Sunday, June 24, 2012


For the last several weeks, Helpful Buckeye has been getting e-mail questions about possible areas of danger outdoors for pets.  Many of you are already aware of a lot of the potential trouble spots for your dog and cat as they spend much of their summer outside.  A review of the most common outdoor concerns should benefit all of our readers and there just might be something new for some of you.

Being careful with your pets is never a bad thing...after all, they cannot judge for themselves whether a particular plant is going to be poisonous for them or a chemical you're using in the back yard has some toxic qualities that could negatively affect them.  Awareness and proactive prevention should always be at the front of your attention span when your pets are spending so much time outside.

When a prestigious newspaper like the Wall Street Journal gets into the arena of cautioning pet owners, you know that this is a pretty serious problem:

Is My Yard Dangerous?


Question: We just bought an older house with lovely landscaping. I'm pregnant, and we want to get a puppy soon that can grow up with our child. We want to make sure that the yard is safe for them both. Ideas?

--Gettysburg, Pa.

Answer: Although I understand your anxiety about making your yard safe for children and canines, it's not possible to rid your yard of every potential problem. Young, curious creatures will always find a way to get into trouble, even if their yard is nothing but dirt, stones and sticks. That's why you should keep an eye on them constantly when they are small.

But you can reduce risks considerably. The best way to ensure physical safety is to fence your yard and use gate locks that a child can't open easily, operated by a strong magnet or a pushrod that can only be opened from an adult height. Identify or create a grassy area near a window where your kids and pets can play while you watch them. Teach your puppy to relieve himself in a spot away from this space and clean up after him regularly.

Walk around the yard while shuffling your feet to locate any flagstones that aren't level or pavers, sharp rocks or other obstacles that might cause tiny feet or paws to trip, and have these removed or fixed. Fill in any low spots and grade the area around the patio so the transition to the yard is seamless. Sit on the ground and look at your yard from a toddler's height so you can identify any hazards—a thorny bush, for example, or nails popping out of the deck stairs.

Then, invite a gardener friend or perhaps the former owner walk around your yard and identify as many plants as possible. Take some plant markers and label each plant. Some beloved ornamental plants, including azaleas, lilies of the valley, caladiums and foxgloves, are toxic if ingested, as is the foliage of such common vegetables as tomatoes, rhubarb and potatoes. Other plants such as aconitum (also known as aconite, wolfsbane or monkshood) and bella donna can cause skin reactions if touched and are deadly if even small quantities are eaten. While it's not practical to rip up your entire yard, you should remove the most dangerous plants since very young children and puppies are prone to taste everything.

The list of plants that are harmful to pets is longer than that which hurt humans. But you can train puppies to stay away from certain plants by sprinkling them with cayenne pepper or using a commercial repellent.

Also, go light on pesticides and herbicides, and don't assume organic is necessarily safe. Both cocoa hull mulch and blood and bone meal fertilizer can be toxic to dogs, but they can't seem to resist gobbling them up. It's better to have a yard look a little raggedy than to make an emergency trip to the vet.

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Some Plants Aren’t Meant For Pets

There's something wonderful about watching your pet frolic outside in warm weather, but beware. Some common plants and gardening products can be hazardous, even fatal, to a dog or cat.

According to veterinarian Ahna Brutlag of the Pet Poison Helpline, springtime calls to the 24/7 telephone center are frequent from pet owners in a panic. Calls, which are taken by veterinary and toxicology experts, are $39 per incident, including follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case.

"Many of the calls we receive this time of year involve pet ingestion of yard and garden products that may have harmful chemicals or ingredients," Brutlag said. "Additional yard-related emergencies involve pets that have dug into and ingested the contents of compost piles or consumed various plants and flowers that can be poisonous."

Such plants and products include:

Crocuses that bloom in spring generally cause gastrointestinal upset while the fall crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding and multisystem organ failure with bone marrow suppression.

Lilies such as peace, Peruvian and Calla only cause minor symptoms when ingested, while tiger, Asiatic, Easter, Japanese show and daylily varieties are highly toxic to cats. A very small ingestion of the latter petals, leaves or pollen can result in severe kidney failure.

 Lily of the valley - An early springtime favorite, contains cardiac glycosides and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias and possibly seizures.

Cocoa bean mulch - Made from discarded hulls of the cocoa bean, a tempting treat to dogs. Unfortunately, the mulch contains theobromine and caffeine, two toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and, in extreme cases, death.

Compost - As organic matter decomposes, tremorgenic mycotoxins are released from mold spores. When consumed by an animal, symptoms such as agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures can result within 30 minutes.

Fertilizers, soil additives and pesticides - Avoid products that contain blood meal, bonemeal and feather meal, which can form a concretion in the stomach and ultimately obstruct the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe pancreatitis.

Iron is another ingredient to avoid, as it can cause iron poisoning. Pesticides and additives containing organophosphates should not be used around pets; it can be fatal in even small amounts.

Slug and snail bait - An active ingredient called metaldehyde, found in most forms of slug and snail bait, is highly poisonous and can cause excess salivation, restlessness, vomiting, tremors, seizures and life-threateningly high body temperatures within one to two hours of ingestion. Symptoms can last for several days and can be fatal.

"People need to remember that some drugs, such as aspirin or heart medication, contain ingredients that come from plants. When the plant is ingested, you can see similar signs as when the drug is ingested," said veterinarian Evelyn Vega, owner of Happy Pets Veterinary Clinic in Valencia.

While Vega tends to see more holiday-related plant ingestions, such as poinsettias at Christmas, rather than those that happen outdoors, she suggested all scenarios be treated promptly and seriously.

