Xylitol & Dogs Don’t Mix

Xylitol & Dogs Don’t Mix

There has been lots of talk in the news lately about xylitol, a dangerous (for dogs) ingredient in some common household items, namely peanut butter which you might share with your dog.  Other items lying around the house may include gum, mints, and oral care products such as dry mouth treatments and toothpaste – essentially items that are considered “sugar free.”  In browsing the aisles at my local store, I fortunately only found the gum and dry mouth treatments available containing xylitol.  So fear not!  Eleven different brands of peanut butter and not a single one contained xylitol so your pooch won’t have to go without a treat or help in giving pills.

Xylitol (from Wikipedia)

Xylitol (from Wikipedia)

But what really is the big deal?  Why is this so alarming?  A friend of a friend recently lost a dog to xylitol poisoning so I’m going to take this time to explain it simply and help your keep your pet out of trouble.

The two main problems noted from exposure are low blood sugar and possible liver failure.  Xylitol causes a surge of insulin release thereby dropping the body’s blood sugar levels and the result is a seizure.  The mechanism of how it happens is not known fully but the liver can enter into a state of necrosis (tissue death) or failure.  This leads to a cascade of possible events including hemorrhage and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) – which in itself causes multiple organ failure.

Xylitol containing gum

Xylitol containing gum

So how much is too much?  Using gum as an example, 1-2 pieces could cause problems with a small breed dog (<5kg).  For larger dogs, you be looking at closer to 6-7 pieces for a labarador sized dog (~35kg).  This is assuming a piece of gum has 1-2 grams per piece (info from ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center).  Unfortunately, companies are very protective about this information so it’s difficult to say how much peanut butter or toothpaste a dog would have to ingest to show clinical signs.

Xylitol is unfortunately a fast acting toxin for dogs and they can begin to show signs within hours, or in the worst cases, die within a couple of days.  If you suspect your dog has ingested products with xylitol, it’s imperative to get them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  A Pembroke Welsh Corgi I once saw had ingested an entire pack of chewing gum (10 pieces) and despite making him vomit within a few hours of eating it, he still had an increase in his liver values and low glucose levels so he required hospitalization and eventually recovered fine.  Delays in treatment could be costly, both health-wise and financially.

Here’s some suggestions to help prevent accidental exposures.  First, read the label of anything you might give your pet; yes even peanut butter!  This goes along with the idea that things good for people aren’t always good for pets so you should never give any medication over the counter without consulting your vet.  Secondly, keep those packs of gum (or toothpaste) out of reach!  Animals sense of smell is remarkably better than a humans so they will find it.  In general, think of your dog in the same sense as if you were child-proofing a house.

As xylitol may become used more widely and until the dangers are more well known, be sure to be extra cautious with anything your dog might eat.  As of this time, there is not enough information to know how xylitol affects cats.  Here are a few resources and final notes:

  • Peanut butters including xylitol: Nutty by Nature from Krush Nutrition, P28, Hanks Protein Plus Peanut Butter, Go Nuts Go, and Nuts ‘N More (found on multiple sites including DVM360 and PreventiveVet.com)

  • a list of other products containing xylitol

  • Petitions to help encourage companies to disclose more info about xylitol in their products

  • the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center with searchable database on pet toxicties

Disclaimer:  Blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect that of any current or former employers.

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3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad (or 3-Legged Pets)

3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad (or 3-Legged Pets)
Image from Cassie's Three Legged Dog Club

Image from Cassie’s Three Legged Dog Club

Animals are amazing, most of us know that I think.  Whether it be the unconditional love they give, the ability to brighten up any day, or making awesome videos to entertain us on the internet, the world is a better place with animals but especially our pets.  You know what else is incredible about them?  Their ability to adapt to life’s changes (unfortunately not 100% of the time); specifically I want to talk about amputees – or more affectionately known as tripods.

