Marijauna Toxicity in Pets

 

The following is a reprint from Promed which is part of International Society for Infectious Diseases.  With increased accetance of medical marijuana, it is important that owners  understand that  it can have a profoundly different affect on their pets than it does on them.

The popularity of medical marijuana in Colorado has had an unintended

side effect .  Dogs are getting stoned, sometimes with deadly results.

Some people firmly believe that if medical marijuana helps people, it

also helps their pets, but that’s not always the case. Marijuana can

be harmful and sometimes toxic for dogs.   New research shows that with

medical marijuana, the number of dogs getting sick from pot is

spiking.

Animals exposed to marijuana demonstrate neurological signs including

depression or alternating depression and excitement, falling

over/incoordination, hallucinations with barking or agitation,

seizures or coma and death. About a third of exposed animals will

demonstrate gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, dry

mouth, or drooling. The body temperature can be high or low, rapid

breathing with a heart rate that may be too rapid or too slow, dilated

pupils, and they may leak urine. These clinical signs can develop

within minutes up to 3 hours after exposure. The drug may be

eliminated quickly (over several hours), but can be absorbed into fat

making signs last for up to 3-4 days.

“They basically have lost a lot of their fine motor control, they have

a wide-based stance and they are not sure on their feet,” said Dr.

Debbie Van Pelt of VRCC, the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency

Hospital in Englewood. Vets say they used to see dogs high on

marijuana just a few times a year. Now pet owners bring in doped-up

dogs as many as 5 times a week.

“There are huge spikes in the frequency of marijuana ingestion in

places where it’s become legal,” Van Pelt said. Colorado is one of

those places.

This is a serious situation for your animal. It is not funny, it is

actually cruel and can be fatal. If a human chooses to get stoned, or

high or use the product for medicinal value, that is the human being’s

choice. Dogs and cats do not think that way and do not understand what

is happening. Dogs are more often intoxicated or at least more often

brought to the veterinarian.

Most of the time veterinarians say dogs get the medical marijuana by

eating their owners food products that are laced with marijuana that

were left out in the open. More and more dispensaries sell those kinds

of products.

“I just want dogs, kids to be safe. It needs to be treated like any

other drug. If you came home with a prescription of vicodin from your

doctor you wouldn’t just leave it sitting there,” veterinarian Dr.

Stacy Meola said.

Meola is a veterinarian at a Wheat Ridge clinic. She coordinated a

5-year study that shows the number of dogs sickened by marijuana has

quadrupled in Colorado since medical marijuana was legalized. Most

dogs survive, but not all.

“Two dogs, however, got into baked goods with medical grade marijuana

butter in it, which presumably seems to be more toxic to the dogs, so

we did have 2 deaths,” Meola said.

That’s the exception. Most of the time the dogs will end up showing

signs such as staggering, acting lethargic, vomiting, and being overly

sensitive to sound and light. Sometimes they fall into a coma. It’s

the doggie equivalent of a “bad trip.” After treatment most are back

to normal within 24 hours.

While many dog owners think it’s funny to get their dogs stoned and

have posted videos of their stoned dogs, Colorado veterinarians say

there’s nothing funny about dogs on dope.

  This is a serious situation for your animal. It is not funny, it is

actually cruel and can be fatal. If a human chooses to get stoned, or

high or use the product for medicinal value, that is the human being’s

choice. Dogs and cats do not think that way and do not understand what

is happening. Dogs are more often intoxicated or at least more often

brought to the veterinarian.

“We need people to realize it is potentially toxic and potentially

fatal to their pets,” Van Pelt said.

Veterinarians say frequently when the sick dogs come in, their owners

are reluctant to admit medical marijuana might have been the cause.

They say if that’s a possible factor, tell the vet right away and they

can more quickly treat the dog.

It is important to get your pet treated as the clinical signs can be

Life-threatening and pets can and die from this substance.

Guinea Pigs

 

Cavia porcellus, better known as the Guinea Pig is a South American Rodent that has been domesticated for around 3,000 years.  They are used primarily for food in South America but are beloved as pets here in North America.  Guinea pigs are generally easy to handle, non-aggressive, come in a variety of coat types and colors and are a favorite small companion for children of all ages.

