Category Archives: toxicology

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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Pyrethroid Toxicity in a Cat

Last week we saw a cat with a toxic reaction to an over-the-counter flea/tick prevention product.  The owner had utilized the company’s cat product, at the appropriate dose, applied per the instructions.  This cat, however, developed the most obvious and common of the signs associated with a toxicity to one of the ingredients in the product.  The video below shows you what we saw when the owner brought the cat in.



Flea and tick topical products use a pretty wide range of ingredients.  There are a LOT of different products out there.  For most owners, knowing what might be problematic is almost impossible.  Given that a company is marketing a product for a particular species, age, and weight range, a consumer would generally believe that it’s safe and effective.  Sadly, we see often enough that safety and efficacy are lacking in some products.


In this case, the prevention contained a product that belongs to a  class of pesticides known as pyrethrins/pyrethroids (Pie – reeth – rens).  They’re modeled after a naturally occurring toxin in chrysanthemums.  These chemicals cause nerve cells to malfunction, leading to paralysis of the affected organism.


Most animals can break down the toxin fast enough that it doesn’t cause them any trouble.  The liver is responsible for a lot of the breakdown of the chemical.  However, cats lack a specific enzyme that the liver uses to destroy the toxin molecules.  This makes cats far more sensitive to the effects of pyrethroids.


Pyrethroids are used in many dog products, including some that we recommend and use.  Dogs aren’t anywhere near as sensitive to these products as cats, so we feel that the dog products are safe for use in dogs.  Owners have to be VERY careful, however, to never apply the dog products to cats, nor to let cats lick the freshly applied product off the dog.  Serious, potentially lethal toxicity WILL result from the use of dog products on cats.  No doubt about it.  I haven’t seen a cat show toxicity simply by living with a dog that has a pyrethroid-containing product on its skin.


There’s no direct antidote to pyrethrin toxicity.  We decontaminate the animal by washing them in dish soap.  This strips the oil and product off the skin, so no more is absorbed into the animal’s body.  If the tremors are severe, a muscle relaxant can be given to lessen the twitching and tremors.  I don’t think death from pyrethroid toxicity is very common, but it’s definitely possible.


I’m deliberately not mentioning the name of the product used on this cat, nor the specific names of the products we use.  I’m doing so to avoid libel/slander claims.  Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your pet and your home environment.  Regional variations in which products are needed to control fleas/ticks are also something we have to acknowledge.  What we use up here in Michigan may not be effective in Florida, for example.


Avoiding products with pyrethroids is the easiest way to lower the risk to your cat.  We recommend products that do not contain pyrethroids for our feline patients.



Filed under case report, cats, medicine, toxicology

Mushroom Toxicity

We had a brief scare at work this week. An employee’s pet tried to scarf up some mushrooms in her yard, which led to a discussion of how awfully poisonous some mushrooms can be. Mushroom poisonings aren’t terribly common in our area, thankfully, but it’s something we always have to consider as a possibility when a pet comes in sick for no apparent reason.

Mushroom toxins can come in many forms. There are a LOT of toxic fungi out there! Rather than go through the whole list of stuff in excruciating detail, there’s a really simple rule. Don’t let your dog eat mushrooms outside.

The penalty for a mistake can mean death to a family pet. Liver failure, neurologic signs, coma, kidney failure, blood clotting disorders… need I say more? You can read more about mushroom poisoning syndromes at this link.

Here’s a link to a big PDF from the Michigan State Extension Service that details some of the poisonous mushrooms in Michigan, along with photos.

The one really awful group of mushrooms to watch out for is the Amanita family. They can be all-white (Destroying Angel) or have a red or yellow or brown cap. There’s a red-capped one shown below.

800px Amanita muscaria a

And, as a reminder about how toxic this mushroom is, check out the comic.

Amanita muscariaA4 1 copy

Amanita muscariaA4 2 copy

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Every 13 or 17 years, an insect called a cicada will emerge from a long sleep underground. It’s actually part of their life cycle to remain dormant for that long of a time. While this summer’s brood will not hatch in Michigan, there are cicadas that emerge each year in addition to the really big broods that hatch every 17 years. These are the bugs that make that really, really loud and long buzzing/humming noise every summer. They typically emerge in April, May, and June.