"If an owner suspects their pet has been poisoned, it's crucial to bring the pet into the vet office and to find out the name of the plant so we can look it up and determine the best treatment," Vega said. "Symptoms can vary depending on the plant. Most plants can cause some gastrointestinal upset with vomiting or diarrhea."

Preventing plant and garden-related ingestions is pretty simple, as Vega illustrated.

"Keep such plants and products out of reach, or don't have them at all," she said. "If you're concerned about what plants are already on your property, go to a local nursery and do some research."

Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at Pet Poison Helpline's new iPhone application contains an extensive database of plants, chemicals, food and drugs that are poisonous to pets and also has a direct dial feature to the Pet Poison Helpline in case of emergency. The app, called Pet Poison Help, costs $0.99 and is available on iTunes.

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Identifying Plants That Are Harmful To Dogs

There are many good sources of literature available for the identification of poisonous plants.  Here's a nice informative video of some of those plants:

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The ASPCA has put together a very comprehensive list of toxic plants, both for your dog and your cat.  Go to this web site and click on the option for dogs or cats.  In addition to being able to see these problem plants, you can also choose the option for printing the whole list...which, when you stop to think about it, is a great idea for future reference.

Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants

This list contains plants that have been reported as having systemic effects on animals and/or intense effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Please note that the information contained in our plant lists is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. If you think that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or our 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

You can click on the option for dogs or cats in order to see a picture of the individual plants. There is also an option for printing a list of these plants for your later reference.

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One particular type of palm has shown itself to be a nasty problem for pets.  Here is the account of one dog owner's distressing experience:

Clear Lake dog owner learns of plant's toxicity the hard way

By ALEXANDRIA RANDOLPH Houston Community Newspapers

Clear Lake resident Robert Jones said he had no idea about the lethal toxins of a very common plant until his German shepherd Buddy became suddenly and grievously ill. For Jones, the most disconcerting issue was that not many people know about the plant’s toxicity.

It's the Sago palm, and it's been around for 250 million years.

 “A small dog like a fox terrier only has to lick it to be poisoned,” Jones said. “The seeds are very attractive, and if children played with them they would get the toxin on their hands.”

Jones said that after the incident with his dog, he began to notice the plant was being sold in nurseries and chain home and garden stores without a warning label, and is a popular plant for yard decoration.

“There were quite a few in the area where I walk my dog,” Jones said. “I consider all those plants as dangerous. My personal opinion is that they should be banned. We’re talking about something more lethal than a cigarette sold without a warning.”

Jones said that he has no idea how his dog gained initial contact with the plant, but the effects took hold within hours.

“Buddy had been in for a physical just a few weeks before this had happened, and he was fine,” Jones said. “One morning after our walk at around 8 a.m. he just started throwing up.”

Although vomiting is common among canines for something as simple as a stomach ache, Jones new that this was something different.

“He wouldn’t eat, he was lethargic, and he was drinking tons of water,” Jones said.

Jones took Buddy to the Safari Animal Care Center in League City, where the dog remained for three days for blood and urine tests and treatment.

“At first we treated Buddy symptomatically with medications to calm the intestinal tract,” said Dr. Steven Garner, the presiding veterinarian at Safari Animal Care Center.

“When Buddy did not respond as expected, blood tests were done to confirm that he had a serious toxic exposure that was affecting his liver.”

Jones said the toxins of the Sago palm affect animals and humans by disrupting blood platelet development, which can lead to internal bleeding.

“The toxin attacks and kills liver cells and shuts down the digestive and excretory system,” Jones said. “It would be a horrible way to die.”

Garner said that the toxin affects small dogs more seriously than larger dogs, but all are at risk.

“Some animals, usually small ones with large exposure doses present with fulminating liver disease, hemorrhage and shock within 24 hours of ingestion,” Garner said. “These animals are difficult, but not impossible to save.”

Garner said there are several factors involved in these deaths when Sago toxin is present, including the ratio of the dog’s sized compared to the amount of toxin ingested, a late diagnosis, the cost of the treatment, and the attitude of the veterinarian.

Garner said that often when a pet is brought into a clinic with Sago poisoning, a veterinarian may consider the animal a lost cause.

“One of my clients was told by another vet at an emergency clinic that they were wasting their money treating this disease and they should put the pet to sleep,” Garner said.

According to Garner, Buddy came in with liver test values of 27 times that of a sick liver, and nearly 80 times that of a healthy liver.

“I was very concerned for Buddy, but the Jones’ dedication to his health allowed me to be effective in his therapy.” Garner said. “I could tell that he still had some liver function and therefore a chance for recovery, so we aggressively treated Buddy with hospitalization, fluids to restore electrolytes and removal of toxins as well as products that improve the liver metabolism.”

Garner said that even after the liver seems to recover from Sago palm toxins, a pet can die from a lack of natural blood clotting and long-term concerns can include chronic inflammation of the liver that will eventually lead to liver failure.

“I have seen hundreds of Sago poisonings in my practice history and the frequency seems to be increasing,” Garner said. “I have been in practice here in League City since 1986 but it has only been the past 10 years that we have really noticed this disease. Now I see a case every other week and sometimes multiple cases per week. It is definitely a disease noticed most in the spring and summer, and this year we have seen half a dozen already.”

Garner said the best way to avoid a Sago poisoning is common sense and awareness.

“Buddy was never out of the sight of his owners and was still poisoned. Dogs can chew the roots, eat the seeds or any part of the plant and become poisoned.”

Garner said pollen dust on the plant can kill people who trim it and although there are several toxic plants in the area such as lantana, oleander and castor, these do not seem to be ingested at the rate that Sago palm is.

“Among things that can kill pets it ranks higher than snake bites, car injuries and rabies and is on par with distemper, parvo heart and kidney disease and cancer,” he said. “The seed pods are the most toxic and only have to be mouthed by a dog or picked up by a kid to cause toxicity. Children have been found poisoned from casual contact.”

