Category: Toxicity (page 1 of 2)

Pets and Ibuprofen Don’t Mix

Otis ibuprofen toxicityThe following is a true story (used with permission) of how easily accessible medications, like ibuprofen, can be harmful to your pet.

Meet Otis. His story is one that challenges the old adage about curiosity and cats, but he is a curious dog. Don’t worry, he’s fine now; but he almost wasn’t. While his person was sleeping one day, Otis took the opportunity to sample some medications that were accidentally within his reach. Nobody knows his motivation but it’s a good thing his family noticed. The culprit in this case was ibuprofen. Yes, many people’s favorite, useful, pain relieving medication really is bad for your pets.

The first sign of trouble was the medication actually being found. The liquid filled capsules were strewn about on the floor and with no one home other than Otis and his person, it was easy to figure out who the chew marks belonged to. At this point, many people might be thinking “okay, no big deal.” And then the vomiting started, which is the first sign of a toxicity issue. Otis couldn’t hold anything down and the more he threw up, the worse his dehydration got.

otis-blood-resultsBecause ibuprofen toxicity can actually cause kidney failure along with the intestinal upset, his owner brought him to me to check some blood tests and what we found was consistent with ibuprofen ingestion as his kidney values were mildly elevated above normal. Otis was admitted to the hospital and we started him on intravenous fluids to essentially help dilute the drug in his blood stream and preserve blood flow and pressure supplying the kidneys. Without this treatment, Otis would surely become more ill. In addition to the IV fluids, I started him on some medications to help gastrointestinal tract due to the ulcerations that can develop.

During his first couple of days, Otis started to show improvement. He was happy, eating well, and most importantly – not vomiting! But when we checked his kidney values, they had gotten slightly worse. After talking with his family and agreeing that he was clinically stable, we felt it was best that he stay on his IV fluids for a couple more days. Checking Otis’ kidney values daily for the next few days we noted that they returned to normal with the additional treatment. After five days in hospital, Otis finally got to go home!

Otis taught us all a valuable lesson; one that he was fortunate to recover from. While he got into ibuprofen accidentally, many people will try to self medicate their pets with over the counter medications that may not be safe. This can inadvertently lead to permanent damage, or worse. Please, for the safety of your pets, don’t rely on Dr. Google or your neighbor to prescribe something for your pets if they become ill; talk to your veterinarian. Has your pet ever gotten into over the counter medications?? How did they fare? Feel free to share your stories in the comments!

Otis ibuprofen going home

Otis got to go home!

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.

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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 or sugar free chewing gums.  Other items lying around the house may include nicotine 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

  • 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.

Please help get the word out about the dangers of xylitol and share this post.  Check back often for more great posts or subscribe on the right to get new posts directly in your mailbox.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest for more!

Keeping Safe While Killing Fleas

Keeping Safe While Killing Fleas

Some of you may have seen the recent CBC Marketplace episode on dog car harnesses and also on the safety of certain flea products. For my American audience, Marketplace is a show on Friday nights here in Canada that is investigative reporting based. Watching the show as I sat in my home near Kingston, I noted a general theme in the discussion about flea products and also one glaring point missing from the report.

flea collar

The featured dog on this report was named Digby and he was wearing a flea collar. Using a powder placed around Digby’s collar, they tracked to see essentially how many places came into contact with the flea collar. Theoretically, this has the potential to spread the pesticide around on furniture & people. While I suspect the amount that may rub off may not be in concentrated enough amounts, it does make me buy into the possibility that it could be harmful. But what about effectiveness against fleas?colored flea

I’ve never advocated for flea collars. In another small part of the segment on fleas, they showed numerous boxes of flea and tick products which have been reported to cause side effects to pets. Many of these shown were over the counter products that I’ve known people to use and many times have been told they aren’t working. Partly it’s due to the ingredients. The other part is often improper use, most often because the proper dose is not applied. Regarding safety, the most common mistake is that people have “just used a few drops” of the permethrin-flea-collardog product on their cats figuring that it would work since cats are smaller. Typically, there is permethrin in these and it will cause cats to seizure.

The glaring problem I saw with the report? Not once did they ever suggest talking to your veterinarian, even in their tips at the end. The products carried by your veterinarian have undergone much more rigorous safety & efficacy testing. Also, since they are being dispensed by medical professionals, you will know you’re getting the right product. Regarding safety, we can better support your pet if something should happen to them but also we have options that will be safer for your family.advantage

The topical products we use (Advantage, Advantix, Advantage Multi, & Revolution being the most common) will dry within 24 hours and if any skin exposure happens, a simple soap & water wash will remove any residue; but even then they haven’t been noted to have any side effects towards people like the products mentioned on Marketplace. Even more concerned about safety? In the last year (here in Canada, longer in the USA), a few oral tablet/chewable forms that will pose NO threat of exposure to your family have been developed. Bravecto & NexGard are both orally taken flea & tick control methods that won’t leave a residue to get on people or objects in the home. Another one is Comfortis which has been around longer and just does fleas.



comfortisWhile the CBC Marketplace report does make for good television, I am disappointed that they have neglected to include or consult a veterinary professional to help us educate the millions of pet owners out there. I’m sure that for many people after they saw it there could have been a lot of fear & uncertainty. We as a veterinary community are here to help you and your pets so don’t be shy about contacting us. Fleas aren’t a huge issue in the winter right now, but when spring rolls back around, we’ll be here for you & your pets.

If your pet does happen to get fleas and bring them into your home then you should be contacting a pest control service to make sure that they do not infest your home. This can be done using services like Pest Control Experts who provide pest control nashville, texas, austin and many other places. This will ensure that you keep yourself and your pet safe from getting any diseases from the fleas inside your home.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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