by Dr. Tracy Venier Over-the-counter medications are so commonly used by people for anything from allergy and pain relief to upset stomachs, diarrhea and constipation, but are they safe for our pets? While there are some “safe” OTC medications that can be administered to our dogs and cats, there are also many that can be ineffective and more importantly dangerous. Did your dog play a little too rough or seems sore after going on that long hike with you? You noticed that your kitty seems to be favoring one of his legs? What to do now? While it may be tempting to reach into our medicine cabinets for some Ibuprofen (an NSAID) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) just like you would take for aches and pains, these are two of the most common pet poisons. Aspirin, once commonly recommended by Veterinarians is now on the “do not give” list of OTC medications as it had been found to potentially cause gastrointestinal (GI) ulcerations, bleeding or even kidney failure. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) also potentially toxic to our canine companions can be lethal if ingested by cats. Even Pepto-Bismol which can be tempting to use for stomach upset and diarrhea contains bismuth salicylate which is similar to aspirin and can also cause toxicity in dogs and cats. While most pain medications (NSAIDs and Tylenol) and most medications that are ingested orally are the most common culprits, even some topical medications can be problematic. Allergies are a very common ailment in our dog and cat patients and rashes/hives on skin often accompany allergies. Topical creams that contain steroids should be avoided as they can potentially make certain skin conditions worse, and can be problematic if your pet is able to lick the spot where the cream was applied. Other things best to avoid are topical ear and eye medications, as many products contain additives that may not be safe, or can be alcohol based (ear cleaners) that can burn and make ears even more sensitive. Pain management, allergy relief and soothing an upset stomach are very important but it’s always best to check with your Veterinarian before administering any medication-even if it’s something you’ve used before or had left over from another pet in the house. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and soon enough you will be sitting down for your big dinner and your pet will place himself next to you and just stare at you—waiting and begging for you to drop just a morsel of turkey on the floor. A poll of petMD readers showed that 56% of people share Thanksgiving food scraps with their pets. We do not encourage families to feed their pets from the table as it can be unhealthy and can cause negative behavior, but we also know that sometimes the temptation is too great. If you know that you are one of these families, please follow these tips and keep your animals safe! The YES List: Turkey can be a great lean protein for your pet. Remove any skin or fat from the meat and only offer your pet dry, white meat. Turkey gravy often has ingredients that can be bad for animals. Unless your pet is used to table scraps, keep the serving sizes small to avoid gastrointestinal issues. As long as they’re plain, green beans are actually a healthy and good treat for pets. Do not feed your pet green beans if they are marinated or in a green bean casserole. If you want to feed your pet mashed potatoes, be very careful of any additional ingredients. Cheese, butter, garlic, onions, gravy, and more should not be a part of your pet’s diet. When served in a small portion, cranberry sauce can be enjoyable for your pet but careful with the amount of sugar in it. As long as you know that your pet’s stomach is okay with dairy, macaroni and cheese is another okay option. If you are at all unsure, only give him or her plain macaroni. The NO List: Along with gravy, also make sure your pet does not eat any alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, etc). These can be toxic to your pet. If you have grapes at your meal, do not let your pet eat them. Grapes and raisins have been shown to cause kidney failure in dogs. Do not give your pet any food with xylitol or artificial sweeteners. While you may be trying to make your meal healthier by not using real sugar, sweeteners containing xylitol are poisonous to pets. Chocolate is an absolute no. Be aware of what contains chocolate and keep it out of reach of pets. Especially if the food contains baking chocolate. Keep your alcohol to yourself. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in animals. Make sure to throw away all packaging, wrappers, bones, and other items properly. A pet can easily get into the garbage and choke on something. Educate your guests on what they can and cannot give your pet. Also make sure that there is somewhere for your pet to escape to if they are overwhelmed or stressed. Most importantly, enjoy your holiday! We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day but if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!