Severe distal humerus fracture

Severe distal humerus fracture

Pets may only have 3 legs (or even 2!) for just a few reasons; some are even born that way.  Whether it be cancer, irreparable injury, or congenital (from birth) as the cause, they have a remarkable capacity to adapt to their new lives.  Sadly, many animals are euthanized rather than undergo a limb-sparing surgery.  For many people, the thought of a pet losing a leg or being “disabled” is more than they can bear.  Certainly, not every patient is a candidate to undergo such a procedure but for those that are, the emotional aspect should not dismiss the idea.  Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

To finish on a good note, we’ll look at the cons first.  The immediate post-op period does take some adjustment and there is a difference between front legs and back legs in terms of recovery and ultimate mobility.  In my opinion, losing a front leg may be easier especially in terms of using the bathroom (much harder to balance without a second back leg!) but in time, most animals will learn how to move around wonderfully.  Additionally, missing a leg will put added stress on the opposite side which can potentially lead to some joint problems or make arthritis seem worse – hence, it is important to keep these patients at a healthy weight.  Your pet may also experience a phenomenon known as phantom pain, which will make them feel as though the limb is still part of the body.  Lastly, things may seem cosmetically unattractive to you….let me assure you, Rover won’t care what his surgery site looks like.  He’ll just be happy for treats, belly rubs, your assistance in learning to walk again, and being alive.broken leg puppy

So why should you adopt a tripod or consider having an amputation surgery done on your pet if one is recommended?  One main reason: the procedure is done as a way to eliminate pain (after the recovery period) from conditions such as nerve damage, non-reparable fractures, or bone tumors.  A pain free life is a good life!  That’s really THE reason to elect for that surgery.  Sometimes cost for a fracture repair may be too much or the prognosis for recovery will be poor and amputation will be brought up.  Aside from relieving pain, this may be done to preserve the bond you have with your pet; rather than euthanizing them, you can still let them live out their natural lives by your side.  There’s so many intangible benefits as well!!  They won’t hold a grudge against you for making this decision because you’re removing the pain.  If they are 3-legged and awaiting adoption in a shelter, they will love you just as much as any pet with four legs.  And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can help them set up their own social media accounts to share their story & to help advocate for other tripods!

my own tripod Louie

my own tripod Louie

Three legged pets often have an interesting story and are natural survivors.  Losing a leg is not a death sentence; it’s a second chance at a renewed life.  I’ve seen this with my own cat.  Louie is a laid back, happy, fluffy speed demon who outruns our other cats and adores my wife who actually performed the amputation.  He’s also an excellent mouser.  So if your veterinarian brings up amputation as an option in treating your pet, don’t rush to a decision without considering all angles.  For more information, including a broad support network, visit tripawds.com

Disclaimer:  Blog posts my contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers.  I was not compensated by Tripawds.com for this post but I do enjoy their community!

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Animal Actors – Not Always Real Life Pets

Miss Edie the Pug is back with me today to help discuss an important topic very important to her.  She’s got a list of questions and I’ve got answers.  Be sure to check out her blog or find her on Facebook or Twitter to see how else she advocates for animals and helps entertain & educate the people who love animals.

Animal Actors – Not Always Real Life Pets

With the recent release of the movie “Max” in theaters about a retired war dog, it brings up some interesting questions.  Do television programs and movies effect the popularity of dog breeds?  And it so, what effect does it have on that breed?  Is it positive – showing the dog in a different light, or highlighting the skills that these dogs/breeds are capable of?

Is it negative – this dog breed is now so popular that everyone wants/needs to have one, even if that dog is not the right fit for you or your family?  Do people understand that what they are seeing these dogs do on screen is because of training – professional training – training that did not happen overnight?

What happens when this “cool dog” doesn’t meet your expectations?

I asked Dr. Ryan Llera his take on this.  Has he seen any repercussions in his field of veterinary medicine of a breed becoming popular due to a tv show, movie, or because of a celebrity owning a particular breed?

Dr. Ryan Llera’s view:

You’re right Edie.  Our canine friends on the screen are great actors just like Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lawrence.  They’ve been trained and practicing for a set role and just because they can do a certain trick or act a certain way does not mean that all other dogs of that breed will.  More importantly, we need to look at the health and behavior aspects of these breeds.yorkie

While there are few studies that show an increase in a breed popularity after a movie release, one study in particular did confirm this behavior amongst people particularly in a 10 year period after the movie.  While this was more commonly seen in years past, this trend can still happen in this era especially in today’s times of celebrities, tabloids, and social media.

Oftentimes, when one of these movies comes out or a celebrity parades their pooch around, people are hooked on the breed but unfortunately don’t do the research before rushing out to get one.  When choosing a breed, it’s important to consider factors such as living space, time commitment, energy level, and family members, specifically, children.  A lot of the factors can lead to behavior problems for the dog, whether real or perceived by the owner, and unfortunately this leads to many dogs being dumped at the shelter or worse, euthanized.