This article explains that they’re mostly harmless to pets; not toxic, don’t bite.

If you happen to see one, they’re both interesting and grotesque all at once.

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Filed under nature, toxicology, wildlife

Review of Yard Toxins & Bee stings

Last May, I wrote a post about backyard toxins that pets could be exposed to. Now that we’ve had a good run of warm weather, I’d like to put up a link to that post to help remind everyone what to be cautious of.

Backyard Toxins and Hazards from May 2012

One of the things that I left off that list was bee/wasp/hornet stings. When a pet is stung by something, it’s called an envenomation. The venom comes from the stinger and an associated gland. It’s not really a bite (though some wasps/hornets can in fact bite). In the case of most bees, the sting means the death of the insect, too. Yellowjackets and wasps can sting multiple times.

The swelling and pain from the sting itself isn’t usually life-threatening. However, the sting can set off a massive allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. I highly encourage you to speak with your veterinarian about what you can do or give immediately after a sting. I can’t make a recommendation here on the blog for a medication or a dose for a medication, even if it’s OTC. Contact your vet and know ahead of time what to have on hand and what to do. It may save you a trip in to the vet’s office.

If your pet has been stung and the stinger is still in the skin, DO NOT grab it with fingers or tweezers. The little gland full of poison is like a sac on the end of the stinger. If you squeeze it when you’re trying to pull out the stinger, you’ll push more venom into your pet. Use a credit card or another piece of rigid cardboard or plastic to scrape the stinger out of the skin.

You can apply an ice pack. One of the sources I checked also said that a weak mix of baking soda and water may help decrease the pain.

If your pet shows weakness, difficulty breathing, or lots of swelling in places that were not stung, you need to see an emergency vet or your own vet immediately.

Be safe out there!

450px 3A wasp 2007 04 25

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Holiday Hazards

The holidays are coming on quickly. This time of year always presents some unique challenges for pets and owners. I’m hoping that a little forewarning will help you avoid some of the hazardous things that pets will encounter during the holiday season.


Changes in a pet’s diet — even just a small bite of something — can set off a cascade of nasty illness. While some dogs and cats seem to have an ironclad digestive system, most do not. They can’t tolerate foods outside their normal diet. New treats, canned foods they’re not used to, new foods, and “people food” can cause digestive distress. This distress usually means vomiting and/or diarrhea. However, inflammation of the pancreas can result (pancreatitis), and that can mean a hospital stay or even death. Please think twice about food gifts for pets. Advise guests that handouts aren’t acceptable (unless they’re from the pet’s usual treat jar). Even ONE bite of food can be enough to seriously harm a pet. Just don’t do it!! (PLEASE don’t give alcohol to your pets, either.)

Don’t forget about overtly toxic foods: onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, bread dough, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.

748px Pumpkin Pie Slice


I think it’s great to provide enjoyable things for pets…as long as they’re pet-friendly. Remember the cautions we discussed with chew toys a while back. Watch out for objects that could cause pets to choke or have an intestinal obstruction. Kids’ toys can present an attractive chewing experience for a dog, so warn your children to pick up their new things.


I’m listing this separately because it’s so incredibly dangerous to pets. The fluid is very attractive to cats and dogs for some reason. They’ll readily lap it up. Even relatively small amounts can be enough to create toxic damage to the kidneys. By the time a pet’s kidneys are failing from ingestion of antifreeze, our treatment options are limited, and the prognosis is guarded. Some pets can recover, many will have permanent kidney damage, and some will die. There’s an antidote that can be given if the ingestion was recent enough, so if you see your pet lapping up antifreeze, GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY.


Pets might not understand that certain holiday decorations aren’t for chewing. Young pets experiencing their first holiday season aren’t likely to realize that these new things are off limits, since they weren’t part of early training experiences. The usual suspects include: tinsel, lights, tree decorations, ribbons, bows, potpourri, and Christmas tree water with fertilizer. Cats seem to be especially fond of ribbon, which can cause a very very serious type of intestinal obstruction.