September is National Food Safety Month. Like cats and humans, certain foods can be toxic to dogs. While cats and dogs share many food toxicities, here is dog-specific and alphabetic list of the foods you should avoid giving your dog. Alcohol: Dogs are far more sensitive to alcohol than humans are. Just a little bit can cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, coordination problems, difficulty breathing, coma, and even death. Hops in particular, which is found in beer, has been found to poison dogs. Dogs affected by hops can have damage and failure to multiple organ systems due to an uncontrollably high body temperature. Avocado: Persin, the toxic element in Avocado, can cause mild upset stomach. Persin can be found in the leaves, seed, bark, and inside the fruit. Avocado is sometimes included in pet food but does not pose a threat to dogs. Chocolate: Unlike cats, dogs will eat chocolate on their own. The rule with chocolate is usually, “the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.” White chocolate contains very few methylxanthines, the toxic component of chocolate, while dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines. Depending on the type and quantity of the chocolate consumed, the reaction your dog may have can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort, and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures, and death. Coffee/Caffeine: Caffeine in large enough quantities can be fatal for a dog and there is no antidote. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, and bleeding. Corncobs: Corncobs are not digestible and often cause obstructions in the intestines. Fat Trimmings and Bones: Don’t feed your dog table scraps. Fat, when cooked or uncooked, can cause pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas). Bones should not be given to dogs either, as they can choke on it or the bone may splinter and cause an obstruction or internal lacerations. Grapes and Raisins: Although it is not known what makes grapes and raisins toxic, they have been associated with kidney failure in dogs. Some dogs eat them without any effects while others can develop vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and kidney failure. Kidney failure means your dog’s ability to product urine decreases so they are unable to filter toxins out of their system. Macadamia nuts: Although the chance that macadamia nuts are deathly to dogs is low, the symptoms they do feel can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms can include muscle tremors, paralysis of the back legs, vomiting, and more. Milk/Dairy Products: Because dogs are devoid of the lactase needed to breakdown milk, milk and milk-based products can cause diarrhea and an upset stomach. Mushrooms: Some types of mushrooms contain toxins that can affect multiple systems in the body that result in nervous system abnormalities, seizures, shock, or death. Onions, Garlic, and Chives: All members, and close members of the onion family (including shallots, garlic, scallions, etc.), can cause damage to a dog’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Like chocolate, the stronger it is, the more toxic it is. Garlic has been found to be more toxic to dogs than onions. Even dehydrated forms of garlic and onion are a threat to your dog’s health. Affected dogs may exhibit symptoms up to five days later and can include weakness, reluctance to move, and orange-tinted to dark red urine. Dogs that have ingested garlic or onion should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. Persimmons, Peaches, and Plums: The seeds or pits from these fruits are the main concern. Persimmons seeds can cause inflammation of the small intestines or intestinal obstruction. Intestinal obstruction is also a concern for peach and plum pits. Peach and plum pits also contain cyanide which is poisonous to both dogs and humans. Humans just know not to eat them. Raw eggs, meat, and fish: Raw eggs, meat, and fish can contain bacteria like salmonella that can lead to food poisoning. Raw eggs also interfere with the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin) and can lead to skin, hair, and coat issues. Certain fish can cause “fish disease” which can be fatal within the first two weeks. The first signs are vomiting, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Thoroughly cooking meat and fish will kill the parasites and protect your dog. Salt: Giving your dog salty foods is not a good idea. Eating too much salt can cause excessive thirst and urination which leads to sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms of excessive salt consumption can include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, elevated body temperature, seizures, and even death. Sugary foods: Sugary foods, such as candy and gum, are usually sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is known for increasing insulin production which causes blood sugar levels to drop. It can also cause disorientation and seizures as fast as 30 minutes after ingestion or as delayed as several hours. Xylitol can also lead to liver failure in just a few days. Even if the sugary food doesn’t contain xylitol it can still lead to obesity, dental problems, and diabetes. Yeast dough: Yeast dough can expand and produce gas in the digestive system. This can lead to pain and a possible rupture of the stomach or intestines. Additionally, when the yeast causes the dough to rise, it produces alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning. Dogs with extreme poisoning cases can go into a coma or have seizures. Non-food items: Foreign objects such as toys, small items of clothing, and medicine are perhaps a greater risk to dogs than food. One case is medical marijuana. It comes in many forms that a pet can easily eat and can cause vomiting, changes in heart rate, and depress the nervous system. If you suspect your dog ate any of these foods, first try to determine what and how much he or she ate. You should then call us or your veterinarian to see if medical attention is needed. If a veterinarian is not available, call either Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680. Do you have a cat? Most foods that are toxic for dogs are also toxic for cats. Check out this blog post for a cat-specific list of toxic foods. If you’re unsure about a certain food for either your cat or your dog and it’s not on this list, call your veterinarian. Your pet’s health is worth the call!
