. Unfortunately, the same products that produce healthy lawns can sometimes cause health problems for pets. Contact with herbicides can cause vomiting, excess salivation, problems with the central nervous system, and even sudden death.
By taking a few precautions, we can protect our pets and still have lush green lawns. Before applying lawn treatments or before treatment by a professional lawn service, remove any pet water and food dishes from the yard. Always keep your pets inside while chemicals are being applied and keep them off the treated grass for at least 24 hours after an application. If your dog manages to come in contact with a freshly treated lawn in spite of your best efforts, wash it’s paws with soap and water immediately. If you live in a neighborhood with adjoining yards, make sure your dog doesn’t wander onto a neighbor´s newly treated lawn.
- Tree Sprays, Garden Dusts, and Foggers
Spring is also the time to apply pesticides to gardens and trees. Chemical pesticides are applied as tree sprays, garden dusts, foggers, and in a variety of fruit and vegetable sprays. Keep pets away from the area under and around freshly sprayed trees for at least 24 hours. Keep them out of gardens and flower beds after applying pesticide sprays or dusts.
- Slug and Snail Killing Pellets
Never scatter slug and snail killer pellets in gardens or flower beds if you have pets of if neighborhood pets have access to your yard. Dogs find the small blue poisonous slug pellets tasty. Use a commercial bait trap or pellet holder that´s out of reach to pets instead.
Ingestion of mouse and rat poison is another danger. These poisons come in cardboard containers filled with poisonous pellets. Since dogs can obviously chew through the cardboard to get the tempting bait, their owners carefully place them in spots their dogs can’t reach.When rodents invade their homes to stay warm in fall, people put the little boxes underneath kitchen drawers and behind shelves in garages and sheds. When things are moved for Spring clean-up, the dog is right there to grab the forgotten poisonous traps. Most people realize how dangerous pest control poisons are to pets, but there may be things they DON´T know that could save their dogs’ lives. Rodent poisons may not cause vomiting or other typical symptoms of poisoning. They contain a compound that causes a life-threatening bleeding disorder. Read this article from someone who had a terrible experience with her dog being poisoned.
- Cocoa Mulch
The danger of poisoning from Theobromine, the ingredient in chocolate that is toxcic to dogs, does not end with the chocolate candy or the baking chocolate inside your home. Pet owners should never use cocoa bean mulch in their flower beds or as garden fertilizer. “Cocoa Mulch”, made from cocoa bean shells, contains potentially toxic quantities of Theobromine. Even if your dog has absolutely no interest in other types of garden mulch, cocoa mulch smells like chocolate and that smell attracts dogs. Dogs have died from eating cocoa mulch!
According to the ASPCA…. “Eaten by a 50-pound dog, about 2 ounces of cocoa bean mulch may cause gastrointestinal upset; about 4.5 ounces, increased heart rate; about 5.3 ounces, seizures; and over 9 ounces, death.” For more information, see ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Issues Cocoa Bean Fertilizer Warning
- Chemicals in Pressure Treated Decks
Don´t let your dog lie directly on a wood deck that has not been sealed. Most wood decks are built from lumber that´s been pressure treated and preserved with toxic chemicals. Sealants should be applied every 2 years. Since toxic chemicals from treated wood can leach into the soil, never let pets crawl underneath a deck to sleep or play.
- Stinging Insects
Some dogs will try to catch bees and others might even swat at them. When a dog gets stung, its usually around the mouth, on the nose or on a front paw. Signs of a sting are – scratching it’s head, rubbing it on the ground, bumps or a swelling around the head, face, mouth, tongue, or paws, excessive salivation, or finding a stinger. If you can see the stinger, carefully remove it with a tweezers, then apply a cold compress to the site. If possible, apply a paste made from a mixture of baking soda and water. Some dogs, like some humans, can be allergic to stings. If your dog has a severe reaction, get veterinary treatment immediately.
Do you need a new supply of heartworm preventative? Heartworms can cause severe heart and lung damage. Dogs get heartworm disease from mosquitoes. Fortunately there is medication to prevent it, but a dog must tested before starting it. Giving a preventative to a dog who already has the disease can be fatal. Early spring, before warm weather and mosquito season, is the time to have a heartworm test done. Only a veterinarian can dispense the medication. Even if your dog has been taking a heartworm preventative all year long, your veterinarian might still recommend periodic testing.
