The Animal Poison Control hotline gets approximately 90,000 calls per year relating to an animal that has consumed medication. Whether it’s a dropped pill on the floor or a nosy puppy that chewed into your purse, our prescriptions and OTC’s can be toxic to our pets. Even those pills that we also prescribe to pets can be fatal if the wrong dose is given. Here are a few of the most commonly consumed meds that are dangerous to our dogs and cats.
- Ibuprofen (Motrin) – This OTC pain med is in every household, and is carried in many bags. It often has a sweet outer coating making it easier to swallow for humans, but tasting like an M&M for pets. Ibuprofen can cause ulcers and kidney problems in our pets.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Too much of this common fever reducer/pain pill can damage the red blood cells in an animal, especially cats. If the red blood cells aren’t carrying oxygen to the body correctly, liver damage and cell death can occur. It is often in children’s medicine, meaning it’s a sweetly flavored chew or liquid (appealing to our pets)!
- Naproxen (Aleve) – Animals are very sensitive to this pain medication. Even a small amount can cause kidney failure and ulcers throughout the digestive tract.
- Blood pressure and heart medications – Prescription drugs like beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors are given to humans to reduce blood pressure and treat heart disease. It only takes a small amount of these potent drugs to cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure or cause your pet to have cardiac arrest.
- Effexor, Celexa, Prozac, and other anti-depressants – Whether you are taking them for depression, sleeping problems, or other reasons, cats seem to love these drugs (especially Effexor, for reasons unknown). However, they can cause a variety of symptoms in animals, including agitation, tremors, and seizures.
- Adderall – This medication is used to treat those with diagnosed attention problems, but is often bought and sold illegally, especially in young adults. It can be fatal to pets, causing an unsafe increase in heart rate and body temperature, and also tremors and seizures. Many families don’t realize that Adderall is even in their household.
- Pseudoephedrine (decongestant) – This drug is often included in cold and allergy medications and can be toxic to animals, even in small amounts. Watch out for things like NyQuil that may have a sweet smell to your pets, but can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and seizures.
- Anti-anxiety drugs or sleeping pills – These are often left on bedside tables or illegally bought and sold. They can cause a rapid and sudden decrease in blood pressure in animals, and often pets are found collapsed and unconscious without warning.
- Diabetic drugs – These can cause an unsafe drop in blood sugar in animals, which can be fatal.
If you think your pet has ingested a medication (pills missing off the counter, chewed up bottle, etc), call a veterinary clinic right away. Do not wait for symptoms to develop if you have reason to believe they have consumed something. Also call your vet if you notice anything unusual about your dog or cat (tremors, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, etc). Often they have found a loose pill or two without us even knowing.
So what can you do to prevent your animals from consuming these dangerous substances? Keep them away! Pills should be in the bottle or a hard case, and the container placed out of reach of animals. I have personally seen a dog chew through a plastic pill bottle and eat the vitamins inside, so closing the cap is often not enough. Hang purses and bags up or keep them out of reach so no animals go digging through them. Never give your pet medication without consulting a vet first, and keep the pet meds separate from the human ones. Also be aware that while an animal may be well-behaved at home with you there, they may get bored or anxious while you are away, and get into substances they normally would not. Be sure to pet-proof your home extra if you are going to be gone. By taking precautions and storing medications safely, you could prevent major illness or accident from happening to your beloved furry friend.
With medical marijuana legal in over 20 states, and recreational use also becoming allowed, veterinarians have seen an increase in pot poisonings in their clinics. Dogs are most commonly affected, but cats and other mammals have been documented as well. While marijuana rarely kills animals, it can cause acute health problems, and cost you an expensive vet bill. Dogs have contracted pot toxicity from consuming living plants, dried material, concentrated oil, discarded trimmings, and foodstuffs containing marijuana. Be sure to keep all of these substances in a secure area that the pets cannot access. Keep trashes inside cupboards or with a lid on them, and store marijuana in sealed containers out of reach. This is the best way to prevent your pet from consuming it and becoming ill.
If your cat or dog does consume pot, it may exhibit a variety of symptoms. These will vary to each individual, but usually includes increased anxiety, lethargy, tremors and shaking, loss of urine and bowel control, and loss of balance. Your pet may also refuse to eat or drink, have a change in heart rate and blood pressure, vomit, or drool excessively. In small amounts, marijuana poisoning can be reversed in 3-12 hours, and there is no lasting damage. However, in large doses, pot can cause a pet to sustain injuries, have kidney problems, and in severe cases, cause coma. If you suspect your cat or dog has consumed marijuana (or any other substances, like mushrooms or prescription drugs), ALWAYS take them to the vet! Unlike human medical treatment, vets are not obligated to report the use of illegal drugs to the police. TELL YOUR VET that you suspect they have come into contact with pot. Without this detail, the symptoms of marijuana toxicity can mimic other serious diseases, and the doctor may order many expensive unnecessary tests. Depending on the severity of symptoms your animal exhibits, the vet will probably seek to reduce anxiety and ensure your pet is hydrated. Most animals will be put in a quiet secluded area with IV fluids, and possibly given a sedative. In more severe cases, vomiting may have to be induced and other nutrition and hydration given.