Jones said that his greatest concern is for the safety of children.

“Sometimes little kids vomit for no apparent reason. How is a parent to know that it’s a toxin?” Jones said. “If it can kill a full grown German shepherd, I have no doubt it could kill a child. I consider this plant as dangerous as an unfenced swimming pool. I just feel that people ought to know about the danger.”

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Snail bait is unseen hazard for dogs

By Jeff Kahler, DVM

Having a nice garden can be very soothing.

Flowers mixed in with lush greenery, and maybe a lawn, combine to create a serene environment that invites relaxation and reflection. Of course, we may not be the only creatures that appreciate such a nice environment.

It seems that a garden provides very attractive feeding grounds for many types of animals, and one of the more common types — and I might add ravenous, as well — is the snail. These little mollusks can munch through a plant, reducing it to mere twigs in no time.

Peggy knows firsthand about this problem.

For a while now, Peggy has been watching parts of her garden disappear as snails eat away. She is to the point where she wants to fight back. Peggy realizes there are snail baits that can be used in the yard to kill the little beasts, but she worries about hurting Gizmo, her 1½-year-old King Charles spaniel. Gizmo loves spending time in Peggy's garden.

Snail bait can be highly toxic to dogs. The most common brands contain metaldehyde, which, when ingested, initially causes nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. This can lead to severe retching and vomiting. These gastrointestinal signs are followed or occur concurrently with muscle rigidity and convulsions, leading to coma and, in some cases, death. Obviously, this is a compound we do not want our dogs to eat! So then, what do we do about the snails?

There is another type of snail bait on the market that is far less potentially toxic to dogs. The active ingredient is iron phosphate. It works by desiccating the snails and is relatively safe for dogs, unless they eat a large amount. That amount would be far more than one would need to put out in the yard.

Unfortunately, when compared with metaldehyde-based snail baits, the iron phosphate products do not seem to work quite as well.

Personally, I do not use toxins for snail control in my yard. I have chosen a more natural route, which I realize is not available for everyone.

I use turtles. These fabulous little guys have so decimated the snail population in my yard that I seldom see any snails anymore.

Of course, snail control via turtle predation is not something everyone can do. You must have a yard that is escape-proof for the turtle, and depending on the species of turtle, they may not be able to handle our weather pattern year-round.

There are other predators.

Ducks make fabulous snail-eating machines, but they carry with them some requirements of their own. They also produce a large amount of messy feces that may not be entirely complementary to every yard.

Unfortunately, there really is no best case scenario when it comes to eliminating snails in every yard.

When you are lucky enough to care for a dog, you should avoid metaldehyde-based snail baits.

I have heard of dogs that love to eat snails. Maybe Peggy can entice Gizmo into expanding his cuisine. Snails are actually quite nutritious.

Talk about your win-win situation!

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Rat poison

There are several different types of rat poisons that have different ingredients.

If you suspect your pet has eaten rodenticide, it is absolutely VITAL that you tell your pet's veterinarian the active ingredient in the particular rat poison. The treatments for the various classes are completely different.

The most common rat poisons cause uncontrolled bleeding if ingested.

If caught early enough, these "anticoagulant" rat poisons actually have an antidote in the form of vitamin K. Unfortunately, it is not a form of vitamin K that you can buy over the counter. The form available over the counter WILL NOT WORK. Additionally, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin and therefore can be overdosed if you're just "winging it" at home.

If not caught early enough, your pet may need a lengthy hospital stay and require plasma or whole-blood transfusions.

Other types of rat poisons cause seizures until the animal dies, or act as a massive overdose of vitamin D (another fat-soluble vitamin), which causes kidney failure.

Unfortunately, some rodenticide companies are making products that contain more than one of these types of poisons. They are effective against rats and other mammals but much more challenging to treat.

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16 dogs attacked by Africanized honey bees; three critical

Three dogs were in critical condition this week after a swarm of bees attacked a pet boarding center in Ventura County.

Sixteen dogs were playing outside after breakfast Wednesday when workers spotted what looked like a giant plume of smoke in the distance. As it approached, they realized it was a swarm of bees, which officials now believe to be of the Africanized variety.

The swarm swooped down on the exercise yard and began stinging dogs and employees, said Melissa Houlihan, owner of the Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge in Somis.

“They scrambled to bring the dogs inside, but the bees came down so quickly,” she said. “It was horrific.”

A dozen dogs were stung. Three -- two whippets and a Cairn terrier -- are hospitalized in critical condition. The whippets were stung more than 250 times and appeared unrecognizable, Houlihan said.

Several employees were also stung, but none were hospitalized.

The dog facility is in a rural area surrounded by orchards, but nothing like this had ever happened before, Houlihan said.

Ventura County became colonized by Africanized bees in 2000. There are reports of swarms occasionally, but attacks are extremely rare.

“This is the first one I can remember in a long time,” said Andy Calderwood, supervising agricultural inspector for the county.

Calderwood said the incident was strange because of how aggressively the bees responded. Usually, Africanized bees will buzz around the countryside without disturbing anyone.

“This was the behavior of a disturbed colony,” he said. “It was so precipitous, there must have been a nest nearby that was disturbed in some way, maybe run over by a vehicle or by equipment. It had to be a pretty big insult.”

A bee from the swarm was taken in for inspection and it was smaller, similar to the Africanized variety, Calderwood said.

County officials sent inspectors to the area to try to find the disturbed colony, but so far they have been unsuccessful. They will also check to see if nearby honeybee hive keepers violated county regulations, which require bees to be set back from roads, occupied homes and nearby properties.