- Fleas and Ticks
When outdoor temperatures reach 40 degrees, ticks become active and feed. They thrive in warm weather. Apply topical, spot-on products once a month, or as recommended by the manufacturer, for protection from fleas and disease spreading ticks. Use flea and tick protection year round in warm climates and begin use of these products in early spring in seasonal climates. In the U.S., April to November are high risk months for Lyme Disease, which has now been found in nearly every state. If you live in a state where there is a high risk, or if you will be vacationing with your dog in a high risk area, (See Map), your dog should have a Lyme disease vaccination. The first two doses of Lyme disease vaccine are given at 3 week intervals, followed by annual boosters.Never use multiple types of flea and tick repellents on a dog at the same time. A mixture of different chemicals can make a dog very sick.For more information about flea and tick protection, see Fall Fleas and Tick Tips.
- Keep your dog safe and sound this Spring -
- If you think your dog might have ingested a chemical poison, you must act fast to stop the poison from being absorbed into his system. Call your veterinarian or poison control center with the container at hand, if possible, to identify the chemical and the amount ingested. Keep syrup of ipecac and/or hydrogen peroxide on hand, but do not use it without instructions from your veterinarian or the poison control center. For lots more information, see my Household Poisons Help Sheet.
- In an animal poisoning emergency, call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, at 888-426-4435, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. There is a $45 per case fee, payable by credit card. This fee includes as many follow-up calls as necessary in critical cases, and, on request, they will contact your veterinarian. To order a free Animal Poison Control Center magnet with their emergency phone number and website address, Click Here.
- Securely tighten lids on bottles of herbicides and pesticides after use. Place bags or boxes, both new and used, inside cans or plastic storage containers. Properly dispose of empty containers where there´s no chance a pet can get to them.
- See your veterinarian for regular annual check-ups and heartworm preventatives. Make sure rabies, distemper and other vet recommended vaccines are up-to-date. If you’re planning a vacation with your dog, ask about additional vaccines that may be recommended for pets in areas you will be traveling to.
- Use an effective flea and tick preventative at recommended intervals.
- See The Flea & Tick Solution Center at 1-800-PetMeds for information on flea preventatives, flea and tick relief, and how to get rid of fleas and ticks inside and outside your home.
Ava, our wee puppy wants to eat everything and with two kids in the house we have to keep up a constant vigil to ensure she does not eat anything to make her sick! So this is not only important to us but to anyone who has a dog.
Rani and Ava
There are some dangerous dog treats that can be fatal to dogs.
Even if you are making your own healthy dog treats, you need to watch out for certain ingredients. Here’s a list of poisonous foods you need to avoid.
Chocolate is one of more well known poisonous human food a dog can eat. Here is a list of other poisonous foods.
- Grapes and Rasins.
- Macadamia nuts.
- Seeds(such as apple seeds).
- Turkey skin.
- Green or sprouting potato skins.
- Apricot – Stone.
- Apple – Seeds.
- Cherry – Seeds.
- Peach Stone.
- Tea and Coffee.
- Wikipedia says that green tomatoes are not good in a dog’s diet because they contain tomatine, which is harmful to them. But red tomatoes are fine.
- It says here that moldy food can also make dangerous dog treats.
- Small balls, toys, and chicken or turkey bones can be choked on by dogs. Cooked bones are also too brittle for a dog to eat safely – it is better to stick to raw bones.
- If your dog eats too much then it will get fat which can be fatal.
If you think you pet has been poisoned by one of the above foods, then you should call a vet – especially if he is vomiting or showing signs of lethargy.
How ill he may get will depend upon how big he is, and how much of the food he has eaten. My pet has had small amounts of onion and garlic and it hasn’t caused any problems. He once also stole an after-eight! Again – this was just a small amount of chocolate so he was fine. But it does pay to keep an eye out – and keep the wrong type of dangerous ingredients out of reach.
