Dangers due to decreased hours of daylight
The days are getting shorter! It happens all too quickly, every year…and, this means that our daily outdoor activities with our furry friends may occur during times of poor visibility. Dog walks tend to be in the darkness of the early morning, or in the dim light of dusk in the evening. Reduced light can make it much more challenging for drivers to see animals (and people!) in driveways, sidewalks and roads. During these times, remember to maintain close observation and control of your canine by using a leash, collar or harness. Additionally, you might consider putting something reflective on your pooch, like a safety vest or a collar LED. Don’t forget to wear something easily visible to drivers yourself, too!
Dangers due to leaves
Piles of leaves can accumulate moisture, which invites bacterial and mold growth (yuck)! If your pet ingests these microorganisms, digestive tract upset (vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc.) could occur – so best to keep your pooch from digging in the leaf-piles, and leave the jumping to the kids.
With thanksgiving and Halloween just around the corner, here are a few tips to keep your furry ones safe.
Thanksgiving dinner: you think of turkey legs and bones and all the yummy side dishes; but remember turkey/chicken bones can get stuck, and/or can pierce holes in any part of the digestive tract. This can make for some seriously sick puppies! So, if you’re giving little tidbits – keep it to the meat! And keep it small – because, all those yummy side dishes that we enjoy can also be harmful to our pets. Rich and fatty foods like that can cause sudden pancreatitis, or even bloat. So remember to keep holiday meals, leftovers and table scraps out of reach of your pet. If Fido is still insistent of getting a taste, small amounts of vegetables (without the butter and salt) are safe to give (but NO ONIONS!! Onions, and other members of the family Amaryllidaceae, can cause a life-threatening anemia in dogs and cats).
Halloween hazards to keep in mind
The four most common food-related Halloween hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers.
Is chocolate poisonous to dogs?
Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, which is a methylxanthine similar in structure and function to caffeine (which would also cause toxicity to dogs in high enough volume, but dogs seem to prefer chocolate to coffee!). Chocolate toxicity is ‘dose-dependent’, which means that the more the animal ingests, the higher the chance of a toxicity event/more severe signs of toxicity. Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity range from mild gastrointestinal signs (especially diarrhea) to significant neurological signs, like seizures. In between, we’ll often see signs consistent with a ‘stimulant’, – elevated heart rate, increased thirst, drooling, signs of nervousness/agitation and considerable diarrhea. Clinical signs can begin at doses of 20mg/kg of theobromine (GI signs), about 40mg/kg for cardiovascular effects to appear, and >60mg/kg for neurological signs. Fatality is uncommon, but can occur with doses upwards of 200mg/kg (or with complications from lower doses, such as cardiac arrhythmias). For frame of reference, milk chocolate can contain up to 58mg of theobromine per ounce, as compared to dark chocolate, which can contain up to 450mg per ounce. White chocolate contains a negligible amount of theobromine (but watch out for the fat and sugar!). Clinical signs can take hours or even days to develop, and similar timelines for signs to resolve. This is because theobromine has a long ‘half-life’, which refers to the length of time it takes the body to eliminate half the amount of toxin ingested.
Treatment for chocolate toxicity depends on the dose – more often than not, doggie has gotten hold of a few milk chocolate eggs and may have diarrhea for a day or two. For these dogs, a bland diet and maybe some pepto bismol (always check with your vet before giving your dog any medications!) will often be more than enough. For more severe cases, further supportive treatment is necessary, such as hospitalization, sedation and intravenous fluids to help flush the toxins out.
It’s important to remember that the real danger for dogs is the theobromine contained in cocoa. Therefore, chocolate that contains MORE cocoa is MORE dangerous: DARK chocolate is much more dangerous than milk chocolate – there’s a lot of milk-chocolate-based candy out there that doesn’t contain a whole lot of cocoa. However, if you’re partial to the 70% cocoa dark chocolate goodies – be extra careful to keep them out of Fido’s reach! Dark chocolate may be ‘more healthy’ for humans than milk chocolate, but that definitely does not apply to dogs!
Pets love tasty treats and can gorge themselves on snacks and food that are not meant for them, if they have an opportunity! Ingesting large quantities of sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis in pets. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas – it’s very painful and it doesn’t always show signs right away (sometimes not until 2-4 days after your pet ingests candy/treats). Symptoms include: decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, and potentially, kidney failure. Getting into candy can also cause generalized tummy upset – keep Fido out of the trick-or-treaters’ candy bowl!
Are grapes and raisins poisonous to dogs?
YES, they have the potential to be extremely poisonous to dogs. Very small amounts of raisins (and grapes) can cause acute kidney failure in dogs and, potentially, cats. This condition is called ‘idiosyncratic’ – which means that it’s entirely unpredictable as to which animal may get it if they ingest grapes/raisins, and it is NOT dose-dependent: one grape can trigger a potentially fatal event. Many or most animals may not be susceptible, but the potential disease is severe enough that it’s not worth th risk. Therefore, use the same care with raisins as you do with chocolate: store in a secure place far from their reach. Symptoms include: vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite, increased drinking, and urinating, DECREASED urinating (if further along or more severe), lethargy, abdominal pain, and severe kidney failure.
Generally when our pets eat candy, they don’t usually remove the wrappers, they eat it all (foil, cellophane wrappers and the goodies inside). Ingestion of the wrappers can cause an obstruction, which if severe, can require surgical intervention to correct. Watch out for vomiting, decreased appetite, straining to defecate, not defecating, or lethargy. Radiographs may be required to diagnose this problem.