800px Tinsel 3


This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’d rather talk about the obvious than fail to provide the warning. Dogs and cats can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Thin or light-coated dogs will have more trouble keeping warm outside when the weather’s frigid. Sweaters or jackets will help if a pet is going to be outside for a while. The basic way to judge is to watch for shivering. Dogs shiver from the cold for the same reasons we do. Just be sensible about the amount of time your pets spend outside. Frostbite doesn’t seem to be that big a concern for dogs, but it is for cats, namely on their ears. If you have outdoor cats, provide a shelter and a heat source for them. The same goes for dogs.

Keep your pets off the ice on lakes, ponds, or other bodies of water. We’ve treated a few cases of near-drowning and hypothermia from dogs that wandered out of the yard and onto the ice, then fell through.

Be aware that outdoor cats will often crawl up into a car’s engine bay or wheel well to get heat from the engine. Check your vehicle before you drive away!

Some ice-melt products can be harmful if a pet’s feet come into contact with them. Don’t allow pets to eat the melt products, either.

655px Kö Hund mit Nerz Januar 2012

I know it must seem like I’ve taken all of the fun out of the holidays. (I promise it’s still more fun than having to come see me at the hospital!) Safely enjoying the time together isn’t hard. The warmth and companionship you provide is the best gift of all. Stick to the safest ways for your pets to have a good time: petting, playing, walks, and grooming.

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Filed under fun, holidays, preventive care, toxicology

More Recalled Food : Solid Gold

May 9, 2012

Updated Pet Food Recall Information

Solid Gold Health Products for Pets, Inc., El Cajon, California, announced a voluntary recall of one batch of WolfCub Large Breed Puppy Food and one batch of Solid Gold WolfKing Large Breed Adult Dog, both with a Best Before date of December 30, 2012, and an “X” in the 11th digit of the date code.

Solid Gold is voluntarily recalling the products below, distributed in the United States and Canada. This voluntary recall is being done out of an abundance of caution as these products were produced at the facility that has been linked to recent recalls of Diamond brand pet foods due to potential Salmonella contamination.

The products involved in this voluntary recall are:

Solid Gold WolfCub Large Breed Puppy Food, 4 lb, 15 lb, and 33 lb, with a best before date of December 30, 2012 and batch code starting with SGB1201A31X.
4 lb identifying UPC 093766750005
15 lb identifying UPC 093766750012
33 lb identifying UPC 093766750029

Solid Gold WolfKing Large Breed Adult Dog Food, 4 lb, 15 lb, and 28.5 lb, with a best before date of December 30, 2012 and batch code starting with SGL1201A32X
4 lb identifying UPC 093766750050
15 lb identifying UPC 093766750067
28.5 lb identifying UPC 093766750081

Best by dates (lot codes) can be found on the back of the bag in the bottom right-hand corner of 33 lb, 28.5 lb and 15 lb bags and the bottom of the 4 lb bags. Other Solid Gold recipes, sizes or brands of food are not impacted by this voluntary recall.

Pet owners who are unsure if the product they purchased is included in the recall, would like replacement product or have additional questions, may call us at (800) 364-4863 (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM through 5:00 PM Pacific time).

Full List of Recalls from the FDA
Read the Full FDA Statement
Learn More from Solid Gold Health Products for Pets, Inc.

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Backyard Toxins & Hazards

With decent weather finally here on a consistent basis, I’m sure most of you are as busy as I’ve been cleaning up the yard and doing some gardening. I took a look around my backyard from a dog’s perspective and realized that there are a surprising number of things out there that could harm a dog if they were ingested. Given most dogs’ interest in chewing on things or eating things, I thought I’d provide a list of some common things that can be dangerously toxic to pets in the backyard.

Acorns & Oak Tree Parts

Acorns and leaves (or water in which these parts of the tree have soaked/rotted) can be toxic to dogs. Bloody diarrhea and kidney damage are the result of this ingestion. We’re not sure what chemical in the acorns and leaves is toxic.

Cocoa Bean Shell Mulch

This mulch is made from grinding up cocoa beans and other unused parts of the beans/plants. It can contain high levels of chemicals called theobromie and other methylxanthines. Caffeine is also a component. Vomiting, diarrhea, tremors/seizures, high blood pressure and high heart rate are signs of toxicity. Death can result from these signs.