September is National Food Safety Month. Just like people can’t eat everything they come across, cats can’t either. In fact, many human foods are toxic for cats. See the alphabetic list below for the foods you should avoid giving your cat. Alcohol: Alcohol has the same effect on a cat’s brain and liver as it does to humans but it takes far less to see the effects. As little as a teaspoon can cause a coma in a cat and it can easily cause severe liver or brain damage. The higher the proof of alcohol, the worse the symptoms will be. Chocolate: Although most cats won’t eat chocolate on their own, you should not attempt to try to feed it to your cat. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical found in all chocolate including white chocolate, which is toxic to cats. Eating chocolate can cause abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death. Dark and semisweet chocolate are the most dangerous. Coffee/Caffeine: Along with chocolate, coffee contains caffeine. This can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and can be toxic to the heart and nervous system. Fat Trimmings and Bones: Don’t feed your cat table scraps. Fat, when cooked or uncooked, can cause intestinal problems, vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas). Cats can choke on bones or the bones can splinter and cause an obstruction or internal lacerations. You should also never give them anything that is as hard as or harder than their teeth because it can cause dental fractures. Fish: This includes raw, canned, and cooked fish. You can get away with small amounts of fish but if fed in high amounts your cat can develop a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency that leads to loss of appetite, seizures, and maybe death. The exception to this is if the fish is made into cat food. Most good cat food brands are supplemented with thiamine are just fine. Grapes and Raisins: Although it is not known what makes grapes and raisins toxic, they can cause kidney failure. Even a small amount can make a cat sick and cause them to repeatedly vomit and be hyperactive. Macadamia nuts: Like grapes and raisins, it is not known what makes macadamia nuts toxic. Ingestion of macadamia nuts can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscle. Milk/Dairy Products: Surprisingly most cats are lactose-intolerant, so it’s best to be safe and avoid any dairy products. Mushrooms: Some types of mushrooms contain toxins that can affect multiple systems in the body and cause shock or result in death. Onions, Garlic, and Chives: Onion, in any form, can cause a cat to become anemic because it breaks down red blood cells. Even the onion powder that is in some baby foods is bad for cats. Onion, along with garlic and chives, can also cause gastrointestinal upset. Raw eggs and meat: Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin) and can lead to skin, hair, and coat issues. Raw eggs may also contain Salmonella or other parasites. Raw meat may contain Salmonella and E. coli which can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Sugary foods: Sugary foods, such as candy and gum, are usually sweetened with xylitol. Xylitol is known for increasing insulin production which causes blood sugar levels to drop. It can also cause vomiting, fatigue, loss of coordination, and eventually liver failure. Even if the sugary food doesn’t contain xylitol it can still lead to obesity, dental problems, and diabetes. Yeast dough: Yeast dough can expand and produce gas in the digestive system. This can lead to pain and a possible rupture of the stomach or intestines. Additionally, when the yeast causes the dough to rise, it produces alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning. Non-food items: Foreign objects such as toys, soft rubber objects, stringy objects (thread, yarn, tinsel), coins, and medicine are perhaps a greater risk to cats than food. Aspirin, Tylenol, and Motrin are all highly toxic and a single tablet could be lethal. If you suspect your cat ate any of these foods, first try to determine what and how much he or she ate. You should then call us or your veterinarian to see if medical attention is needed. If a veterinarian is not available, call either Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680. Do you have a dog? Most foods that are toxic for cats are also toxic for dogs. Check back here later for a dog-specific list of toxic foods. If you’re unsure about a certain food and it’s not on this list, call your veterinarian. Your pet’s health is worth the call!