Guinea pigs live an average of 5 – 8 years.  Thick bodied with short limbs they can weigh anywhere from 700 to 1200 grams. Pigs are a social animal and prefer to have a housemate.  Females become sexually mature at the tender age of 6 weeks of age so if you have a mixed group, neuter your male. Gestation is about 4 weeks. Guinea pigs produce “precocious” young who are eating solid foods within 5 days of birth.  One important thing to know is that if females do not give birth before 6 months of age their pubic symphysis will mineralize rendering them unable to deliver a baby.

Guinea pigs can be kept in a wire cage with a solid bottom and shredded paper bedding.  Avoid wire bottom cages since they can cause injuries and other foot problems. The same goes for aromatic shavings which cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. Guinea pigs prefer to have a hiding place or hutch for privacy and an exercise area. Do not use an exercise ball. They are not climbers and do not need a cage top.  Just make certain that the sides are high enough to keep them in.  As their name suggests, Guinea pigs can be quite messy and should have their enclosure and feed dishes cleaned frequently. One final point to remember is that these mountain dwellers do not tolerate high temperatures or humidity.  Try to keep temperatures between 61 to 75 degrees.  Anything above 80 degrees can cause heat stroke.

Guinea pigs are vegetarians and need a diet comprised primarily of timothy hay, a commercial pelleted feed with added vitamin C and fresh vegetables such as dandelions, parsley and kale.  A small amount of fresh fruit is OK but only as a treat. Guinea pigs cannot synthesize vitamin C so great care must be taken to ensure that they receive an adequate (10mg/kg/day) amount in their feed.  Vitamin C tablets are also available.

The most common problem we see in Guinea pigs at the Animal Family is dental disease caused by malocclusion of the molars.  If your pig is not eating well or simply looks poor it is important to have the teeth checked. 

Guinea pigs are very sensitive to changes in diet and environment.  Because of this, they are prone to GI problems due to an over growth of “bad bacteria”.  Use of the wrong type of antibiotic can also cause GI problems in pigs.  Signs may include bloating, diarrhea and loss of condition.

We see urinary calculi and bladder infections more than we would like too.  It is more common in pigs on a high calcium diet like alfalfa, but some may simply be genetically predisposed to developing urinary tract problems. Signs may include, frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine and vocalizing while urinating.

Their small lungs and sensitivity to Bordatella bacteria make pneumonia a particular problem for Guinea pigs.  Stress, exposure to dogs and other Bordatella carriers and poor ventilation can all cause disease.  Signs include nasal discharge, sneezing, rapid respiration and lethargy.  Severe cases can cause death.

Bumble foot or Pododermatitis is seen in animals kept on wire flooring.  This problem can be quite severe if it goes untreated.  Swelling, ulceration and secondary infection can render your pig unable to bear weight.  If your pet develops this problem even though you have proper flooring, you may need to check your source of Vitamin C. 

Mites and ringworm are another common problem of Guinea pigs. You may see intense itching and hair loss.  The good news is both are also easily treated. Your pig will love for helping him with these nasty critters.

Our blog is only meant to be an introduction to Guinea pigs. More information is available through your veterinarian, the library or on-line.

Hot Weather Care Tips for Your Pet

 

We have started to get some hot weather.  Temperatures have already reached the 90s on some days and with our recent rains, the humidity has been up as well. At our house, we cope by switching to shorts and light t-shirts, drinking lots of water and taking breaks indoors or in the shade.  We also produce quite a bit of sweat and may take an extra shower.  That works for us but what about our pets?

Dogs and cats don’t have the same options.  They may shed out some coat but still have to cope with a body covered in fur.  They sweat through their paw pads but primarily dissipate body heat by panting. In warm, humid weather, that may not be enough.

So what can you do to make summer more comfortable and safer for your pet?