Other types of Mulch

Eating mulch is a bad idea, but dogs show up at the hospital every summer having done so. The pieces can cause an obstruction in the intestines, vomiting, and diarrhea. I also saw a dog a few years back that had eaten a stick of some sort that passed through the GI tract but got wedged into the rectum sideways. This was excruciatingly painful for the dog. We had to anesthetize the dog and cut the stick in half to fish it out of the dog’s butt. No fun for any of us!


Many types of flowers are toxic. The toxins vary from tiny crystals that make the mouth painful or cause GI upset to toxins that damage the kidneys or heart or central nervous system. The ASPCA web page has a toxic plant guide. I’ll list some of the more common ones here: azalea, most bulbs, lilies, foxglove, hydrangea, morning glory seeds, rhododendron, garlic, onions, potato vines, green tomatoes or tomato plants, rhubarb leaves, yew bushes, palms, amanita mushrooms, rhubarb leaves, yew bushes/plants, lily of the valley, castor bean, and oleander. There are LOTS more, so don’t take this list to be comprehensive.
Tiger lily


I see a lot of diarrhea and vomiting from dogs that have consumed water from these sources. I’m not certain if a lot of that is due to parasites like giardia, duck or goose excrement, or something else. In any event, try to keep the dogs from guzzling water from your koi pond. Chemicals that are used to kill algae can also be toxic/dangerous.

Swimming Pools

Chemicals used in pools can be very strong acids or alkalis. These chemicals cause burns and tissue damage. If your pet has consumed pool chemicals, do not induce vomiting! What burns going down burns coming up. You’re best off to contact the vet for help and advice.

Landscaping Items

Landscape cloth, clays, sand, and rocks can all be issues for dogs and cats. Keep pets away from your landscaping projects until everything is finished. Better safe than sorry!

While it may seem that the yard is too dangerous for pets, simply watching them carefully can allow you and your dog or cat to enjoy the summer weather without any concerns. For dogs that simply can’t be stopped, a basket muzzle may be an option to prevent some ingestions.

Thanks for reading!

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A Little Drop of Poison

The majority of the time that we spend talking about toxicities, we’re assuming that a patient has ingested a large amount of something bad. While that’s the more common way for things to happen, we’ve had to deal with a fair number of low-quantity toxicities. Some medications/toxins are dangerous at small doses, infrequent doses, or a single dose.

By far, the most frequent issue we deal with is an NSAID. NSAIDs are “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” This class includes aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, and many others. Many of these medications are available over the counter for humans to use. They’re indicated for pain most commonly. A quick peek at Wikipedia cites a source with this frightening information: NSAID-associated upper gastrointestinal adverse events are estimated to result in 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year in the United States, and represent 43% of drug-related emergency visits. Clearly, these medications are not to be taken lightly.

800px Ibuprofen 8330

We do use NSAIDs in veterinary practice. Thankfully, we have a variety of options that have been specifically developed for pets. While all NSAIDS (veterinary and human both) have potentially dangerous side effects, when they are given properly they’re considered safe. Monitoring is necessary to ensure that side effects are not occurring.

The crux of the post today is that human NSAIDS can be extremely toxic to pets. I’ve seen cases where a single Aleve (naproxen) or just 2 doses of ibuprofen have seriously and permanently damaged a dog’s kidneys. I’ve seen stomach ulcers caused by aspirin.

In many of these cases, owners were giving the medication with the best of intentions, to help their pets not be in pain. I can understand the desire to ease pain. What I can’t understand very well at all is the assumption that if it’s OK for people it must be OK for pets. This simply isn’t true!! Dogs and cats have some unique aspects to their physiology that make medications behave differently than they do in the human body. Sometimes this means we have to give more of a certain medication; others, far less nor none at all. Supplements are considered medications as far as I’m concerned. Anything holistic, naturopathic, herbal, traditional medicine, etc. should be considered with the same weight as a “drug.”

I wholeheartedly believe that we can, and should, consider our pets as family members. They’re children, albeit shaggier than their human siblings. What we can not and should not do is treat them as if they’re tiny humans. If we are going to adhere to the idea that we will do what’s best for our pets, giving them any medications/supplements/treatments at all without consulting a qualified veterinary professional is a bad idea. It may be a fatal mistake.

Very few things are as crushing to an owner as finding out that something that was done with the best of intentions is responsible for the death or severe illness of their pet.

