Category Archives: safety

Product Warning

I’m passing this along on an ‘off’ day for the blog because I feel that it’s important to share this info . The EPA has issued a statement concerning the danger of certain flea control products to children that come into contact with them.

An Environmental Protection Agency report warns that propoxur, a flea-killing chemical in flea collars marketed by Sergeant’s Pet Care Products and Wellmark International, is unsafe for children. However, the products can be distributed until two years from now, and retailers can continue to sell them after that until their stock is gone. Veterinary dermatologist Daniel Morris says there are safer products available and urges owners to consult with their veterinarian to determine the best approach.

There’s a more detailed article at this link.

I’ll leave it to you, readers, to decide how you feel about it. Sound off in the comments! I’d like to hear what you think.


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Filed under fleas, news, parasites, safety, toxicology

Holiday Safety Tips

Today’s post is a list of links that share some Holiday Safety advice for you pets over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even if you’re a well-seasoned pet owner, take a few minutes to watch and read. It’s good info!
AVMA Podcast on Holiday Safety

AVMA Youtube Video

7 things you can do to make the holidays safer for your pet

  1. Keep people food out of the reach of your pet and ask your guests to do the same;
  2. Make sure your pet doesn’t have any access to treats, especially those containing chocolate, xylitol, grapes/raisins, onions or other toxic foods;
  3. Don’t leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles, a decorated tree or potpourri;
  4. Keep holiday plants (especially holly, mistletoe and lillies) out of reach of pets;
  5. Consider leaving the tinsel off your tree if you have a cat;
  6. Secure your Christmas tree to keep it from falling over if your dog bumps it or your cat climbs it; hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it;
  7. If your pet is excitable or scared when you have company, consider putting your pet in another room with some of his/her toys, a comfortable bed, etc. or providing a safe place for your pet to escape the excitement (such as a kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf or hiding place)

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Filed under holidays, safety, toxicology

Pharmacy Choices

Last week, we ran into a problem at the hospital. It brought right to the forefront a complicated, potentially upsetting dilemma faced by veterinarians and pet owners. I’ve carefully avoided preachy blog posts about the costs involved with pet medications. It’s a topic I can’t cover from an entirely fair position and I’ll admit that up front. I’ll do my best to stay objective.

Online pet pharmacies sell pet medications. They are usually cheaper than at the local vet hospital. Veterinary hospitals can’t purchase medications in enough quantity to be able to offer the prices that online pharmacies do. Some companies offer prices that, if we matched them, would cause the hospital to lose money on the sale. We simply can’t do this and stay in business.

Large retailers are now offering, and heavily advertising, pet medications as well. These prices are also lower than at most veterinary hospitals. Prices, again, may be due to buying in high volume, or a strategy to serve as a loss leader. We simply don’t know.

Lastly, some medications are human meds that we use in veterinary patients. Those are also sold by any human pharmacy. Sometimes those prices are lower than what we can offer. The reasons are the same as above.

At this point, it certainly seems like veterinarians and vet hospitals are crying over a loss of revenue. To some degree, that’s true. We’re having to find new ways to serve our clients fairly and well with the loss of revenue from some medications. I think that everyone understands our need to pay and educate our staff well, to have good equipment and supplies, and so on. All professions, all private businesses, all corporations, set out to make a living from their work.

So what’s the catch? There are several. I’m going to use heartworm prevention as an example. The manufacturers of heartworm prevention products generally sell their products directly to vets or through a licensed/approved distributor. The manufacturers tell us that they only sell this way, and that they don’t sell to online pharmacies or retail outlets. Somehow, the products end up at other retailers, though. There are only two plausible reasons: vets buy tons of product and sell it to other retailers, or the manufacturers are selling to retail outlets.

If the products are purchased by vets and sold to other retailers, that’s called diversion, or “gray market” sales. The manufacturer’s can’t safely say that their products were handled properly, stored in the proper conditions, or are free from tampering. As a result, the manufacturers won’t guarantee those products. You’ll have to deal with the retail outlet. And, of course, I’d hope that your veterinarian can help out. The trouble is, if your heartworm prevention doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, your pet could be the one that suffers. Nobody wants that, not the vet, not the retail outlet, not the owner.

The situation that prompted this post occurred with one of our clients. They requested a written prescription for heartworm prevention for their cat. They took it to a local human pharmacy that was offering pet medications. The store didn’t have what we’d scripted in stock, and told the owner to see if the dog version would work just as well. Thankfully, the owner called and asked rather than just taking the medication home. It wouldn’t have harmed the cat, but the medication was different from the cat version — including an additional ingredient not in the cat product.

As far as I’m aware, human pharmacists and pharmacy staff do not often have any official training on veterinary medications. I’m hopeful that the retail chains offering pet medications will provide education and training for the staff there. If they haven’t, or they don’t, it’s far from an ideal situation. I’m not trying to say that pharmacists are bad people or that they don’t care. They’re probably just as uncomfortable with the situation as we are.

So what’s our take on the situation? We feel that the health and safety of your pet should be in the hands of properly trained professionals. Vets, vet techs, and even our reception staff have been trained to know which medications are the appropriate choices. They’re familiar with the products we carry. The manufacturers guarantee their products’ safety and effectiveness when you purchase through a vet hospital.