  • Provide lots of fresh water.  Make sure it is in a container that can’t be overturned by mistake and that there is enough to last all day.  In addition, if you use a zip line or some other type of tether you need to make double sure your pet can’t become entangled and unable to reach either shade or a source of water.
  • Indoors or out.  Is there a place where your pet can stay cool and out of the sun?  That may mean keeping your pet indoors in the air conditioning.  However, there is nothing wrong with a dog run or backyard shelter as long as there is access to shade, water and hopefully a cooling breeze.
  • Jogging – maybe not.   Your dog is in good shape.  He jogs with you all winter long.  However, that doesn’t mean that it is safe to continue the same routine in the summer heat.  Remember, dogs can’t cool themselves like we do.  Add that to the fact that your loyal companion will keep going no matter how hot he/she gets and you have a recipe for disaster.  Unless you run early in the day, long, before the heat sets in, leave the dog home.
  • Never leave your pet in the car!  Want to know why?  Check out this data compiled by the Animal Protection Institute.  If your car is closed with no open windows and it is 82 degrees outdoors, the temperature in your car is 109.   At 91 degrees, it is 115 in the car.   Think cracking the windows help?  If it is 84 degrees outside the temperature in the car is still 98 degrees.    At 90 degrees, it is 108 in the car.  Got the picture?  Even leaving your pet in the car while you run in for a short errand can be deadly.
  • What are the signs of heat stroke?  You may see excessive panting, stumbling, weakness, stupor and bright red gums.  Body temperatures of 104 degrees or more is possible As heat stroke progresses, seizures, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, coma and death may occur.  “Parked car” or brachycephalic breeds such as Bull Dogs, Pugs, Boxers, etc… are more susceptible to heat related problems. Heat stroke isn’t limited to dogs and cats.  Your bunny, chinchilla and even reptiles can suffer heat related problems as well.    Make sure they have shade and plenty of water.
  • If you suspect heat stroke it’s an emergency!  Hose your pet down and bring him/her to the clinic immediately!  Don’t try to treat on your own.  Too much cooling and your pet will actually become too cold.  In addition, heat stroke can literally cook internal organs. Pets who have suffered heat stoke may develop swelling and edema of the trachea making it difficult for them to breathe.  IV fluids, supportive care and monitoring are a must. 
  • Other suggestions for a safer summer.  Pet pools are great for helping your buddy cool down but remember to change the water frequently. Think about getting a pet fountain that provides a continuous stream of fresh, cool water to drink.  Fans can help where air conditioning isn’t available.  Bandanas and body wraps made specifically for cooling can help.  After soaking in cool water, these products can provide relief for a limited time.  Shaving??  That’s up for debate but if you do, remember your pet will be much more likely to sunburn.  Bunnies can benefit from a frozen pop bottle in their cage.  Just make sure to wrap them in a cloth before placing them in with the bunny and watch for chewing on the cloth or bottle.  Cold blooded pets require care on two accounts.  Air conditioning can be TOO COLD and a terrarium that is up against a hot window can easily become an oven.  This applies to birds as well.  Too much draft and cold will result in upper respiratory problems.  Too much heat can cause heat stroke and death.

 

So, enjoy yourself this summer, but, please remember to keep your pet’s well being in mind too. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 563-391-9522.

10 REASONS WHY RATS MAKE GREAT PETS

 

The common rat or Rattus norvegicus is seriously under rated as a pet.  Although relatively short lived, from 2 – 3 ½ years, rats can be a perfect first pet. Let us give you 10 good reasons to take a second look at the humble rat.