Dalmatian Photo by:  7-Themes.com

Dalmatian Photo by: 7-Themes.com

Though I haven’t personally seen 101 dalmatians coming through the doors of the clinics I’ve worked at, after the animated movie in the 1960s (and probably again with the live action version in 1996) there was a noted trend in people having dalmatians as pets. While many people know about the dalmatians genetics that may make them deaf, they can also have a significant problem with their livers that can lead to bladder stones if not properly managed. When these problems arise, they don’t always get taken care of and dogs may suffer, being ditched, or euthanized. With some breeds being popularized, I have personally seen more of a particular breed or two become an idea for people to get rich quick by breeding them hence leading to more pyometras and C-sections.IMG_2378

While the trend of movie promoted dog breeds has waned, social media & celebrities have replaced it.  Veterinarians and shelters, especially in the UK, have recently seen and noted a rise in the abandonment of “purse dogs” or toy breeds – think Chihuahuas, teacup pomeranians, Yorkies.  This is being noted over the past 5 years after the influences of celebrities and movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Legally Blonde.  While many of these small dogs have wonderful personalities, some may have anxiety issues to go along with the myriad of health problems….dental disease, luxating (dislocating) kneecaps, collapsing tracheas, and liver shunts to name a few.

In a personal communication with Blue Cross, a UK based group focused on animal health & welfare including rehoming unwanted pets, they have noted a significant change in some breed representations.  In a five year span (2009-2014), they saw increases in some breeds needing to be rehomed after being abandoned including:

  • Yorkshire Terriers – 65 (2009) to 92 (2014)
  • Chihuahuas – 0 (2009) to 53 (2014)
  • Pugs – 0 (2009) to 16 (2014)
  • Huskies 10 (2008) to 86 (2014)
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – 14 (2009) to 36 (2014)

We’re not saying that these particular breeds are not choices for dogs, but they may not be for everyone.  It’s important to not act on impulse before you go out and get a particular dog breed.  Better yet, try contacting a breed rescue group and consider fostering a dog before making a commitment for the next 10-15 years.

Every breed can be found on the Canadian Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club website to be researched and you can try their breed selector quiz to see a few dogs which might fit your lifestyle.  And lastly, don’t rule out the great option of adopting a dog from the shelter even if they aren’t a purebred!

Disclaimer: (IloveMyDogMoreThanMyKids) Views and opinions are my own.

Disclaimer: (Dr.Ryan Llera): Blog posts may include opinions which do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.

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“Wag the Tail”

“Wag the Tail”

Hey, it’s Charlie.   I’ve taken over dad’s blog again to tell you something important.   Actually, grand-dad told Ryan Charlie st patrick daysomething about “wagging the tail” and between the two of us, we think we’ve figured it out.   But since I’m so personable and a great story teller, dad is letting me share it with you.   Oh wait, dad says he’s going to help me tell it to make sure we all understand if I get confused or distracted.

 

The 4th and last chemo treatment

The 4th and last chemo treatment

It all started a few weeks ago.   After my second chemo treatment, strange things began happening including seizures and I was having some collapse type episodes.   One night, I remember dad telling me it was okay to “go” so I knew my illness was wearing on him.   I also didn’t want to eat which is so unlike me.   It was some pretty scary stuff.   A few weeks later after the fourth chemo treatment, I couldn’t walk.   I never had my next scheduled chemo treatment but I heard mom and dad talking about the big sleep.   It was just before a weekend so they wanted to spend some time with me and spoil me rotten.   I wagged my tail and in return got lots of hugs and lots of food I shouldn’t normally eat.

 

"Chemo was exhausting!"

“Chemo was exhausting!”

As that weekend went on, I started getting stronger and getting back to being able to walk.   I felt like that guy in the movie “Rocky” as he’s running on the steps and everyone is cheering for him.   Dad was so happy he told me there was no more chemo!   This was good because I hated the weekly needle pokes and feeling sick.   On the other hand, I got some to take some steroids – I didn’t get the rage and I sure didn’t pack on a lot of muscle but they did make me feel better.   I wagged my tail.

 

Resting with my buddy Taylor

Resting with my buddy Taylor

I had an accident in the house…I blame it on the drugs!   And so did dad.   He didn’t get mad.   He actually hugged me and took me outside.   If only I had known this trick earlier in life…I could have gotten away with a lot more!   The gentleness I’ve experienced only makes me want to do better and to keep on trucking.   I’m not quite ready to stop watching over my family.   Yep, my tail is still wagging.