Africanized bees can be more aggressive, they chase targets for longer distances and larger amounts of the hive tend to attack, Calderwood said. He advises people to move away from bees quickly in the case of an attack.

“With every step you take, the less bees will be on you,” he said.

Back at the Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge, Houlihan said she was proud of her workers for responding so quickly.

“They risked their lives to grab every dog,” she said. “All the owners are very grateful.”

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For even more information about bee stings and your pets, take a few minutes and listen to this AVMA podcast:

When The Bee Stings 

Your dogs and cats can frequently pick up ticks either in your back yard, nearby fields, and wooded areas.  most of you have read about various ways of removing ticks from your pets...but, are you doing it the proper way?

The right way to remove ticks from pets

It's going to be summertime soon, when the living is easy — unless you have a pet who will be spending lots of time in the great outdoors. Spring and summer are the most popular (and prolific) seasons for ticks, especially this summer.

“We’re going to have a big problem with ticks this year because of the relatively mild winter we’ve had across the United States,” says Dr. Rick Alleman, DVM, Ph.D., a researcher on vector-borne diseases and a professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. “The climate is particularly conducive to seeing lots of them.”

“Ticks are dangerous,” he adds. “They transmit much more than Lyme disease.” In fact, some can emit as many as four or five pathogens, and cause infections in humans and pets. If a large number of ticks infest a pet, they can suck so much blood that your pet can become anemic — a good reason to nip the prospect of ticks in the bud.

Fortunately, there’s preventive medicine that can protect your pet from picking them up in the first place, as well as foolproof techniques to remove them. But there are also popular myths out there that won’t actually fix the problem. Read on for expert advice on what you should do when ticks attack.

4 Common Tick Removal Myths

Petroleum jelly, burning them off, freezing them off, nail polish. These are just a few of the common folk remedies that pop up when you google tick removal. And all of them won't work — and have the potential to further hurt your pet.

“These techniques are not viable options,” says Dr. Alleman. “The problem is that I’ve never seen a tick back out. Their head remains embedded in the animal’s skin.” And this is precisely the problem with petroleum jelly and nail polish: Pet owners think that they can drown or kill the tick, but the head stays in place.

Then there's the burning method. Fact: Lighting a match anywhere near your pet is the very definition of playing with fire. “This should be common sense,” says Sabrina Wehrhan, lead veterinary technician at St. James Animal Hospital in St. James, New York. “The dog has hair. The hair is going to go up in flames.”

She also recommends not toying with the idea of freezing ticks, which some owners try to do by using an aerosol-based liquid freezing gel. “For one, you’re not a veterinary professional, so you won't know how long to hold it on,” says Wehrhan. “I’ve seen people just spray and spray.”

The other myth Wehrhan has often heard: Once you successfully take a tick off, you can burn it. “The tick is actually toxic,” she says, “When it pops, it can let off a toxic fume that can be harmful to pets and infants.”

The Best Way to Remove a Tick
“Simply pull them out using tweezers or a tick remover,” says Dr. Alleman.

The latter is a tool that's specially designed for safely and quickly removing ticks. “There are a couple of types,” explains Dr. Alleman. “One functions as blunt-ended, plastic tweezers. The other I’ve seen is called the Tick Key, a little gizmo that resembles a bottle opener. The hole in it comes down to a very thin point, so you can kind of slip the tick into this hole, slide the tick down to the end and basically lift — just like you would remove a cap off a bottle — and it pulls the tick out.”

Your technique is equally important: Start by parting your dog’s fur where you see a tick, and then “pull it out by the body, so as not to twist or pinch the head off,” says Dr. Alleman.

And be sure to take extra care if you're using a tick-removal aid, like tweezers. “With tweezers, you need to be careful that you don’t squeeze the head and neck of the tick so hard that you break it,” he says. Instead, apply enough pressure to grab the body right where the head and neck attach — and don’t leave the head embedded.

Once you’ve removed a tick, there are a couple of ways to banish it for good. “If you just have a tick or two,” says Dr. Alleman, “I’d put them on a piece of tape, so they can’t move, and flush them down the toilet.”

Be warned: Flushing alone may not do the trick. “You don’t want to flush a live tick down the toilet because they can crawl back up,” explains Wehrhan.

“Putting them in rubbing alcohol will kill them,” says Dr. Alleman, who suggests pouring a little alcohol into a bottle, dropping in the tick and then waiting five minutes until you’re sure that the tick has met its match.

Protect Your Pet Before You Have a Tick Problem

The best way to protect your pet from ticks is to apply a monthly flea and tick preventative. “We’ve already seen flea and tick cases this year,” says Wehrhan. “We recommend starting now.”

And since ticks require a little bit of geo-targeting, you'll want to consult with your vet first. “There are different tick products, and the first thing you need to recognize is that, depending on what kind of insecticides and repellents have been used in your area, some products may not work as well as others,” says Dr. Alleman. “Insects do develop resistance.”

Not all tick preventers are created equal, either. “We don’t recommend flea and tick collars because they’re localized around the neck,” says Wehrhan. Since fleas and ticks tend to latch on near the neck, the rump and in the crooks of a dog’s legs, most collars won’t provide total coverage.

So how do you know if your pet requires professional care? According to Dr. Alleman, there are a few signs to watch for: “I don’t want to say that you need to bring your dog in because you found a single tick on your animal, but if you notice a large red ring developing — regardless of whether there are 1 or 100 ticks — that’s evidence of the migration of pathogens, and a good sign that prophylactic treatment will be effective.”

The second red flag is the actual tick count: A lone tick isn't reason enough for a visit. However, “any dog who has a lot of ticks needs to seek prompt professional attention,” says Dr. Alleman.