I strongly encourage you to call us (or your regular vet!) if you are considering ANY product for your pet. I realize that resources are sometimes limited, so you may not always be able to come in for a consultation or appointment, but at the very least we can help you avoid a terrible mistake. It’s always best to call BEFORE starting a medication or supplement. There may not be much I can do if someone calls and says, “I’ve been giving Product X for the last week and Fluffy isn’t eating, now…”

My last comment from the soapbox today is to mention that even products “made for pets” can be dangerous. I’ve seen flea and tick prevention for dogs and cats cause serious toxicities even when used as directed. I’ve cruised the aisles at pet supply stores and seen huge bottles of aspirin for dogs on the shelf. I’ve seen supplements that contain things that I don’t think are beneficial at best (and dangerous at worst). The point here is that finding something in a pet store doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your pet!
Mr yuk563
Thanks for reading! Up next on Thursday is a guest column written by one of our techs. She volunteered to do a post on “Whoops, my dog’s pregnant. Now what?” (Bonus points if you recognize the little face. A flashback from when I was far younger…)

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Filed under medication, practice, toxicology

Food Recall Alert

Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by a fungus that has contaminated food or the ingredients used for makign the food. It can be a serious problem for pets. Please contact us with any questions regarding your pet’s health if your pet has been eating one of these foods.


Advanced Animal Nutrition

Advanced Animal Nutrition announced a voluntary recall of its dry Dog Power Dog Food- due to aflatoxin levels that were detected above the acceptable limit. The affected products were manufactured between January 4, 2011 and November 18, 2011. No illnesses have been reported in association with these products to date, and no other Advanced Animal Nutrition pet food products are involved in this recall.

Affected products are Dog Power Adult Maintenance Formula 21-12 Dog Food, 50 pound bags, Dog Power Hunters Formula 27-14 Dog Food, 50 pound bags, Dog Power Hi-Pro Performance Formula 26-18 Dog Food, 50 pound bags. The recall only applies to the products with the following Packaging Date Codes (lot numbers): K0004 through K1322.

While no adverse health effects related to these products have been reported, Advanced Animal Nutrition is implementing this recall as a precautionary measure. Consumers are urged to return affected products -whether in opened or unopened packages – to their place of purchase for a full refund. For more information, contact 866/648-7646.

Arrow Brand Dog Food

O’Neal’s Feeders Supply of DeRidder, LA, announced that it has recalled an entire year’s worth of dry Arrow Brand dog food due to corn with elevated levels of aflatoxin. The recall affects food manufactured between December 1, 2010 and December 1, 2011.

The recall applies only to dog food distributed throughout Louisiana and Texas with packaging date codes 4K0341 through 4K0365 and 04K1001 through 4K1325. The affected products include Arrow Brand 21 percent Dog Chunks 40 lb. bag, Arrow Brand Super Proeaux Dog Food 40 lb. bag and Arrow Brand Professional Formula Dog Food 50 lb. bag.

Cargill Animal Nutrition

Cargill says it has heard no reports of illness, but the recalled dog foods are Professional Formula River Run Hi-NRG 24-20 Dog Food, 50 pound bags, River Run Professional Formula 27-18 Dog Food, 50 pound bags, River Run 21% Protein Dog Food, 40 and 50 pound bags and Hi-Pro No-Soy Dog Food, 40 and 50 pound bags, Marksman Dog Food 24% Protein 20% Fat, 40 pound bags, 20% Protein 10% Fat, 40 and 50 pound bags and 28% Protein 18% Fat, 40 pound bags.

The recall applies only to the above products with these packaging date codes (lot numbers): 4K0335 through 4K0365, LL0335 through LL0365, 4K1001 through 4K1335 and LL1001 through LL1335. Cargill says no other of its Animal Nutrition pet food products are involved.

Consumers can return the recalled dog food – whether in opened or unopened packages – to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information, including photos of products involved, go to or call toll free 855/460-1532.

Iams Pet Food – Proctor & Gamble

The parent company of Iams pet food, Procter & Gamble (P&G), is voluntarily recalling a single production lot of ProActive Health Smart Puppy dry dog food due to aflatoxin levels that were detected to be above the acceptable limit.