While I firmly believe that everyone involved in the practice of vet med and pharmacy has a desire to help keep pets healthy, the simple fact remains that your vet hospital is the best educated advocate for your pet’s well-being. I want all of our clients — and all pet owners — to make an informed choice.


Filed under ethics, medication, medicine, practice, safety, training

Heat Stroke – Expanded Topic

Last Thursday, I put up a post about the horrible heat and obesity related deaths of two dogs. One of our readers, David, asked if I could put together a post about distinguishing normal cooling behavior of dogs from dangerous overheating. It was a great suggestion, so I’ve done a bit of research.

We need to define some terms and some normal values first.

Hyperthermmia = higher than normal body temperature
Dogs have a body normal body temperature between 99.5F and 102.5F (37.5C-39C)
Hyperthermia is a temperature above 103F (39.4C).
A body temperature over 105F (40.5C) is generally considered dangerous/serious.

Cooling Mechanisms

Dogs and cats will pant, which means that they open their mouth and rapidly breathe to move air back and forth over the tongue and in the trachea.
Dogs and cats do sweat, but only a little, and it’s confined to their feet.
Blood vessels in the surface area of the skin will expand, allowing more blood to flow to the skin surface, where it may be cooled by the ambient air.


Dogs can tolerate fairly high rises in their body temperature for short periods of time. Some informal data collection I came across looked at German Shepherd working dogs and found that many of them had temps of 105-106 F (40.5-41.1C) after an hour of exercise in air about 75F (23.9C). I suspect that this is fairly common across breeds during intense activity. The lower outside air temps helps the dogs cool down by panting and losing heat through the skin to the environment. In warmer temperatures, it gets harder and harder for dogs to get rid of heat with their normal mechanisms.

Increased Risks

Dogs at higher risk for overheating include: brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, thicker coats, and working dogs.
Higher environmental temperatures and higher humidity.
Strenuous activity.

This is where things get more difficult. How do you, as an owner, know what normal cooling is compared to a dog that’s about to be in trouble from overheating? I couldn’t find a sign to watch for that would give you a specific clue. The tipping point between “He’ll be ok” and “He’s going to die from overheating” can happen in an incredibly short time — mere minutes — and some of the signs of heat stroke are profound and sudden.

Signs of heatstroke can include:
Brighter red mucous membranes.
Excessive drooling.
Weakness, lethargy, or collapse
Diarrhea (may be severe and bloody)
Bruising of the skin

Remember, panting is normal. Brighter pink mucous membranes (gums, inner lips) are also normal. Some dogs will drool a little. After those signs, the list gets far more serious far more quickly. The rest of the signs in that list indicate severe damage to the body. Heat stroke can cause an inability to clot the blood, brain damage, kidney failure, blood infection, and death.

So, how does an owner know where the true danger is? Unfortunately, you can’t readily tell just by looking at your dog. What I’d like to encourage is for you to use common sense.

If it’s hot out, avoid strenuous activity. Or do so in the coolest parts of the day (early morning, late evening). If your pet is outside, take cold water and give small amounts frequently. Panting is normal. Panting and refusing to be more active is a big red flag. If your pet is even a little bit slower, or lethargic, or won’t move, COOL HIM DOWN.

If you think your pet is suffering from overheating, here’s what you should do:

Wet your pet down with cool (not ice cold!) water.
Apply rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to the top and bottom of the feet.
Apply a cold wet cloth to the armpits and groin. (Several sources I looked at disagreed about whether you should use an ice pack or not. In practice, I do, but I wrap it in a wet towel.)

You will also need to stop trying to cool a pet down when the temperature gets down to about 103F (39.4C). If you keep cooling after this point, hypothermia will occur, and that has its own host of dangers.

Prognosis for Overheating
The prognosis for a pet that’s been overheated is extremely variable. It will depend on how high the temp got, and for how long it stayed there. The higher and longer, the worse the damage is. Kidney failure, shock, blood infection, damaged and sloughing GI tract, blood clotting disorder, and brain swelling can all occur. These cases need care at an emergency-level practice for 24-hour monitoring. Treatments include IV fluids, antibiotics, blood plasma transfusions, medication for brain swelling, and other symptomatic management. The prognosis is always very guarded. The best prognosis seemed to be for dogs that were cooled some by the owner and brought to the vet hospital as rapidly as possible.

Take-home message:
Use common sense. If you wouldn’t run around in a heavy fur coat, don’t make your dog do so.
Protect dogs from themselves during hot weather: they’ll run until they collapse.
Shade, cool water, and take it easy!
Know where your emergency veterinary facilities are.

One final note. If you see a dog left in a car in sunny bright weather, call the police. There should be ZERO tolerance for this. A car sitting in the sun with the outside temp at 75F (23.9C) will rise to about 115F within an hour. That’s WAY too hot for safety.

Here are couple of links to articles and info on heat stroke in dogs:
Pet MD
VIN Partner

As always, thank you for reading. Enjoy the spring and summer! 🙂


Filed under exercise, safety, summer, weather