  1. Rats are small and easy to care for. They do well in a cage environment and in spite of their wild cousin’s bad reputation, are quite clean.
  2. Rats rarely ever bite.  This makes them a good first pet for children unlike mice, gerbils and some breeds of hamsters.  Male rats are  more docile than the females and can be quite happy sitting in their owner’s laps or perched on their shoulder.
  3. Rats are smart!  That’s why they are so popular for maze studies.  Rats can be trained to come to you, climb ladders, play on swings and many other tricks.  They are quick learners and love to perform for food treats.
  4. Rats come in lots of different colors and hair coats.  There are many different varieties of fancy rats to choose from.  They even have hairless rats for those with allergies.
  5. Rats have lots of personality.  Their intelligence also gives rats very distinctive personalities.  The more you interact with your rat, the more his/her individual personality will come out.  They can actually become great companions.
  6. Rats are hardy.  A healthy rat properly cared for rat will give you little reason for worry.  The exception is, sadly, female rats which are highly susceptible to the development of mammary tumors.
  7. If you want more than one rat, a pair from the same litter will usually get along great.  Just make sure you don’t mix sexes.  Rats, like mice, are prolific breeders and will quickly multiply if left to their own devices.
  8. Rats do very well in a cage environment.  For most rats, an aquarium with a wire lid or a wire cage with a smooth bottom would be suitable.  Non aromatic shavings, shredded newspaper or other commercial rodent bedding together with a place to hide and sleep, feed bowls and ladders or other enrichment items will make cage life happy for your rat.  Remember to keep the cage or there will be a build-up of unhealthy ammonia fumes.
  9. Most pet stores sell pet rats.  Unlike some of the more exotic pocket pets, rats are easy to obtain and reasonably priced. 

      10. Rats are easy to feed.  Again because we have been around rats for    so  long we, good commercial diets are available.  Lab blocks are available at most pet shops. Of course, rats like variety too.  They can be supplemented with commercially available treats such as yogurt drops, grains, seeds as well as fruits and veggies from the refrigerator. Rats can become obese if fed too many treats, so don’t over indulge them.

This is meant to be a quick over view into the wonderful world of rats.  If you think you might be interested be sure to do your research first.

10 Reasons Why Your Pet Should be on Flea Prevention

 

Who hates fleas?  Everybody hates fleas!  Ctenocephalides canis or felis better known as the common flea is not a visitor anyone ever welcomes to their home.  For those of us who have had to deal with a flea infestation- once is definitely enough!  There are a lot of good reasons to avoid this hopping, biting scourge of the insect world aside from the obvious “yuck” factor surrounding them.

 

  1. Fleas make their living by biting other animals and feeding on their blood.  When fleas bite they inject saliva into the skin of their host which can cause inflammation, itching, allergic dermatitis and hair loss.  Even worse, if the host is small enough or the number of fleas’ large enough, anemia can result from blood loss.
  2. Fleas don’t just bite your pet.  They bite you.  They bite your children.  Everybody gets itchy.
  3. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day and up to 2000 eggs in her short life time!!!  Of course by the time you discover that your pet has fleas, there are most likely eggs and larva throughout your home.
  4. Fleas act as a transport vehicle for the aptly named “Flea” tapeworm.  Pets ingest fleas as they groom.  Once the flea is in the digestive system, the larva breaks free and finds a home in your pet’s intestines. An adult tapeworm can grow up to 75 cm (29.5 inches).  According to CPAC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), “Infections of children with D. caninum following ingestion of an infected flea are occasionally reported. The disease induced in the child is generally mild, confined to the intestinal tract, and readily treated, but can still be distressing to the family.”
  5. Fleas carry the Plague – the Bubonic Plague.  This is particularly important in the Rocky Mountain States.
  6. Fleas carry Typhus and yes it can be transmitted to humans.  According to Pubmed Health, “Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.” The form of typhus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly. Risk factors for murine typhus include:
    1. Exposure to rat fleas or feces
    2. Exposure to other animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats
  7. Fleas can help to transmit “Cat Scratch” disease from one cat to another.  We humans get Cat Scratch Fever when we are scratched by an infected feline.

 

  1. Fleas can transmit hemoplasmas, a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.

 

  1. Even if your pet never goes outdoors, you can carry fleas into the house on your pants legs. Fleas can survive the winter just fine as long as you continue to heat your home. 

 

10. Once there is an established flea infestation, it can be time consuming and expensive to resolve.  Like so many other problems fleas are much easier to prevent than alleviate.

 

I don’t know about you but I’m going to go make sure my dog is up to date on his flea prevention.