As well as these dangerous foodstuffs, there are other ingredients that may not be very healthy for your pet. Dog food allergies can be caused by things like wheat or diary products. And just like humans – too much sugar will make your pet fat.
But there are lots of safe foods that can be used to make easy homemade dog treats. And some things, like pumpkin for dogs can actually be a superfood.
It is easy to keep your pet safe and healthy once you know what to avoid. Safe and nutritious treats, served up with love, will always be appreciated!
Before You Go
Choosing a Park
There are all kinds of dog parks. Some are situated in open areas, some include walking trails through the woods, and some are located at beaches or near lakes. Some are enclosed by fences and others aren’t. Some parks are formal-recognized by a city or county, with rules created and enforced by a board or committee. Others are just areas where people gather informally to let their dogs play.
Ideal Dog Park Features
Though they vary in design and terrain, the best dog parks should have a few ideal features:
- Enough space for normal interaction The area should be big enough for dogs to run around and space themselves out. If there’s not enough square footage available, a park can easily get crowded. Crowding can lead to tension among dogs and, as a result, fights can erupt.
- Secure fencing and gates Even if your dog reliably comes when called, it’s safest to take her to a securely enclosed area to play off leash. Before you let your dog run free at a dog park, make sure that fencing is sturdy and free of holes. It’s also best if the park enclosure incorporates double gates or an interior “holding pen” at the entrance, so people and their dogs can enter and exit without accidentally letting other dogs slip out of the park.
- Clean-up stations A dog park should have trash cans and bags available for people to clean up after their dogs.
- Water and shelter Especially in warmer climates, exercising dogs should have access to both drinking water and shade.
- A separate area for small dogs Small dogs need exercise and play time too, but they can sometimes get injured or frightened by larger dogs. Many dog parks designate separate areas for smaller or younger dogs so that they can play safely.
Preview the Park and Prepare
Go Alone and Observe
It’s important to visit the dog park a few times without your dog, just to check it out in advance.
- Note the park features. Are you comfortable with them? Do they meet your needs? Also read any posted rules and make sure you agree with them. Can you bring treats and toys with you? Does your dog need a special license? Do you need to pay a fee to use the dog park?
- Go to the park at different times, on different days. Note the best days and times of day to visit. If the park’s always packed on weekend mornings or weekdays after work, for example, you can take your dog at off-peak hours instead.
- Observe the park-goers. Are people actively supervising their dogs or are they letting them run amok while they chat and sip lattés? Does anyone in particular seem to have trouble effectively controlling his or her dog? Are there specific dogs who consistently play too roughly or fight with other dogs? If you identify people or dogs who seem to cause problems, you can avoid visiting the park when they’re around.
Prepare in Advance
- Think about what you’ll need to bring. Find some comfortable clothes and shoes to wear. Put together a dog-park kit that includes essentials, like a leash, water for you and your dog, bags for clean-up, toys and treats.
- Teaching your dog a few key skills helps keep her safe and contributes to a more enjoyable dog-park experience for all park users. One essential skill is a reliable recall. Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called. Sit, down, stay, drop it, leave it and settle are also very useful. For general information about dog training, please see Training Your Dog. Don’t hesitate to contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) for group or private classes in dog training. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a CPDT in your area.
- It will help to train yourself, too. Learning about canine body language and communication will help you interpret what’s going on during play and prevent conflict before it escalates to a fight. Please see our article, Canine Body Language, for illustrations and information about how dogs communicate.
Grape or raisin toxicity can cause acute kidney failure. Dogs are unable to pass urine, which means their systems cannot filter the toxins from their bodies.
However, what is puzzling is that some dogs are affected, whilst others do not experience any problems. In 140 such cases handled by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, one third of the dogs developed toxic poisoning from eating grapes or raisins; of which 7 died.
Given their findings, the ASPCA website advises “against feeding pets grapes or raisins in any amount” as it is also not known whether dogs suffer from the cumulative effect of consuming a small quantity, over a period of time.