The recall is limited to Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy dry dog food with Use By or Expiration Dates of February 5 or February 6, 2013. Affected lot numbers include 7.0-pound bags: 12784177I6, 1901402305; 8.0-pound bags: 12794177D2, 12794177D3, 1901410208; 17.5-pound bags: 12794177K1, 12794177K2 and 1901401848.

The recalled Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy dry dog food has already been removed from store shelves. No other Iams products were affected. P&G advises consumers who purchased this product with the above lot numbers to stop using and discard it. You can contact Iams at 866/908-1569 for a replacement voucher.

Petrus Feed and Seed Stores

Petrus Feed and Seed Stores, Inc. announced a voluntary recall of its dry dog food – 21% Protein Dog Food in 40 lb Petrus Feed bags. The product is being recalled because the product was manufactured with corn which tested above acceptable levels for Aflatoxin. The affected products were manufactured at Cargill’s manufacturing facility located in LeCompte, Louisiana between December 1, 2010 and December 1, 2011.

The recall only applies 21% Dog Food, packaged in 40 lb Petrus Feed bags with the following packaging Date codes (lot numbers) 4K1011 through 4K1307. Updated lot numbers are 4K1011 through 4K1335.

While no adverse health effects related to these products have been reported, Petrus Feed and Seed Store, Inc. is implementing this recall as a precautionary measure. Consumers are urged to return affected products -whether in opened or unopened packages – to their place of purchase for a full refund. For more information contact 318/443-2259, Monday – Friday, 7:30 am – 5:30 pm and Saturday, 7:30 am – 1:00 pm.

View a List of Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts from the FDA Here

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Chicken Jerky Treats from China Associated With Pet Illness

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has issued a bulletin expressing concern about chicken treats imported from China. There was a problem back in 2007, but more recently there have been additional complaints filed by owners and veterinarians. The FDA is not sure why pets are getting sick from the treats, but the kinds of problems they are having can be very serious.

The FDA’s bulletin is below. I’ve made the most important points bold.

FDA Continues to Caution Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products
November 18, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is again cautioning consumers that chicken jerky products for dogs (also sold as chicken tenders, strips or treats) may be associated with illness in dogs. In the last 12 months, FDA has seen an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China. These complaints have been reported to FDA by dog owners and veterinarians.

FDA issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products to consumers in September 2007 and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December of 2008. After seeing the number of complaints received drop off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010, the FDA is once again seeing the number of complaints rise to the levels of concern that prompted release of our earlier warnings.

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

FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination. If the dog shows any of these signs, stop feeding the chicken jerky product. Owners should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). Although most dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

FDA, in addition to several animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S., is working to determine why these products are associated with illness in dogs. FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) is now available to support these animal health diagnostic laboratories. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant.

The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. Many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky. Veterinarians and consumers alike should report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state or go to


Filed under news, toxicology

Antifreeze Poisoning

Toxin exposures or accidental poisonings are some of the most common things we handle at the hospital. We’ve dealt with chocolate ingestion, jewelry ingestion, pesticides, cleaning products, mushrooms, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and automotive chemicals. (Dogs will eat almost anything, which gets them in a -lot- of trouble.) I’m going to review antifreeze poisoning this week.

Antifreeze usually contains a chemical called ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol tastes sweet, which is what attracts animals (dogs and cats both) to drink it. About 1/2 teaspoon of liquid per pound of a dog’s body weight is a lethal dose. Cats have a lethal dose at 1/8 teaspoon per pound of body weight.

The first signs of the toxicity start 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingesting ethylene glycol. Animals may appear drunk (wobbly on their feet, weakness of the legs), sedated, sleepy, or even have seizures or go into a coma. Pets will also drink a large amount of water and urinate a large amount, too. Sometimes owners are not around to witness this stage and are unaware that their pet has something seriously wrong happening.

The liver processes ethylene glycol into several toxic chemicals in the body. These chemicals cause the body to become too acidic. Animals may have rapid breathing and/or rapid heart rate. These signs can occur 12 to 24 hours after ingestion.

Some of the chemical byproducts combine with calcium to form crystals in the kidneys. The crystals are so damaging to the kidneys that animals go into sudden (acute) renal failure. They may be seriously lethargic, have vomiting or lack of appetite. In some cases, the kidneys can completely shut down. The pictures below show two forms of the crystal.