Animal Family Introduces Box Turtles

 

We have a variety of educational pets at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.  Miracle, our turtle was hatched in 1999.  That makes her young by Box Turtle standards.  They can live up to 75 years or more.  It may surprise you to learn that turtles have very distinct personalities.   Miracle is very social and loves interacting with people.  Even though Miracle is quite social, many box turtles are not.  Fortunately, Box turtles rarely bite and then it’s only when they mistake a finger for food.

Box turtles get their name from the hinged portion of their shell.  It allows them to pull their legs and head into their shell and close the doors.   This is how they try to protect themselves from predators. Unfortunately, it’s not fool proof.  Crafty birds have learned to drop the turtles from on high to break shells and dogs and raccoons can chew through them.

Box turtles are terrestrial or land based.  That means they spend the bulk of their time on dry land but are usually never too far from a pond.  Pet turtles like a swimming area too.   Unfortunately they aren’t very good at keeping their water clean so it will require daily changing.

Box turtles enjoy a variety of food.  To stay healthy they need a mix of meat, fruits and veggies.  Our Miracle is quite fond of earthworms.  She also likes dog food and meal worms.  We mix in a large variety of greens and fruits as well.  You can buy a commercial turtle food but it should never be the sole source of any turtle’s diet.

Miracle’s home is a glass terrarium that is appointed with rocks, water and cob bedding. Bark or alfalfa pellets may also be used.  Never use sand or cat litter. A minimum size of 36” X 12” is recommended.  

 Heating is a very important part of maintaining a pet turtle’s health.  The ideal is around 85 to 88 degrees F.  Place a heat lamp in one area of the enclosure so your turtle is able to get away from the heat source when they want. Too much heat can be just as deadly as not enough.  Floor heaters and heat rocks are also available but make certain to use them properly. 

Turtles can develop a variety of health problems   Beaks and nails can become overgrown due to lack of foraging and other activities which would wear them down naturally in the wild. Metabolic bone disease and soft shells can develop from either under feeding or a lack of variety in diet.  Remember, a turtle that is fed properly will never develop this problem. Shell rot is another health issue with turtles.  It is caused when bacteria gets between the shell layers either because of damage to the shell or wet, unsanitary conditions.  Turtles can also have internal parasites just like other pets so be sure to have a stool check.  Upper respiratory infections are also common.  They may present with nasal discharge, puffy eyes or both. With severe respiratory distress a turtle may extend its neck and gape.  Obviously any respiratory problems require a visit to the vet as well as a close look at your husbandry. Finally, wounds can occur on the face and legs of your turtle.  If these become infected they will require a trip to the Vet. 

Do turtles carry salmonella?  Yes, some do but not all. Either way, you can greatly minimize your risk by following CDC guidelines.

  • The kitchen sink is for people.  Don’t wash turtle dishes or turtles in it.
  • Clean and disinfect your turtles enclosure regularly
  • Wash your hands after handling your pet
  • No kissing turtles or touching them to your face.
  • Quarantine any new turtles for 6 weeks
  • and, yes, you can have your vet test to see if your turtle is carrying salmonella.

Please visit the CDC site for more complete guidelines.

Hopefully this has wetted your appetite to learn more about turtles.  Remember if you have any more questions, call us or check out our website.

 

Veterinarians Guide to Hedgehogs

We recently added a new pet to our educational animals at the Animal Family.  “Gnomeo” is an African Pygmy Hedgehog.  In spite of his prickly nature, he is not related to porcupines.  Even though Hedgehogs spines are quite sharp, unlike porcupines, their spines do not shed and will not become lodged in the skin. If frightened, a hedgehog will defend itself by rolling into a tiny, prickly ball.  In the wild, they are generally solitary in nature.  They seem to prefer solitude in captivity as well. Although Hedgehogs can be handled with bare hands, gloves are recommended.

As a pet, Hedgehogs are a small, reasonably clean, relatively odor free and non-aggressive. They will vocalize through quiet snorting, whistling or huffing sounds.     If handled on a routine basis from a young age most will become quite friendly.  It is easy to see why we are seeing more of them in practice

The average pet hedgehog can be expected to live from 3-8 years. In captivity Hedgehogs are nocturnal but will emerge during the day. They hibernate in the wild but this is not necessary in captivity and will not occur as long as temperatures are maintained at 75 to 80 F.