Symptoms of Poisoning from Grapes and Raisins
It may take up to several hours for a dog to show signs of discomfort. He will vomit repeatedly, and become agitated and hyperactive. The dog will become lethargic and depressed, suffer from diarrhea and experience abdominal pain. He will also become dehydrated and partially digested grapes or raisins are likely to be seen in vomit and feces. These symptoms are outlined in the ASPCA Animal Watch article, The Wrath of Grapes by Dr Means, veterinary toxicologist, (Summer 2002 ,Vol. 22, No. 2)
Treatment for Suspected Poisoning.
Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your pet dog may be suffering from grape or raisin toxicity. As an initial emergency measure, your vet may advise you to induce vomiting (if vomiting has not already occurred) and give your dog activated charcoal (powder, tablets or capsules), or blackened, burnt toast, which acts as a substitute.
If a vet is unavailable, pet owners that live in the United States can contact the ASPCA Poison Control Center for pet advice. Tel : 888-425-4435, although there is usually a consultation fee, charged to a credit card.
Prevention of Grape and Raisin Poisoning In The Home
Ensure that grapes and raisins are not left out on display, in easy reach of your pet. Keep boxes and canisters of raisins safely stored away in a cupboard. Raisins are more concentrated than grapes and are therefore more toxic. Avoid giving pets cookies that contain raisins.
Most importantly, educate members of your family (and friends) as to the dangers these toxic foods may present. It is vital that children understand what they can and can’t feed their pet dog, and that slipping Fido a few chocolate covered raisins may prove fatal.
Recently I had someone write to me and ask about their dog’s urine is killing their lawn. Since this is a plight I face with pet sitting I did some research. So if you have questions like:
- Why does dog pee make the grass turn brown or yellow?
- How can I stop this?
- I love my dog but I would like a nice lawn too.
Then read on for some good tips and product solutions.
Grass burns from dog urine are a source of frustration for dog owners who take pride in a beautiful lawn. Brown or yellow spots of dead grass are unsightly, but some dog owners feel that it’s just part of living with dogs. In fact, there are ways to prevent grass burns from dog urine.
While nitrogen is an essential component in healthy soil, high concentrations of it can cause grass to turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally high in nitrogen and alone can cause grass burns. However, lawn fertilizer also contains nitrogen. An excess of either or a combination of urine and fertilizer may result in an overdose of nitrogen, thus “burning” the grass. Salts and other compounds in dog urine may also contribute to grass burn. In addition, highly acidic or alkaline urine may alter pH of the soil in that area of your yard, adversely affecting the grass there.
It may seem like female dog urine causes more trouble to the lawn than male dog urine. This is simply because most females tend to squat and urinate in one place, while many males lift the leg and “mark” upright objects in multiple locations. The composition of a dog’s urine does not vary that much between male and female dogs, especially when spayed or neutered.
There are a few ways to prevent brown or yellow spots on your lawn caused by dog urine. You can try more than one option at a time for maximum results. There is no guaranteed way to end urine spots in the yard, but the following methods might help stop grass burns caused by dog urine:
- Train your dog to urinate in one area and plant a urine-resistant ground covering in that area. One great option for this is clover. You might also try creating a dog-friendly landscape in your entire yard.
- Give your dog a supplement or food additive that is designed to neutralize the nitrogen in the urine. One example of this type of product is Naturvet Grass Saver (compare prices). As alway, ask your vet before starting any supplement. Additionally, never attempt to alter your dog’s urine pH unless specifically recommended by your vet.
- Immediately after your dog urinates, use a garden hose to rinse off the area. You might also consider switching to a low-nitrogen fertilizer for your lawn (make sure it’s pet-safe too).
Remember that other animals might have access to your yard and their urine can cause lawn damage as well. A fence will keep out any dogs passing by, but cats and various wild animals are not so easy to stop. This may or may not explained continued brown or yellow spots in the yard after implementing the above recommendations.
The most common medical complaint we see in dogs is skin or ear related. Unlike humans who react to allergens with nasal symptoms, dogs react with skin problems. These problems may range from poor coat texture or length, to itching and chewing, to hot spots and self mutilation. Allergies may also play a part in chronic ear infections. To make matters more difficult to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.
