Tag 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

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

Pedigree Canned Weight Management Recall

Limited Recall of Pedigree Dog Food

Mars Petcare US announced a voluntary recall of a limited range of three varieties of Pedigree® weight management canned dog food products due to a potential choking risk.

Affected product may contain small pieces of blue plastic, which entered the food during the production process. The source of the plastic has been identified and the issue resolved. We encourage consumers who have purchased affected product to discard the food or return it to the retailer for a full refund or exchange. While a small number of consumers have reported finding the plastic pieces, we have not received any reports of injury or illness associated with the affected product.

Learn More About Recalled Pet Food and
Read Pedigree’s Full Statement

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Freedom of the Road

I’m a huge gear head — obsessively into our hometown industry, the BBC TV show “Top Gear”, and I keep a mental “Life List” of exotic cars that I see when I travel. Automobiles are so much a part of the culture here in the midwest that those of us who grew up here don’t realize how integral a car is to our daily lives. Everything we do is spread out over large areas. We commute long distances. Public transportation isn’t nearly as extensive here as in other metropolitan areas. In some ways, that’s great, if you’re into cars. It brings up a lot of issues, too, from a social and environmental perspective. Any of you who come to see me in the hospital with your pet will know that I’ll run my mouth forever about cars. I’m as intent on keeping my car clean and polished as I am about keeping pets healthy and happy. It may sound weird, but a good neat, clean car is as satisfying as a neat, clean, well-stitched incision.

How does this relate to vet med? Glad you’re still here to ask. 😉 The connection is this: we take our pets with us when we’re traveling by car. Naturally, taking a pet to the veterinary hospital requires travel (for us, by car). I also see people taking their pets with them to go shopping, or to the dog park, or to dog sports events, dog shows, and so on. Most dogs love to ride in the car. The imagery of the dog’s head hanging out the window is an iconic “summer dog” theme. In concept, the idea represents freedom in a lot of ways. We’re free to travel, with roads going anywhere we need to go. The dogs are also able to sniff the air for tens of miles that would otherwise have been too far from home. Exploration is part of human and canine nature in a lot of ways. (Most cats, I’ll admit, would be just as happy to be on their own feet or in their own yard/house, NOT in the car.)

Dog Driving Car News
Part of being a responsible motorist is safety. We shouldn’t be talking on the cell phone or texting or cooking omelets. No make-up, no Sudoku puzzles, no wardrobe changes. We also know that our vehicles are equipped with airbags, collision avoidance systems, advanced engineering to make the cars safer in a crash. Most importantly, we wear our seat belts. But what about the dogs?

I see almost NO dogs wearing seat belts. They’re usually standing on the owner’s lap with their heads out the window, or free in the back seat. I’ve seen dogs in the back of pickup trucks, too. I’ll say it clearly: all of those things are utter and completely negligent, irresponsible pet ownership decisions. Here’s why:

Dogs with their heads out the window can be struck by bugs, debris, rocks, etc. This could result in eye damage – including blindness – or worse. We don’t drive with our heads out the window, and we don’t let our children hang out of the car. Why let the dog do it? If you’re firm about letting the dog’s head hang out the window, at least get some goggles to protect the eyes.

Unrestrained pets not safely buckled in can become projectiles in the event of an accident. There are numerous reports of owners being severely injured by pets that go flying through the car when an accident occurs. I’ve personally treated a dog that was severely injured when it jumped out of a moving car. I’ve treated dogs that have been dragged by the leash when they fell out of the car, too. Quickly recalling physics class, the amount of kinetic energy a moving object has is determined by its weight and movement speed. Every time the speed doubles, the amount of energy goes up four times. Pets can also be seriously injured by airbags. A dog sitting on the driving owner’s lap can be crushed or burned by the airbag if it deploys. The car is a dangerous place for pets!

Seat belts are available for dogs. There are MANY styles out there. Sadly, I don’t have any data to offer in terms of which are the best. My gut tells me that the harnesses that have a larger padded structure (instead of just harness straps) will distribute the force over a wider area, which should be better. They buckle into the safety belt, though some systems include hardware to create a tie-line attached to the inner roof of the car. These systems are designed to stop your dog from flying through the cabin. This protects you AND the dog. For cats, keeping them in a carrier that is seat-belted in is the easiest way to travel. The only safe way to have a dog travel in the back of a pickup truck is to put it in a crate that is secured to the bed.

20070411 chaplin cowboy 2

Last summer, I blogged about the dangers of hot weather for pets. The car is, by far, the most dangerous hot-weather risk for pets. Cars can heat up to insane temps very very rapidly. Dogs can and will die from heat exposure. This sort of death is messy, painful, and horrible. Close on the heels of hot cars are outdoor public events like fairs, art shows, fireworks festivals, etc. It’s also a pet peeve of mine. I see owners walking around in shorts and a tank top drinking bottled water while their dog is desperately panting to try to cool off. Aside from the immediately dangerous circumstances, it’s very inconsiderate of a dog’s comfort.

I’ve soapboxed enough for one post, obviously. I realize that a lot of this sounds harsh and like a wet blanket on summer fun. It doesn’t have to be, as long as common sense is employed. Treat your pets well, respect their safety and yours, and the automobile can still bring that freedom of being on the road without the dangers. Summer can be a great time to enjoy the great weather by being out and about. Just be smart about it so that your pets can enjoy it, too. Here are a few links to keep you informed:

Travel / Car Safety


Hot Weather Cautions : AVMA : This Blog

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Filed under cars, fun, travel