There have been some introductions of pet products containing marijuana. While THC has not been shown to be helpful to pets, cannabidiol (CBD) might be. Some studies have shown CBD treats to help ease elderly pets’ joint pain and increase energy. However, these claims and products have not been evaluated by the FDA, and more research certainly needs to be done. Some pets also had an allergy to the pot treats, further complicating their health.
While marijuana may not kill your pets, use some common sense. Put all recreational and medical drugs in secure areas. You wouldn’t leave your pills or pot out for a child to grab, so keep them away from animals too. It will save you the embarrassment of a failed doggy drug test in the future! ;)
Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661
Sources: Dr. Eric Barchas, Compassion Center, Pet Poison Helpline, ABC News
Puppies. They are the cute, fluffy, balls of energy that melt our hearts. And they grow up to be loyal companions as adult dogs-if properly trained. While we all know how to teach out pups the basic commands of sit, stay, and come, do you know how to teach your puppy safe play? Many preventable accidents result of unsafe behavior, or wild play. It might be entertaining to watch your baby run at full speed through the yard, but one twig on the ground could mean a set of (painful and painfully expensive) broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Playtime is important for puppies. It gives them exercise, teaches them behavior, and socializes them to other dogs and humans. Giving your dog plenty of exercise is important. Frequent walks, playing fetch, and even going on jogs will help tire your puppy out, hopefully creating a calmer playtime (and downtime). Dogs also require mental stimulation as well, which is derived from their natural instinct to chew and explore. Giving your puppy a Kong toy filled with treats, or another puzzle toy (Busy Buddy, etc) with food can help direct this attention in a healthy way. Teach your dog that nothing comes for free. After they start to get the hang of basic obedience commands, require them to sit (or another command) before getting food, going outside, receiving a toy/treat, even letting them follow you into the next room. This also helps create an environment where you are the leader, rather than the playmate. If your puppy whines or nudges you for attention, ignore them (even though it may be hard)! After they stop bothering you for 10 seconds, then ask them to sit, and then give them plenty of praise and affection. By creating a leadership structure and giving your dogs good playtime and exercise, it can help prevent more wild behavior.
If your puppy does exhibit wild play, or inappropriate behavior, you want to interrupt and correct them, not punish them. For rowdy or aggressive play (wrestling in the house, racing at top speed, etc) stop your dogs with a loud noise or spray from a water bottle. This will distract them, and then you can ask them to perform a command (like sitting). For obeying the command, you can reward them with a toy or activity to redirect their energy. If your puppy ever bites you during playtime (or anytime, even if it is cute!), startle them by saying, “OUCH” loudly. The puppy will sense that they have hurt you or something is wrong, and you can then ask them to perform a command and then engage in another activity. Never hit or grab your dog, as this can be a sign of aggression from you, and may cause your puppy to escalate or become fearful. Remember to praise good attempts as well. Puppies are not adults and they are still learning, so their commands and behaviors will not be perfect every time.
Lastly, we need to remember to keep a puppy’s environment safe. While we know not to leave out the nice shoes to be chewed up, there are a few things we might forget that could be risks for accidents (and broken legs)!
- Keep cupboards, drawers, closets, dishwashers, and laundry machines closed to prevent a puppy from getting stuck.
- Wrap up or remove cords, blinds, drapes and pulls, so your puppy doesn’t trip (or chew).
- Check doorways and entries for ledges or rugs that a dog could slide or trip and fall on. Often they want to RUN back in the house and can injure themselves.
- Be careful when shutting doors or scooting chairs – paws and tails can get pinched or crushed.
These little things can help prevent accidents, which puppies are prone to. They are still developing, making them clumsy and uncoordinated. Their bones and muscles are growing quickly, which can also result in injury. Puppies are also curious and playful, and the combination can be adorable but risky.
While puppies are a joy to have around and fun to grow up with, they are not invincible. We need to teach them proper play, learn how to interrupt inappropriate behavior, and make sure our homes are safe for them. We would not let a human baby run around without supervision, so our puppies need to be cared for too. Simply removing a cord or not letting your pet race in the house could save their life!
For information on detecting play versus aggression, and breaking up a fight, check out our previous blog here: http://grandrapidspetagree.com/blog/116-is-there-a-safe-way-to-break-up-an-unexpected-dog-fight
Sources: Foster & Smith, Inc., American Humane Association, The Animal Behavior Network, Animal Behavior Consultations, CesarsWay.com
Many of us dog owners know that play will often mimic predatory or fighting behavior, yet can be completely harmless. But sometimes the “rough play” can escalate or go too far. Can you tell the difference between playing and fighting, and when to intervene? Stopping a dog fight can be dangerous to you, often resulting in terrible injuries requiring hospitalization. In this blog, I have a few tips to help prevent dog fights, recognize aggressive behavior, and how to stop fighting dogs when necessary.