In order to overcome these frustrating symptoms your approach needs to be thorough and systematic. Shortcuts usually will not produce results and only add to owner frustration. This article will cover diagnosing and treating; inhalant, food, and flea allergies. I will also briefly discuss thyroid disease and immune mediated disorders.
Remember, your best source of information is your vet. Many vets are now recognizing the need for holistic allergy treatment instead of the tried and true (and possibly ineffective or dangerous) standby of corticosteroids. If your vet is not helpful, keep looking until you find someone you are comfortable with. You need to remember though, that the success or failure of treatment will rest mainly on you. There is no magic pill to deal with these problems. Unfortunately, there is also no “cure”, only systematic treatment options. Much of the information below is taken from “Guide to Skin and Haircoat Problems in the Dog” by Lowell Ackerman, DMV.
Substances which can cause an allergic reaction in dogs are much the same as those which cause reactions in people including pollens, dust mites and molds. A clue to diagnosing these allergies is to look at the timing of the reaction. Does it happen year round? This may be mold or dust. If the reaction is seasonal, pollens may be the culprit.
Symptoms of inhalant allergies include: SCRATCHING, BITING, CHEWING AT FEET AND CONSTANT LICKING. The itching may be most severe on feet, flanks, groin and armpits. Dogs may rub their face on the carpet. Ear flaps may become red and hot. Chronic ear infections may follow. Skin becomes thickened, greasy and has a strong odor. Hot spots may develop due to irritation from constant chewing or scratching, which is then followed by infection. Allergies have also been implicated as a possible cause of Acral Lick Granulomas, a frustrating, treatment resistant condition whereby the dog creates a sore on his skin from constant licking
If a dog has the above symptoms and responds well to the treatment measures outlined below, no further diagnostic tests may be needed. If the problem is severe and does not respond to simple measures, allergy skin testing can be done. A portion of the skin is shaved and a variety of substances are injected into the skin to see if they provoke a reaction. If so, an individual series of injections are formulated to give the dog over a period of time (there are blood tests designed to identify allergens without the skin testing, however their efficacy had not been proven. They should be reserved for cases where skin testing is not possible).
- Symptomatic Therapy
- Treating the dogs symptoms may include; cool baths with or without colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts, or medicated shampoos. This can be done frequently but provides only temporary relief. Caution should be used with sprays and ointments because many contain potentially harmful substances. According to Dr. Ackerman, Dermacool is a safe spray containing witch hazel. Cortispray is a low dose, nonsystemic cortisone spray which can be safely used for short periods of time.
- Allergy shots are very safe and many people have great success with them, however, they are very slow to work. It may be six to twelve months before improvement is seen. I spoke with Dr. Christine Johnson, a veterinarian with the dermatology department of the University of Pennsylvania, about intradermal skin testing for inhalant allergies. She reports the average success rate is 70-75%. This rate is for dogs showing any improvement at all. At U of P. the cost for the procedure is $69.00 for the exam, $122.00 for the sedation and testing, and $85.00 for the first 5 months worth of vaccine. After that vaccines are purchased in 7 month supply for $65.00. Substances that are tested include cats(!), feathers, wool, molds, dust, trees, insects, plants and pollens. Before testing, your pet must be free from all steroids, oral or injected (including those found in ear and eye medicines) for a specified period of time in order for the test to be valid. In all about 60 different substances are tested for.
- These compounds reduce itching by reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, they also affect every organ in the body. According to Dr. Ackerman, steroids should be considered only when the allergy season is short, the amount of drug required is small or as a last resort to relieve a dog in extreme discomfort. Side effects can include increased thirst and appetite, increased need to urinate and behavioral changes. Long term use can result in diabetes, decreased resistance to infection and increased susceptibility to seizures. You can recognize steroids by the suffix “-one”, such as cortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone..etc.. In short, alternatives to steroid therapy should always be considered.