Hedgehogs have some unique qualities. They have a unique protein which inhibits the activity of snake venom.  This allows them to attack and eat snakes in the wild. Another unusual hedgehog trait is “anointing”.  If a hedgehog is exposed to a strong smelling substance, they will produce large amounts of saliva which they use to coat their spines.  Nobody knows why they do this but if you find your hedgehog covered in the cat’s fishy food, don’t become alarmed.

Hedgehogs require smooth walled, enclosure with a minimum floor space of 2’ X2’.  They can climb so make any enclosure tall enough so that the animal can’t reach the top with its front feet.  Do not put your Hedgehog in a wire enclosure. Regular cleaning is important if you wish to keep your pet healthy.  Newspaper, about 3” in depth, either shredded or pelleted makes good bedding. Corn cob or alfalfa pellets can also be used.   Do not use any bedding that clumps or any aromatic wood product such as cedar or pine.  Give your hedgehog has a place to hide that is not much larger than he is and easy to disinfect. Plants or rocks can be added as well but should be non toxic and easy to clean.  Provide a shallow pan of water for bathing as well as a sipper bottle. Make sure your hedgehog understands how to drink from his bottle.

Hedgehogs require regular exercise. Either a commercial exercise ball that is suitable for Guinea Pigs or an exercise wheel will work.  If you choose to let your Hedgehog run loose, be careful of carpets and other cloth material which can get caught up in feet as well as anal/genital areas causing injury.

Your hedgehog can be maintained on either low calorie dog or cat food or commercial hedgehog diet (2 -3 Tsp /day).  Make sure to add in small amounts of fruits, veggies (1 tsp) and insects (1 tsp).  Do not feed nuts and grains or milk. Like so many of our exotic pets, low calcium is always a concern as is obesity.  Clean and refill food and water on a daily basis. To prevent your Hedgehog from becoming overweight make sure to check its weight frequently.

Like all exotics, Hedgehogs will mask illness.  Therefore it is important for you to remain vigilant. In general, Hedgehogs are prone to dental disease including oral cancers, Ringworm, obesity and overgrown nails. They can also acquire Leptospirosis, Rabies and Distemper like virus although there are no vaccines available at this time. Mites are the most common external parasite we see in Hedgehogs.  A regular health check with a fecal examination is important to maintaining your hedgehog’s health. 

This is not meant to be an all inclusive guide to Hedgehogs.  We do hope it has answered some questions for you.  Feel free to ask us questions and to come in and meet Mr. Gnomeo.

How Do I know if My Bird is Sick?

 

The practice of keeping birds has been around for centuries.  People the world over have brought birds into their homes to enjoy their lovely colors or perhaps, as with canaries, to revel in their beautiful songs or  maybe just for companionship. We humans have benefited from birds in many ways. The key as an owner is to make sure our birds benefit as well.

Bird ownership can be quite challenging.  Captive birds can suffer from boredom, too little or too much food. Maybe it’s just the wrong foods. They are affected by stress, loneliness, allergies, arthritis, injuries, respiratory problems and more.  The list is almost endless. On top of that, birds often mask their illnesses and often, by the time we notice things aren’t right, they are already very sick.  New owners quickly learn that caring for a bird is not as easy as it seemed at first glance.