Is your dog or cat microchipped? In a study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters, only 22% of dogs and less than 2% of cats that were not microchipped were reunited with their owners. The return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs was over 52% and for cats it was about 38.5%. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have joined together to create a day for reminding pet owners to have their pets microchipped and to keep the registration information up-to-date. “National Check the Chip Day” is this Friday, August 15th. A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the size of a grain of rice. Instead of running on batteries, the microchip is designed to be activated by a scanner that is passed over the area and then it transmits radiowaves that send the identification number to the scanner screen. Microchips are also designed to work for 25 years. Implanting the microchip is as simple as a quick injection between the shoulder blades and can be done in a routine appointment. No surgery or anesthesia is required and it is no more painful than a typical injection. You can take advantage of the day by making an appointment with us to have your pet microchipped. Then be sure to immediately register the chip. There are many databases that allow you to register your pet’s microchip but the one that animal shelters and veterinarians search first is AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Or, if your pet is already microchipped, you can check the chip’s registration information by going to the manufacturer’s database and making sure everything is up-to-date. Most of the time if an animal is microchipped and not returned to their owner, it’s because the information is incorrect or there isn’t any information provided. A microchip does not replace identification tags or rabies tags. Identification tags are the easiest and quickest way to process an animal and contact the owner. If the pet is not wearing a collar or tags, or if either the collar or ID tag is lost, a microchip may be the only way to find a pet’s owner. Rabies tags allow to others to quickly see that your pet is vaccinated against the disease. It is more difficult to trace a lost pet’s owners with rabies tags as it can only be done when veterinary clinics or county offices are open. Microchip databases are online or can be reached through the phone 24/7/365. You can use this useful flyer from the AVMA to keep a record of your pet’s microchip number and manufacturer. Since 1981, Winding Hill Veterinary Clinic has been serving the unique concerns pet owners throughout Harrisburg and Central Pennsylvania. We provide full-service, comprehensive medical, surgical, and dental care for small animals. We offer a broad spectrum of diagnostic procedures through in-house laboratory testing and radiology. Our animal hospital features a well-stocked pharmacy, surgical suite, radiology suite, and a closely-supervised hospitalization area. We are members of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA), and Veterinary Information Network (VIN). We proudly sponsor the Last Chance Fund, which cares for abused and neglected, unowned companion animals. We also sponsor Summit Search and Rescue, a non-profit agency that provides mantrailing bloodhounds to assist local agencies in locating missing individuals.
Did you know that although 1,000 house fires are caused by pets each year, approximately 500,000 pets per year are affected by house fires? To spread awareness and help keep pets safe, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and ADT Security Services have joined together to make July 15th National Pet Fire Safety Day. Compiled here are some easy and helpful tips to keep your pet safe from fire. Pet proof your home – Walk around your home to make sure there aren’t any loose wires, appliances, or any other areas where your pet could start a fire. Extinguish open flames – Animals are curious about light and tend to investigate cooking appliances, fireplaces, and candles. Make sure your pet is supervised around flames, keep them away from the area, and put out any flame before leaving. Using a flameless candle that contains a light bulb rather than a fire takes away the danger of a lit candle accidentally being knocked over. Cats are known for knocking things over with their tails. Remove your stove knobs – Be sure to remove stove knobs or protect them with covers before leaving the house. According to the National Fire Protection Association, stoves and cooktops are the number one piece of equipment involved in your pet starting a fire. Don’t use a glass water bowl on a wooden deck – When sunlight is filtered through glass and water, it can heat up and ignite the wood below it. Use a stainless steel or ceramic bowl instead. Securing your pet – Especially with young puppies, keeping them in a crate or behind a baby gate in a secure area will ensure they are away from potential fire-starting hazards. If your pet is older and you still use a crate or confine them to a certain area, make sure they are close to an entrance. If a fire does start, firefighters can easily find them and remove them from the house. Use a monitored smoke detection service – Since animals can’t escape, use a smoke detector that is connected to a monitoring center so emergency response teams will be contacted when you’re not home. Battery operated smoke alarms can be used in addition but they may scare your pet. Affix a Pet Alert window cling – Write down the number of pets you have inside your house and what type of animal they are and attach it to a front window. This will help rescue teams know to look for your pets. Make sure to keep the number of pets you have updated on the sticker. You can order one for free from the ASPCA by going here.