Bottom line: Seek out preventive care, and give your dog (along with yourself and any kids in your home) a thorough going-over on a daily basis to help ensure a carefree — and tick-free — summer.

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Lastly, here is a very unusual problem that a dog was confronted with while being outside.  Unusual, yes...but things like this can happen when you consider the activity level and friskiness of dogs outdoors:

Veterinarians remove wood fragment stuck behind dog's eye for about 1 month

By: Matt Rocheleau

Delicate surgery to remove part of a tree branch lodged behind a dog’s eye for about one month was a success, according to veterinarians at the Jamaica Plain animal medical center where he was treated.

In a two-hour operation two weeks ago, staff at the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center removed a 4-centimeter stick fragment from an 8-year-old German shorthaired pointer named Jake. They do believe that his vision has been affected by the ordeal.

In late December while on a walk through the woods behind his family’s home in South Hamilton, Jake charged head first into a tree branch, lodging the stick directly into his face, behind his right eye, according to officials at the animal care facility.

His owners rushed him to a local veterinarian, who removed all visible remnants of the branch and stitched up the wound, officials said.

But, worried something still wasn’t quite right, the family brought Jake to the nonprofit medical center in JP. Staff there said board-certified ophthalmologists Dan Biros and Martin Coster examined him carefully and suspected small pieces of the stick may not have been extracted.

Radiologist Kathy Beck took a series of MRI images revealed the fragment still lodged between the back of Jake’s eye and the base of his skull.

The stick not only caused the dog “serious pain,” but the veterinarian eye specialists said that 30 percent of Jake’s retina had detached and that the fragment would have caused more damage.

Veterinarian Coster, surgery department director Mike Pavletic and anesthesiologist Jeff Wilson and his team performed the surgery on Jan. 25, officials said.

“In the past, removal of the eye might have been required in such a case,” said a statement from Angell Animal Medical Center. “However this was unacceptable to Jake’s family, as well as to the Angell doctors who believed they’d be able to save Jake’s eye and his vision.”

The surgery was a success and performed without causing any further threat to Jake’s vision, according to the medical center. Coster has been seeing Jake for follow-up treatment since the surgery.

“The dog has been healing well,” officials said in a statement. “He is now back to his spirited self.”

A long course of antibiotics has been required, and Jake’s eye is permanently sunken from scar tissue, veterinarians said. His vision has not been worsened as a result of the incident, though staff at the medical center believe Jake’s accidental run-in with the tree branch may have been the result of existing vision problems.

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The Oklahoma City Thunder found out what it was like to go up against a seasoned, veteran team.  The Miami Heat won the NBA Championship with superb and reliable performances by their superstars...while the superstars of the Thunder pretty much disappointed when it counted.

The LA Dodgers have started losing the close they had been winning before.  The dog days of baseball's summer months can wear down any team and this might be a problem for us.  Desperado and I are going down to Phoenix in 2 weeks to see the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks, so I hope we can regain some of our momentum before then.

We finally got our deck put together the way we want it.  Newly painted, and with an updated ceiling light arrangement, we enjoyed having dinner out there on Friday and being treated to a rock and roll concert by a band playing over at the clubhouse.

My bike ride up the AZ Snowbowl road was another good challenge as I prepare for the upcoming bike climb in the Rockies.  I actually cut 20 minutes from my time of 2 years ago on this same route.

Life is good.... 

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, June 17, 2012


The first half of 2012 has been full of news about pet food recalls and even some bad news about contamination involving pet treats.  This has been going on for years but it appears to be increasing in frequency now.  Is there anything you can do to protect your pet from being exposed to these contaminants?  If your pet has been exposed, can you do anything to help your pet?  Are you, yourself,  in any potential danger from these contaminants?

Unfortunately, this is a good news/bad news situation because the answer to all 3 of those questions is...YES!

Helpful Buckeye has a lot of very helpful information for our readers about the food you are feeding your pets.  So much information, in fact, that it would be far too much for one issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  Therefore, the overall subject of pet nutrition will be best divided into these groups: 

1) How Safe Is Your Pet's Food?
2) What's For Dinner?
3) What Shouldn't Be For Dinner?

The second and third parts will be presented as we move further into summer.  Be sure to tell your pet-owning friends about these upcoming topics because this stuff is of interest to ALL pet owners.  Stay tuned!

Pet Food Safety

Part of your responsibility as a pet parent is to help protect your pet from potentially harmful products. While it is nearly impossible to ensure that your pet will never come in contact with recalled pet food or treats, you can help to reduce your pet's risk. Also remember to practice good hygiene with your pets' food and bowls.

An updated list of recalled pet food products can be found at the web site link at the end of this article.

Latest News: A recall of dry pet food from Diamond Pet Foods and other companies triggered by Salmonella infections in people who came in contact with pet food is expanding in the U.S. and Canada. The Humane Society of the United States will continue to follow the situation and post each new recall on the above-mentioned web link. Return to this site for regular updates and share the information with your friends and family.

Tips for protecting your pets from contaminated food and treats:

1. Check our list of recalled foods and treats regularly for the latest information on items that have been recalled. You may also want to join our online community to receive information about recalls via the Pet of the Week e-newsletter. In addition, the FDA website is a helpful tool that provides updated information for all product recalls.

2. If your pet's food or treats are recalled (see list) , immediately stop feeding the product to your pet. Recalled products may be returned to the store where they were purchased for a full refund or thrown away in a secure area not accessible to animals. If you have questions about recalled food or treats or require additional information contact the company that manufactures the product.

3. If your pet may have consumed a recalled product, consult your veterinarian, even if your pet does not appear to have any symptoms.

4. If your pet has become ill or died because of a recalled food or treat, please report it to The FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your state.