The first way to deal with this issue is to prevent it from ever happening. Make sure your dog is trained and has good recall (always comes when called) before introducing it to others or taking it off leash somewhere. Practice and reward calm behavior like sitting still when called, or laying down quietly after play. If you have a young “teen” dog that is still learning good behavior and is very excitable, it is always good to socialize them with well-behaved adult dogs. Their calm and appropriate behavior is a good model for your learning pup, and the older dog will react better if your “teen” steps out of line. If you have more than one dog at home, be sure to feed them in separate areas to prevent food aggression or stealing. Remove any valued objects like treats or toys from an area unless you can supervise. Avoid highly aroused or excitable play between the dogs, as practicing this behavior may lead to fights. If your dogs are beginning to play too rough, or seem too excited, you can call and separate them, or take them outside. Enter dog parks at your own risk. While you may know your own dog is properly trained and will not engage in bad behavior, you do not know the others there. Choose quieter parks and never take your eyes off of your dog. Watch the body language of dogs interacting with yours, and leave if any play gets inappropriate. Teaching your dog what kind of play and habits are acceptable and training them will help prevent them from ever engaging in a fight.
So what is play and what is fighting? Both may have growling, vocalizations, biting and other similarities. The key is body language. Fighting dogs will have rigid and stiff bodies, while playing dogs will be loose and bouncy. They may have wagging tails, and engage in “play bows” (rump in the air while head and front legs are lowered). Often a play session can turn briefly aggressive if one dog goes too far. The other dog may warn him with a growl or teeth bare. If they other dog stops the rough play and there is no damage being done, let this play out. It is probably the equivalent of a heated argument, with no injuries occurring. However, if the aggression is not brief, or leads to damaging bites, it is time to stop the interaction.
Stopping a dog fight can be highly dangerous, and often owners will panic. However, it is incredibly important that you STAY CALM. I cannot stress this enough. A dog will not react well to screaming or hitting, and will sense your emotions. If you live in a household with multiple dogs, it is also good to have a plan on how to separate aggressive dogs should they fight. Here are some good methods and tips to stopping a dog fight.
- STARTLE the dogs with noise or spray. Citronella spray near their noses can cause them to stop whatever they are doing without any damage. Water from a hose or spray bottle may also work. Using pepper spray or a fire extinguisher may stop the fight, but it can also cause permanent damage to their eyes, ears, and nose. Using noise (air horn or clanging metal bowls) can often distract the dogs long enough to redirect or separate them, but if the fight is escalated, they may ignore any and all noises.
- Use a BARRIER to separate them. Sliding something between the dogs can stop the fight, and make it easier to separate them. A plywood sheet would be ideal, but a collapsed folding chair, heavy blanket, or small board may also distract them. If they can’t see or reach the other dog, they will be much easier to call or remove from the area.
- SEPARATE PHYSICALLY only when necessary. With another person, you should each approach the back of a dog at the same time. Each take hold of the back legs just under the hips (never below the knees – that can cause injury!) while saying the dog’s name in a calm voice. Begin backing up slowly so the dogs are now apart from each other. When they are at a distance, turn your dog 180 degrees so they can no longer see their aggressor. Now you can take them to another room, put on a leash, etc.
- NEVER grab a dog by their neck or attempt to clip on a leash during a fight. If you are alone and must physically separate, try to loop a leash around them (like a lasso, not attached to their collar). Turn your dog’s head so they cannot reach the aggressor. Use your legs to get between the dogs, not your hands. Techniques like using a bite stick to dislodge jaws or pressing on ribs to turn a dog’s head should best be left to professionals.
- After a fight, keep the dogs separated and get injuries examined. If you are out on a walk or at a park, leave the area as quickly as possible. Do not run. Watch the aggressor dog out of the corner of your eye to ensure they aren’t following, but keep your dog’s direction on leaving. If you are at home, keep the dogs in separate crates or rooms for several hours until they are completely calmed down. Seek veterinary attention for all injuries, especially bites from an unknown dog.
By understanding your own dog, you will be able to prevent fights and intervene if necessary. Is your dog extra confident and rough? They may become a bully to small or timid dogs. Timid dogs who hate rough or loud play may become aggressive if engaged repeatedly. Those who previously liked rough play may become aggressive with age or any change in environment. Watch your dog for these triggers, and always continue to reward and praise good and calm behavior. Taking steps to prevent aggression and learning how to stop fights will keep both the humans and the dogs in your house safe.
For more information on introducing your dog to others, visit https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/introducing-your-dog-new-dog
Sources: ASPCA, Animal Humane Society, www.dogs.about.com