Below is a list of signs indicating that you need to call your veterinarian:

  • Your bird has its feathers fluffed most of the time and may be sitting on the cage floor.
  • Your bird appears sleepy and uninterested in usual activities.
  • Your bird has discharge from the eyes, nostrils or debris stuck to the beak.
  • Your usually vocal bird has stopped singing or talking.
  • Your bird is not using his legs or wings normally.
  • Your bird keeps falling off its perch.
  • Your bird is eating less or no food.
  • Your bird appears to be bobbing on the perch.  This can be a sign of respiratory distress.
  • You have noticed a change in the consistency of your birds stool or you see caked feces near the vent.
  • You have seen your bird regurgitate food or think you have seen regurgitated food on the bottom of the cage.
  • Your bird is picking feathers from its body.  This can be a sign of mites but can also be behavioral.
  • Your bird has a head tilt..
  • The keel bone on your bird’s chest has become more prominent. 
  • Your bird’s beak has become overgrown. 
  • Your bird has thickened areas that may or may not be raw on the bottom of its feet.
  • Your bird has swelling around the lower leg. This can be a sign of gout.
  • Your bird has tremors or even seizures.
  • Your bird is bleeding.  Birds can damage blood feathers and most are ill equipped to deal with much blood loss. 

These are not all inclusive but are some of the main signs of illness require veterinary care.

 

Christmas Hazards That Can Harm Your Pet

 

 

 

 

1)   Potpourri:    Liquid potpourri can make your home smell festive for the holidays but remember to keep it away from your pets.  If the worst happens and your pet swallows liquid potpourri or spills any of it on themselves, you may see some of the following: drooling in case of ingestion, burning of the skin or mouth, weakness and vomiting. If you think any potpourri may be left on your pet’s skin, bathe them ASAP and call your veterinarian.

2)   Oh Christmas Tree:  As beautiful as Christmas trees are, they can pose considerable danger to your pets.  Don’t make this the Christmas you remember because of the trip to the emergency room. Be sure to secure your tree properly so playful pets don’t topple it and injure themselves. 

3)   Ornaments:  Cats love to play with tinsel but it can be a deadly game.  If ingested tinsel can cause a linear foreign body capable of cutting through intestines. Signs may include loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any tinsel.  Ornament hooks can also be a hazard.  They are easily swallowed by pets and can lodge in the stomach or intestines.  Even broken ornaments knocked from the tree can cut sensitive paw pads. In general, it is best not place ornaments low on the tree where pets can dislodge them. 

4)   Electrical Cords: All kinds of pets are susceptible to allure of chewing electrical cords. Once they come into contact with bare wire,  they can die suddenly or receive severe burns to the mouth.  Signs of electrical burns include drooling, blisters and swelling around the mouth and an unwillingness or inability to eat or drink.  This type of injury requires immediate veterinary care.

5)   Poinsettias/Mistletoe:    Both these plants are commonly used as decorative accents during the Holiday season.  Poinsettia can cause local irritation to the mouth, gums and GI tract if ingested.  Treat your pet by washing the sap off immediately to stop further irritation. If your pet is  vomiting or if their eyes appear inflamed, call your veterinarian  It is the berries of the Mistletoe that pose a danger to pets.  Depending on the amount ingested, symptoms can range from GI upset and vomiting to drooling, diarrhea, increased urination, and rapid heart rate and respiration.  All of these symptoms require immediate veterinary care. 

6)   Alcohol:   Are there still people who think it is funny to feed pets alcohol?  Sadly the answer is yes.  It really doesn’t matter whether toxicity occurs by accident or intent; it is important to understand that pets can die from alcohol ingestion.  Alcohol poisoning is dependent on the amount of alcohol ingested as compared to an animal’s weight. That means when a small pet gets into an alcoholic beverage, it can cause a significant toxicity problem. According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, “Within 15 to 30 minutes after the pet has drunk the alcohol on an empty stomach (or within 1 to 2 hours on a full stomach); central nervous system signs (such as staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes) can begin. Behavioral changes can be seen, as can an increased need to urinate. As the problem gets worse, the pet may become depressed, have a slow respiratory rate, or go into cardiac arrest. Puppies and kittens are at particular risk because of their small size and immature organ systems.”

7)   Chocolate:  Most people are aware that chocolate is bad for pets.  We just need to be extra careful to keep it away from them during the holidays.  As with most toxicities, problems with chocolate vary depending on the amount of cocoa, the size of the animal and the total amount ingested.  Again, a small pet that eats dark chocolate can be expected to have a much more severe problem.  Signs of toxicity include increased excitability, increased irritability, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea.  Be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet may have ingested chocolate.