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Tainted pet food can make pet, owner sick

By Michelle Marshall

In April, Diamond Pet Foods announced a voluntary recall on three brands of pet food because of concerns the food was contaminated with Salmonella. In May, two more recalls involving several brands of dry dog and cat foods were issued. The latest recall includes foods that were distributed in Missouri. Some of the recalled foods include Diamond Naturals Small Breed Lamb and Rice Formula, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul, Canidae, Taste of the Wild and Kirkland. For a complete list of involved foods, production dates and areas of distribution, go to .

The main concern with this recall is pet owners who become ill after touching the pet food, cross-contamination of their own food with products that touched the affected pet food, or direct contact with an infected pet. According to a May 11 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed outbreak cases have been documented in Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2) and Virginia (1). Five people were hospitalized. One Canadian case was reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection in people can include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps, and diarrhea (often with blood) lasting more than three days. Symptoms in animals are similar and include loss or lack of appetite and lethargy. Pets can be infected with Salmonella but show no symptoms. Unaffected pets might still shed the bacteria in their feces and serve as a source of infection to other animals and humans.

If you suspect your pets have been eating any of the foods involved, stop feeding and handling the food. Wrap any unused food in a closed plastic bag, secure the top and place it in a sealed trash container to prevent any other animals, including wild animals, from eating it. Use gloves to clean any surfaces or containers that might have contacted the food.

Salmonella can be shed in the feces of pets for 4-6 weeks after infection, so use caution when cleaning up after your pet. All stools from a suspect animal should be immediately picked up and disposed of in a secure container. Family members should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after handling any potentially contaminated surfaces or pets.

Other recommendations for avoiding cross-contamination with pet products include feeding your pet in a room other than the kitchen, washing pet bowls and scoops with soap and hot water regularly, and not washing these items in kitchen sinks or bathtubs. Do not use the pet's feeding bowl as a scooping utensil — use a clean, dedicated scoop or cup.

If you are concerned that you or your pet have been affected by or exposed to Salmonella, contact your physician or veterinarian. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent potential complications.

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Tainted Dog Food Sickens 14 People

Salmonella in Diamond Pet Foods

by Mary Rothschild

Fourteen people have been sickened with Salmonella infantis infections in a 9-state outbreak linked to dog food. At least five of the individuals have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported recently that multiple brands of Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food - including several that have been recalled in recent days - are the likely source of the human illnesses, either through contact with the contaminated food or through handling an animal that has eaten the tainted kibble. The dog food was produced at a single manufacturing plant in South Carolina.

How many dogs may also have been sickened was not mentioned in the CDC report. In some recall notices, Diamond Pet Foods has claimed that no dog illnesses have been reported. Those recall alerts from the company did not reveal that human cases of infection were being investigated.

According to the CDC, routine tests by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development first detected Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Pet Foods Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food on April 2.

PulseNet, the national surveillance system for foodborne illnesses, then spotted several cases of human Salmonella infantis infections with a genetic fingerprint identical to that found in the dog food, the CDC said.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella infantis was isolated from an opened bag of Diamond Brand Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food, found in the household of an ill person in Ohio. The outbreak strain was also isolated in samples taken from an unopened bag of the dog food obtained from an Ohio retail store.

A sample of Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food collected by the Food and Drug Administration during an inspection at the South Carolina production plant yielded Salmonella, the CDC said.

Seven of 10 outbreak victims interviewed said they had contact with a dog during the week before they became ill. Of five people who could remember the type of dog food they had handled, four said it was a Diamond Pet Foods brand.

Missouri and North Carolina each confirmed 3 cases related to the dog food outbreak. Ohio reported two cases while Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey , Pennsylvania and Virginia each reported single cases.

The first onset of human illness reported was Oct. 8, 2011 and the most recent illness onset was April 22 -- more than two weeks after the first pet food recall. The case patients range in age from 1 to 82 years old with a median age of 48. Seventy-seven percent of the ill people are female.

Diamond Pet Foods recalled certain batches of its Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food on April 6 as a "precautionary measure" and stated then that "no illnesses have been reported and no other Diamond manufactured products are affected." That was four days after the Michigan test results.

Then a second recall was announced April 26 for certain production codes of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Adult Light formula dry dog food. This time, the recall alert stated more narrowly that "no dog illnesses" had been reported.

On April 30, the company expanded the recall to include Diamond Puppy Formula dry dog food and again said there were no reports of dog illnesses related to the product. No mention was made of human infections in the recall announcement.

"There have been numerous human outbreaks linked to pet food," said food safety attorney Bill Marler, managing partner at Marler Clark (publisher of Food Safety News). "It again shows how important food safety is, both to your pet and your family."

According to the CDC, dogs and cats infected with Salmonella usually have diarrhea and may seem lethargic, but they also can carry the infection and not appear to be sick. Humans can become ill by touching infected animals, contaminated food, or objects and surfaces such as food bowls, especially if they do not thoroughly wash their hands after the contacts.

The CDC offered this advice for pet owners:

- Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. Consumers with questions about recalled dog food may contact Diamond Pet Foods at telephone number 800-442-0402 or visit .

- Follow the tips listed on Salmonella from Dry Pet Food and Treats to help prevent an infection with Salmonella from handling dry pet food and treats.

- People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers. Infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.

- People who think their animal might have become ill after eating dry pet food should consult their veterinary-care providers.

Additional information for pet owners can be found here.

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More Aflatoxin-Related Dog Food Recalls Revealed

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted two dog food recall notices on its website Wednesday, including one dated Dec. 12 and an "updated" alert dated Dec. 14.