- Antihistamines can be used with relative safety in dogs. About one third of owners report success with them. The major drawback, as with people, is sedation. Dr. Ackerman recommends that a minimum of three different types of antihistamines be tried before owners give up on this therapy. According to Dr. Johnson, the most common problem with this type of treatment is that owners give the drugs at doses that are too low. Check with your vet on correct dosing. Examples of antihistamines commonly used for dogs include: Tavist, Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, Atarax and Seldane. Personally, I have seen the best results with Atarax.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- These fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory agents. They reportedly are helpful in 20% of allergic dogs. My own experience puts this figure a little higher. They are certainly worth a try because they are not harmful and have virtually no side effects. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oils (especially krill and cod) and omega-6 fatty acids are derived from plants containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), such as oil from the evening primrose. These supplements are different from those sold to produce a glossy coat. They tend to reduce inflammation that may lead to skin sores but are not as effective in reducing itching. Products that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids include: Omega Pet, Derm Caps, and EFA-Z Plus.
- Environmental Control
- If you know which substances your dog is allergic to avoidance is the best method of control. Even if you are desensitizing the dog with allergy shots, it is best to avoid the allergen altogether. Molds can be reduced by using a dehumidifier or placing activated charcoal on top of the exposed dirt in your house plants. Dusts and pollens are best controlled by using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Air conditioning can also reduce circulating amounts of airborne allergens because windows are then kept closed.
- While there is nothing you can do to prevent a rescue dog from developing allergies, breeders should be aware that allergic dogs SHOULD NOT BE BRED!!! Dr. Johnson confirmed that there is clinical proof that allergies are inherited!
The previous section of this article dealt with atopy or inhalant allergies. This article will deal with food allergies or to be more precise, food sensitivities. Much of the information presented here is drawn from “Hair and Skincoat Problems in the Dog” by Lowell Ackerman D.V.M. and an interview with Dr. Scott Krick of the VCA Sinking Spring Veterinary Hospital. Food allergies account for only about 10% of allergy problems in dogs, however they are easily treated so it makes sense to test for them if you suspect they may be the culprit of your dog’s skin problems.
Like inhalant allergies, food sensitivities primarily manifest themselves with itchy skin. Other symptoms include anal itching, shaking of the head, ear inflammations, licking front paws, rubbing faces on carpeting and rarely vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, sneezing, asthma like symptoms, behavioral changes or seizures. Many people don’t suspect food allergies as the cause of their dog’s itching because their pet has been fed the same food all its life and has just recently started having symptoms. However, animals can develop allergies to a substance over time, so this fact does not rule out food allergies. Another common misconception is that dogs are only sensitive to poor quality food. If the dog is allergic to an ingredient it doesn’t matter whether it is in premium food or the most inexpensive brand on the market. One advantage to premium foods is that some avoid common fillers that are often implicated in allergic reactions.
Dogs are not allergic to a dog food per se, rather they react to one or more of the ingredients in the food. Some of the most common culprits are beef, pork, chicken, milk, whey, eggs, fish, corn, soy, wheat and preservatives. Many animals are now developing allergies to lamb as well. This was once thought to be very hypo-allergenic, but the more it is used, the more sensitivities are springing up.
The first step in diagnosing a food allergy is to eliminate all possible allergens and feed ONLY a homemade diet with ingredients the dog has never eaten before. The diet should be a protein and a starch. Good examples are one part lamb, rabbit or venison mixed with two parts rice or potatoes. NOTHING else can be fed during this time; no biscuits, chewable heartworm pills, chew toys or any table scraps!! You must also keep the dog away from feces if he or she is prone to eating stool.
This diet should only to be fed for a short period, while testing for allergies. It is not nutritionally complete enough for long term use. Check with your veterinarian before beginning the test. If the symptoms improve during the trial diet, go back to the original food for several days. If symptoms reoccur you know that something in the food is causing the reaction. The next step is to return to the trial diet and add one new ingredient a week (i.e. add beef for one week and if no symptoms occur add corn the next week for one week).
Once you have discovered the allergen you can look for a commercial food which does not contain that ingredient. According to Dr. Ackerman, approximately 80% of dogs with food allergies can be maintained on a commercial hypo-allergenic diet. Some of the common hypoallergenic diets include “Nature’s Recipe”, “Sensible Choice” and “Natural Life”. “Nature’s Recipe” makes a lamb and rice food, a venison and rice diet and a vegetarian diet, none contain chemical preservatives. “Natural Life” also makes a preservative free, lamb and rice food called Lamaderm. “Sensible Choice” is a third brand that is considered hypoallergenic because it contains neither wheat or corn and comes in a lamb and rice formulation.