We can detect ethylene glycol toxicity by seeing the crystals in the urine, by recognizing kidney damage on bloodwork results, or if the owner knows the pet ingested ethylene glycol. There is a test kit that can be used, but only if it’s less than 12 hours after the ethylene glycol was ingested. Also, an animal’s mouth, stomach contents, or urine may glow under a backlight.

If we can start treatment before the toxic byproducts are produced in the body, we stand a much better chance of saving a pet. Once kidney damage has happened, it’s very unlikely that we will be able to return the kidneys to normal function. Some animals may survive for a time with damaged kidneys, but the prognosis is terrible if more than 8 hours have gone by since ingestion of the ethylene glycol.

There are antidotes for ethylene glycol. Fomepizole and 4-methylpyrazole are very useful if given soon enough. Some pets can be treated as outpatients this way.

One of the other ways to treat ethylene glycol toxicity is to hospitalize the pet and give ethanol intravenously. Yup, ethanol — grain alcohol — which is found in all of the alcohols we consume recreationally. Vodka is generally used for this purpose because it’s relatively ‘clean’ compared to other types of alcohol. Animals treated with ethanol have to be kept in the hospital to make sure that they don’t have any trouble with the high amount of alcohol that has to be put into their system to treat the toxicity.

The best way to handle ethylene glycol toxicity is to prevent your pet from coming into contact with it in the first place. Keep all automotive products carefully stored out of reach, and be sure to clean up any spills in the garage or the driveway.


Filed under toxicology

Possible Toxicity from Chicken Jerky Treats

The American Veterinary Medical Association received notice from the Canadian veterinary authorities that vets in Ontario are seeing a possible toxicity from Chicken Jerky treats manufactured in China. This is extremely similar to the food recalls and treat problems back in 2007 in the United States. Dogs are showing signs of a specific type of kidney damage after consuming these treats.

No reports have been made in the US as of this time. I wanted to notify anyone reading about the possible problems so that you can check your treats and make sure that you’re not feeding chicken jerky. There is no indication that US treats are affected, but I would prefer that everyone play it safe and NOT feed chicken jerky treats. Try to find treats manufactured somewhere other than China if you can, at least for the time being.

I’ve posted the full news bulletin from the AVMA below.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association notified the AVMA on Wednesday that several veterinarians in Canada have reported dogs with Fanconi syndrome-like disease that may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats manufactured in China. This mirrors the incidents reported in the United States in 2007 and investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The AVMA has not received any recent reports from U.S. veterinarians about potential toxicities from chicken jerky treats, and we cannot determine at this time whether this problem has recurred or is ongoing in the U.S., or if it is isolated to Canada.There have been no recalls of any chicken jerky treat products associated with the Canadian complaints, and we are unaware of the brand names of the products involved.

We advise U.S. veterinarians to remain vigilant and report to the FDA any cases of Fanconi syndrome-like disease that may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats. Canadian veterinarians are urged to contact CVMA Member Services to report any suspected cases.

Dogs affected with this syndrome usually have a history of vomiting, lethargy and anorexia. A review by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of the 2007 cases stated that blood chemistry in many cases revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis, and urinalysis consistently showed glucosuria and granular casts. Fanconi screens on urine were positive. At the time, the ACVIM recommended treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including liberal potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.


Filed under news, notices, toxicology

ASPCA : Animal Poison Control Center

I’m posting early before the holiday weekend in the hope that folks will be with family and friends when the post would usually go up.

Pet poison human medication ashx
I’m going to share some extremely useful links to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control center. The ASPCA provides support to pet parents and veterinarians as we handle a very common problem in practice: toxicities. They do charge for this service, but it’s often well worth the fee (which is around $65.00). They have a HUGE repository of knowledge that they’re willing to share to help treat pets that have been exposed to toxins. They’ve provided help for some of Pet Authority’s patients over the years, for which I’m very grateful.

The main web page is located here. They also have a FAQ.

Here is a list of the Top Ten Toxins for 2010.

English ivy ashx
Here is a list of Toxic Plants for dogs.

Here’s the list of Toxic Plants for cats.

Here’s the Toxic Plant list for horses.

Hopefully no one will need this information anytime soon, but I’d rather get it out there for everyone to see. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you have them!

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Filed under medication, practice, toxicology