Both recalls of dry dog food were the result of elevated levels of aflatoxin, caused by a fungus on grains such as corn that in significant quantities can cause liver damage in pets. These recalls are apparently related to the Dec. 7 announcement by manufacturer Cargill Animal Nutrition that it was pulling dry dog food off the market because of excess amounts of aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin, which cannot exceed 20 parts per billion under FDA standards, has been found in levels above that in dog food produced at Cargill's plant in LeCompte, LA and in Iams puppy food manufactured by Proctor and Gamble in Henderson, N.C. Advanced Animal Nutrition recalled its Dog Power food, also for elevated aflatoxins.

All the companies have said that, to date, no illnesses or adverse affects have been reported in connection with the recalled dog food, but did not explain why dog food was on the market for more than a year before it was tested for aflatoxins.

O'Neal's Feeders Supply of DeRidder, LA, said it has recalled dry Arrow Brand dog food manufactured over an entire year -- between Dec. 1, 2010, and Dec. 1, 2011 -- because it contains corn detected to have higher than acceptable levels of aflatoxin.

O'Neals said the recall applies only to dog food distributed in Louisiana and Texas with packaging date codes lot numbers 4K0341 through 4K0365 and 04K1001 through 4K1325.

It said retailers have already been instructed to remove the following affected brands and products from store shelves:

-- ARROWBRAND 21% Dog Chunks SKU #807 40 lb. bag

-- ARROWBRAND Super Proeaux Dog Food SKU #812 40 lb. bag

-- ARROWBRAND Professional Formula Dog Food SKU #814 50 lb. bag

Consumers may return the recalled dog food - in opened or unopened packages - to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information contact 800-256-2769 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Petrus Feed and Seed Stores, in what was described as an updated alert, said it has recalled its dry dog food - 21% Protein Dog Food in 40 lb Petrus Feed bags because the product was manufactured with corn that tested above acceptable levels for aflatoxin.

The company said the affected products were manufactured by Cargill in LeCompte, LA between Dec. 1, 2010 and Dec. 1, 2011.

The recall is only for 21% Dog Food, packaged in 40 lb. Petrus Feed bags, with the packaging date codes (lot numbers) 4K1011 through 4K1307. Updated lot numbers are 4K1011 through 4K1335. The affected dry dog food was distributed in Petrus Feed and Seed in Alexandria, LA.

Consumers may return the recalled dog food - whether in opened or unopened packages - to their place of purchase for a full refund. For more information contact 318-443-2259, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Both companies advised that pets that have consumed any of the recalled products and exhibit symptoms of illness including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian.

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Nearly all U.S. pet food contains ingredients from China, other countries: Animals in the News

By Donna J. Miller

The "buy local" food slogan so popular with environmentalists may catch on with people shopping for pet food.

"Avoid the newest products on the shelves and buy made-in-the-USA pet food," veterinarian Brian Forsgren said recently at a news conference called by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to publicize the death of a Westlake dog that died after eating chicken jerky made in China.

The Food and Drug Administration has received several hundred complaints since 2007 from pet owners whose dogs suffered serious or fatal kidney damage after eating chicken treats. But the agency's scientists, although they've previously found pet food products that contained harmful contaminants from China, have not been able to identify a toxin and link the jerky treats to the illnesses.

Meanwhile, Forsgren, Brown and the Westlake dog owner urge pet owners to avoid products made overseas. But is it possible to buy totally made-in-the-U.S.A pet food?

Chicken breasts "are not produced domestically in sufficient quantity to meet demand," said Kurt Gallagher, director of communications for the Pet Food Institute, which represents 98 percent of U.S. pet food companies. "In China, consumers prefer to eat dark meat chicken and other cuts, so white meat chicken breasts are available for making quality dog treats."

And other pet food ingredients are only available from foreign sources, including certain vitamins, amino acids, minerals and micronutrients, he said.

Interestingly, the only significant supply of vitamin C worldwide, which is also taken as a daily supplement by people around the globe, is China," Gallagher said in an email.

"It would be difficult to purchase a pet food that is made from 100 percent U.S. ingredients."

Senator Brown and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich have called on the FDA to recall the jerky treats; step up its search for toxins in them and other pet food; hold U.S. companies accountable for the quality of their overseas ingredients; and improve communications with the public about potential threats.

"Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA's website?" Brown wrote in a letter to the agency.

While the senator awaits a response, veterinarians and pet owners can learn more at the American Veterinary Medical Association's user-friendly site; .

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FDA Sets New Priorities for Foods and Veterinary Medicine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released the Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program's Final Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2016.

The plan highlights seven strategic "program goals" to better orient the U.S. food supply toward science-based food safety and labeling standards. It also includes nearly 100 initiatives to help achieve those goals.
The goals, as outlined in the plan, are to:

1. Establish science-based preventive control standards across the farm-to-table continuum.

The FVM Program will aim to set preventive standards against foodborne illness and intentional contamination for every link in the chain between growing and eating. This includes standards for production, processing, distribution, storage, transportation and marketing. Looking to the future, the program will continue to evaluate its standards and research improvements by working with industry experts.

2. Achieve high rates of compliance with preventive control standards domestically and internationally.

The program suggests inspectors be empowered to assess facilities more thoroughly on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature of the processes under inspection, the inherent risk of the food produced there, and the facility's food safety record.

3. Strengthen scientific leadership, capacity, and partnership to support public health and animal health decision making.

The program aims to foster "a culture of collaboration" with other research and health agencies in government, academia and private industry -- both domestic and foreign -- to expand each others' scientific capabilities.

4. Provide accurate and useful information so consumers can choose a healthier diet and reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity.

The program hopes to work with industry and consumer groups to improve the nutritional information on not only human food products, but animal foods as well. The end goal is to allow consumers the ability to make healthier decisions about their diet (or their pet's).