Note: just because a food is labeled “Lamb and Rice” do not assume it is hypoallergenic. Many contain wheat, corn, soy, beef or preservatives. This process of elimination is trying and time consuming. You should be aware that it may take up to 10 weeks to see an improvement. However, it is the best method available to test for food allergies. You may wish to try switching your dog to one of the foods listed above for a month as a trial. If the dog shows improvement you know you are dealing with a food sensitivity, you just won’t know which ingredient to avoid. If there is no improvement, you will need to begin the elimination testing.
This type of reaction, again usually severe itching, is not to the flea itself but rather to proteins in its saliva. Dr. Ackerman writes that dogs most prone to this problem, interestingly enough, are not dogs who are constantly flea ridden, but those who are exposed only occasionally! A single bite can cause a reaction for five to seven days, so you don’t need a lot of fleas to have a miserable dog.
To test for flea allergies, a skin test is performed which must be read in fifteen minutes and again in forty eight hours. Unfortunately injections to desensitize are not very effective because it is hard to collect enough flea saliva to make a serum!
For dogs with this problem a strict flea control regime must be maintained. We would caution you, however, against using strong chemical preparations on your dog. Often times the flea control program produces more harmful effects than the fleas, including seizures and skin problems, so please use caution.
Ackerman, L.: Guide To Skin and Haircoat Problems in Dogs. Alpine Publishing, 1994: 7-19.
An Inuit commission is getting ready to present its findings on claims by Nunavut Inuit that RCMP officers killed thousands of sled dogs from the 1950s to the 1980s.
The Qikiqtani Truth Commission, which has spent the last two years exploring allegations of an organized dog slaughter in Nunavut’s Baffin region, is currently getting feedback on its findings and recommendations before they are released in May.
Led by retired judge James Igloliorte of Newfoundland and Labrador, the panel gathered testimony from people in 13 communities across the Baffin region in 2008 and 2009.
“We’ve heard from many people who say, ‘I’m so glad that on behalf of my parents or my grandparents, I was able to tell this testimony,’” Igloliorte told CBC News on Wednesday.
“When someone speaks to you in that manner, and they’re able to do that in public and to say it so that it’s permanently recorded, [it] gives much more authority to the way they speak and the value of that as a piece of evidence.”
Inuit have long alleged that police killed a total of about 20,000 sled dogs from 1950 to 1980 in Nunavut, the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, and the Nunatsiavut region of Labrador.
As a result of losing their dogs, Inuit say their livelihoods were dramatically affected. Many have accused governments of forcing families to move from their traditional settlements into western-style communities.
“People were sincere in how they told about their stories and the impacts on them today, after so many years of having gone through this transition period, moving from beloved homes and families to the larger settlements,” Igloliorte said. “It was a tough experience.”
In its own report in 2006, the RCMP concluded no organized dog slaughter took place. Some dogs were lawfully destroyed because they were disease-ridden or dangerous, according to the police force.
Quebec report calls for apology
Last week, a Quebec inquiry led by retired judge Jean-Jacques Croteau concluded that the governments had turned a blind eye as provincial police killed more than 1,000 Inuit sled dogs in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec.
Croteau called on both levels of government to apologize and compensate Inuit for the dog deaths.
“They knew that the dogs were essential for the people to go hunting, to go fishing,” Croteau told CBC News.
“They killed the dogs and they never offered help to people. That embarrassed me to learn that.”
Croteau was commissioned by the Quebec government and Makivik Corp., the land-claim organization for Nunavik Inuit, to visit all of that region’s 14 communities and gather testimony on the dog slaughter issue.
Makivik Corp. president Pita Aatami said Inuit in northern Quebec have waited a long time for confirmation of their claims.
The organization hopes to meet with both the federal and Quebec governments to discuss what comes next, Aatami said.
As for the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s report, Igloliorte said there will be many ways people can access the document once it’s released. The report will also be made available in Inuktitut, he added.