 

It’s been a few weeks now.   Steroids made me happy and with every thing I did, dad seemed happier too, so much that if he had a tail, he’d probably be wagging it.   Instead, I figured smiles, hugs, and belly rubs are the same expression.   We pets are very perceptive and emotional; can’t you see it in our eyes and feel it in our slobbery kisses?   When our families are happy, we feel good.   When our families are stressed, we also feel anxious.   We feed off of emotions (and cookies!)…

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie lost in the bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie….hey bud, we’re not done yet.   Oh there he goes…Charlie has lost himself in the bag of Charlee Bear treats again.   It’s Dr. Llera now so I’ll wrap this up for the both of us.   What Charlie & I have learned through this is that when times are tough, you should try to see the silver lining that is there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.   In any alarming situation with your pets, there is always hope.   It may be the hope that everything will turn out alright.   Or it may be the hope that you try your best and that they don’t suffer.   The important thing to remember is to stay strong, give your pet all the love you can, and know that in the end everything will work out.   So what are you waiting for?   Go “wag that tail.”

best friends

 

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect those of my current or any former employers. 

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Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

The arrival of the spring-summer travel season is upon us and perhaps you’re getting ready to take some time off with the family including the pets.  Traveling with pets can be lots of fun but also can be an anxious endeavor for both you and them.  Before you hit the open road or take to the skies, let’s do our part to make it a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.  Edie the Pug and I are back to help share some tips for your upcoming adventures!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Safety in the car just isn’t for you; your pets have to be safe also.  We’re talking about restraint.  Cats should always be in a carrier.  Preferably the carrier should be large enough for them to stand up and walk around in (though my cat prefers to curl up) but small enough to fit on the floor behind a seat which is the safest place.  For longer trips you may need a larger type crate (if space allows) for a litterbox and water or food dishes.  Dogs should wear seatbelt harnesses unless they are a toy breed then they should be in a carrier.  Seatbelt harnesses should be comfortable, well fitting, and sturdy.  One such recommendation is the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness.  There may be other restraint devices out there but they may not have been tested for safety ratings.  For more safety info, you can visit the Center for Pet Safety website where they have tested many types (using crash test dummies).

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

What about when you fly?  Carriers will have different requirements if you are flying on an airplane so you will need to check with the airline.  If your pet is going in cargo, make sure the carrier has a screw type of closure, not clips as we wouldn’t want anyone escaping!cat in carrier2

A common request I get is about sedation for the trip.  Many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by a car trip but some do mind and there is a fair chance that many cats will vocalize.  In some cases they’re just talking but sometimes it’s more of a concern or bother for the other passengers especially if kitty is frantic in the carrier.  As mentioned before, by no means would I suggest that your cat get free roam of the car as it is a safety hazard to everyone.

pillsI must first stress you should never give any over the counter or prescription medication without the advice of a veterinarian.  Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can vary from homeopathic to mild common medications to heavy tranquilization.  It is best to look into any type of medication at least a few weeks before your trip as I prefer to start on a benign medication (something that won’t affect heart rate or blood pressure) or start on a lower dose of a mid-grade medication.  Each pet will be different and may require different drugs.  When traveling on a plane, I do not recommend heavy medications that would normally require monitoring unless nothing else will work and we have no other choice.

These are the two main points to focus on when traveling with your pets.  There is much more but we will touch on them briefly here.

Nausea : Some animals can get car sick just like people!  If they do, it may be best if they are fasted before a trip or only feed them a small meal.  Alternatively, your veterinarian can recommend or prescribe something to help.

Identification & Records : Before leaving, make sure your pets tags or microchip information is up to date in case of a separation.  If you will be gone for awhile or if your pet has a medical condition, it may be useful to bring a copy of pertinent records or information should they need medical attention.

First aid kit : Particularly if you’re camping, this may be a necessity.  Bandage material, antibiotic ointment, tick removers, peroxide, and eye wash are just a few of the items that might be handy.

Pit stops : Take a break every few hours on longer trips!  Stretch your legs and let your dog do the same.  For cats, this might be a good time to set a litterbox in the back of a vehicle for them to try to use though some cats may be too stressed.  I would also suggest having a leash & harness on cats just as another aid in keeping them from escaping or getting under seats.

Well that’s the basics of pet travel and we didn’t even talk about moving overseas!  Plan ahead and be safe. Remember, it’s not just a vacation; it’s an adventure!

Gremlin napping during a trip

Gremlin napping during a trip

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.  I did not receive any compensation from SleepyPod or the Center for Pet Safety.

Be sure to subscribe on the right for more great posts and tell your friends!  Thank you for reading & sharing!  Also you can check me out on Facebook & Twitter.

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