8)   Grapes/Raisins:   Lots of Holiday breads and treats contain raisins or grapes. We love them but accidental ingestion by our pets can cause kidney problems.  If you suspect your pet may have ingested either call your veterinarian ASAP.

9)   Burning Candles:  This hazard doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  We all just need to remember to take extra care that candles are safely out of the way of rambunctious pets and children. 

10)  Overindulgence:   As tempting as it may be, please don’t share your holiday bounty with your petsToo much fatty food can cause a bout of pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas caused by over secretion of the enzymes used to digest food) and land your pet in the emergency room.  Signs of pancreatitis include: vomiting, no or decreased appetite, an abdomen that is painful to the touch and/or a hunched appearance, fever, diarrhea, lethargy /depression, and dehydration.  Pancreatitis can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary care. 

So, please enjoy the holidays but remember keep a watchful eye on your pet as well.

   ASPCA Poison Control:   888-426-4435       

   https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control

Birds and Biting

Ask any bird owner and they will probably tell you that the most serious bird behavior problem is biting.  This is especially true with the larger birds whose strong jaw and hooked bills can inflict considerable damage and pain.  Most biting behaviors can be classified as fear, aggression, territorial, conditioned or mate related.

Fear Biters:

When most birds were wild caught, fear biting was a bigger problem.  Today, most birds are raised in captivity.  However, birds that have been raised with little human interaction in captivity will still have fear problems.  Finally, even birds that are hand reared and more acclimated to human beings can still develop fear related behaviors.  Some, such as African Greys, seem to be naturally more cautious and fearful around humans.

Fear biters can be recognized by their attachment to the cage.  They are unwilling to leave that safe environment and when approached, may run away from or scoot past your hand.  They get very stressed when handled and may squawk, fight, and even pant.  Excessive wing trims and the inevitable clumsiness and falls that accompany them are a good way to create a fear biter.  Careful trims and lots of treats and patient handling can sometimes help a fear biter become more social.

Conditioned Biters:

Birds are highly intelligent and will learn to manipulate their owner quickly.  An owner who withdraws their hand the first time a bird offers to bite will condition the animal to bite to get their way.  Not surprisingly, the bigger the bird, the more common the problem seems to be. As with many other species of animals, if you don’t appear to be in control, birds will be more than happy to take over.

Conditioned biters need to have their wings trimmed both figuratively and literally. In addition, they should never be allowed to ride on the owners shoulder.  One way to prevent this behavior is to place a towel on the shoulder and use that to safely remove the bird if needed.  If you are too afraid to offer a hand, than gloves or a perch should be used to practice step up without biting.  Do not hit the bird on the beak.  Instead, redirect biting behavior by giving another command which can be rewarded when obeyed.  If the owner is unable to establish control, the bird may have to be rehomed.

Territorial Biters:

These are the birds that defend their cage by biting.  Territorial aggression should occur only when the bird is in or on the cage.  Consistent training and handling are an important step in curing this type of biting.  More time spent with the owner and less time in the cage will help as well.  Use of a separate cage for night time sleeping and daytime play can also be helpful.

Bonded Biters:

Many birds bond closely with one person in the family.  They may consider this person to be their mate and behave aggressively if they feel other family members are competing for “their” person.  Again, training and consistent handling by all family members will help to decrease bond related biting.  Unpleasant jobs should be done by the favorite and treats doled out by others. Again, these birds should be kept off the shoulder. Play is good but too much cuddling can be misinterpreted.

Grumpy Biters:

Just like us, birds need to get a good night’s rest.  A bird kept up late watching television, could turn into a tired, grumpy biter.  Birds need to have at least 10 hours a day in a dark, quiet room. Owners need to keep that in mind when deciding where to place their bird’s cage.

Remember, if the biting is extreme, use gloves, perches or towels. Also, changing established negative behaviors requires plenty of time, patience, confidence and consistency on the part of the handler.  In the worst cases, where the owner is unable to establish a safe relationship, a new home may be the best choice for everyone.