5. Encourage food product reformulation and safe production of dietary supplements.

The program plans to use its influence and regulatory tools to help promote production of healthier foods and improve safety oversights on dietary supplements.

6. Improve detection of and response to foodborne outbreaks and contamination incidents.

Recognizing that preventive methods cannot protect against every contamination event in a complex food system, the program will encourage new advancements in detection and containment.

7. Advance animal drug safety and effectiveness.

In an effort to encourage safe and effective use of animal drugs, the program will work to reduce the use of unapproved animal drugs and the overuse or abuse of legal drugs. Furthermore, the program will promote information on the "appropriate, judicious" use of medically important antibiotics in farm animals.

The mission to establish preventive strategies for the food system stems from new goals set forth by Congress in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

The FVM issued its final plan after first issuing a draft of it on Sept. 30, 2011, which then opened a 30-day commenting period. According to the FVM, the final plan was published after the program carefully reviewed and considered comments it received.

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U.S.-made dog treats are far safer

By Julie Damron

Where dog treats are made can make a difference.

China has been in the news again the past few weeks related to problems with a dog food product. (In 2006, China was responsible for the melamine contamination of the food additives/extenders known as wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate. This triggered a nationwide recall of several dog food items from a variety of manufactures.) This time the item of concern is chicken jerky treats.

As of November 2011, the Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners that chicken jerky food products that are imported from China may cause a Fanconi-like syndrome in dogs who routinely consume them. Fanconi's syndrome is a disease that affects the kidneys, causing them to leak glucose and electrolytes into the urine. Symptoms of this illness include drinking a lot of water, urinating a lot or more frequently, decreased energy, diminished appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

In these dogs, there is a high sugar level in the urine with or without an elevated protein level in the urine and/or an electrolyte imbalance termed metabolic acidosis. These dogs have a normal blood glucose, so they are not considered diabetic despite the fact that they have an elevated level of glucose in the urine.

There may also be elevations in the blood kidney levels of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine. If left untreated, renal failure can develop, and death is possible.

Problems were first identified in 2006, around the time of the melamine food contamination issue. In 2010, there were 50 reports of an association of Fanconi-like syndrome potentially connected to chicken jerky treats from China. In 2011, there were more than 70 reports. Most of the original cases occurred in Canada, but now there are animals becoming ill in the United States. To date there hasn't been a specific causal link or contaminant identified, according to the FDA. Currently they are "testing multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants. They are continuing to test for possible contaminants."

This week the FDA has announced it is now analyzing products upon import for melamine and diethylene glycol because of an increase in complaints for problems related to chicken jerky. There have been 467 reports placed with the FDA since they issued a warning in November. The alert this fall was the third regarding chicken treat products from China.

Until more is known, the FDA has made the following recommendations:

» Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities.

» Consumers that feed chicken jerky products to their dogs should monitor for symptoms of decreased energy, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption, and increased urination.

» Discontinue the products at the first occurrence of such problems.

» Report any triggering food product to the FDA.

» Seek immediate veterinary care if symptoms are severe or persist for more than 24 hours.

I encourage all of my clients to only purchase products that are made in the United States. Our country's food safety requirements are much more strict than the laws in other countries. I also encourage pet owners to limit treats to less than 15 percent of the overall calorie intact for their canines. Please keep in mind that raw or cooked vegetables such as carrots, green beans and broccoli make wonderful treats, especially for those canines that are struggling to lose weight. Don't use food to show love to your pet. Interact with them, cuddle them or take them for a walk. Both of you will benefit from the time together.

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You'd perhaps think that, with all the advancements in technology, the safe production of food products would be an easy goal.  But, there are several variables that make that equation go haywire from time to time.  In any mass-produced product, there can and will be accidents along the way.  Then, you can throw in the notion of toxins getting into the production process, whether again by accident or outright negligence.  When you think about all the food that needs to be produced and handled to feed the billions of people on the planet, plus all the pet food that needs to be produced for the hundreds of millions of pets around the world, it only stands to reason that problems will arise.  The companies that produce all that food operate under fairly strict regulations, especially in the USA, and are the first line of defense against a contamination.  Then, the FDA is the giant in the background, trying to watch everything related to the food production process. 

Being very careful about what type of food you buy for your pet, talking with your veterinarian about how to evaluate those choices, and remembering to practice good hygiene when handling your pet's food will help you keep your risk of a problem at a very low level.  In today's environment, that's about as good as you can hope for.
The LA Dodgers took 2 of 3 games vs. the Chicago White Sox, one of the hot teams in the American League, to remain the team with the overall best record.  Even though we lost 2 games to the LA Angels, our record during interleague play is much better than it has been for 7 years.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have played like they can win the NBA title; however, the Miami Heat will have something to say about that, after going ahead, 2 games to 1, in the series.

Even though this isn't one of my "Big Three" events for 2012, a bike ride this week here in Flagstaff will definitely go toward getting me ready for the first one on my assault on Vail Pass, up in the Colorado Rockies next month.  I've done this one before and it involves a climb of 7 miles from 7000 ft. up to 9500 ft.  Desperado plans to meet me at the turnaround at the top, share a "light" snack, then watch as I scurry back down the mountain on my way home.  She already has a celebratory event scheduled for that afternoon at one of our favorite watering holes.

After 13 years of planting flowers outdoors here in Flagstaff, I may have finally hit on just the right combination of planting time and choice of plants.  At this early stage of our growing season, my flowers and herbs look better than ever!  Must be some good karma in the air....

Following certain events this past week, my new favorite numbers are 180 and 160...good numbers to have around and I can live with them.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have a close friend who will turn 92 this week and we are hosting a birthday party for him.  It's impressive for anyone to make it to that age, but to still be as sharp as he is makes even more of an impression.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~