Besides the ocean, there are many other dangers that your dog can encounter at the beach. Being alert and attentive and following some of these rules will make your beach getaway proceed without problems! First, make sure to adhere to the beach’s specific rules as these are actually laws and you can be given a citation or fine. Some common laws include cleaning up after your dog, requiring your dog to wear a collar and ID tags and be up-to-date on vaccinations, be on a leash, and so on. Make sure to check prior to leaving to see if your beach destination is pet friendly! Just like people, dogs can only handle so much sun. Sunscreen that is safe for your dog is available at pet stores or online. Do not use a sunscreen unless it is specifically labeled safe for animal use. Make sure there is a shady spot for your dog to retreat to like an umbrella, picnic table, or tree and bring plenty of fresh, cool water and a dog bowl. Offer water refills often, making sure that the water does not get hot in the sun. Watch for signs of overheating, which can include: excessive panting or drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, collapse, and loss of consciousness. If you start to see any of these signs immediately move your dog to a cooler environment. While staying calm and speaking in a soothing voice, wrap the dog in cool, wet towels. A fan can be used to help blow air over the animal to speed up the cooling and applying isopropyl alcohol to the paw pads will facilitate cooling and should be repeated as the alcohol dries. It is important to never fully immerse your overheated pet in water as it may increase their anxiety. Hot sand is also a very real concern. Foot pad burns can occur when the sand is too hot. If a person cannot walk barefoot, their dog cannot either. While on the sand, lead the way for your dog to make sure they won’t step on anything sharp. Broken glass and shells are only two of many things that can hurt your pet’s paws. If your dog’s paw gets cut, apply pressure to the wound to ease the bleeding. If it’s severe, seek veterinary attention immediately. Once in the water, jellyfish and rocks start to potentially pose problems. If your dog gets stung by a jellyfish, douse the affected area in vinegar to ease the pain and kill off the stinging barbs before trying to remove the tentacles. If your dog does not come to you every time you call them, keep them on a leash. You can buy a long-reaching leash (20-30 feet) which will still allow you and your dog to play with a ball or Frisbee without worrying about the possibility of them running away. Pay close attention to your dog’s swimming habits. Fitness level, experience, and even breed of dog can influence how well your dog can swim. Poor swimmers and brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Boxers should probably not spend much time on the beach. When in doubt, put a life vest on your dog and keep an eye out. If your pet does go in the water, make sure to remove them if they start to drink the water. Instead offer fresh, clean water since salt water is bad for dogs and can cause gastrointestinal problems. Salt water may also cause some irritation to their skin and paws. Rinsing your dog off with fresh water before you leave or shortly after getting home will help him or her stay comfortable and happy. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, have fun!
I went for a walk with my pet. Now what? The warm summer months means spending more time outside and unfortunately, ticks. Many ticks are co-infected, meaning that they carry more than one disease, including Lyme disease. Did you know that only about 5% of dogs exposed will develop symptoms that are attributed to Lyme disease? But with all this said, you’re still going to go for walks with your dog and your outdoor cat will still want to be outdoors. You can prevent Lyme disease by making sure you thoroughly check your pet’s body after they’ve been outside and removing ticks before they attach themselves. Even if your dog or cat wears a tick and/or flea preventative collar or is given a spot-on medication, it is a good idea to do a quick body check. Keeping your pet’s fur short is an easy first step. Breeds with shorter hair are easier to check than those with long hair. Shorter coats make the ticks easier to see by keeping them close to the surface while longer hair allows a tick to hide deep in the fur and avoid being discovered for long periods of time. Brush or run your hands over your pet’s whole body, applying enough pressure to feel any small bumps or something the size of a pea. You may also use a brush or flea comb, stopping if you hit a bump or a snag to investigate. Most attachments occur in front of the shoulder blades, which includes the head, neck, and front legs. Make sure to also feel under the collar, under their armpits, between their toes, behind the ears, and around the tail. Ticks are attracted to dark, hidden areas and when attached can range in size from the size of a pinhead to a grape. If you find an unattached tick, place it in alcohol and dispose of it. Flushing a tick down the toilet will not kill it. If the tick is embedded, you must remove it carefully so you extract the whole tick. If you are uncomfortable removing the tick yourself then call your vet. While wearing gloves to protect yourself, use fine-tipped tweezers to grip the tick’s head as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out, slowly and steadily, without squeezing the body. After removing the tick, place it in alcohol and clean the bitten area with soap and warm water. Keep an eye on the bitten area to see if an infection arises or if your pet starts to act abnormally. It is very typical for a small nodule to occur at the site of the attachment and persist for up to three weeks. Signs of Lyme disease typically occur one to three weeks following a bite and may include limping, poor appetite, and fever. A very small percentage of dogs may also develop a fatal form that affects their kidneys. If the skin remains irritated or infected or you suspect something might be wrong, call us at 717-697-4481.
It’s almost the 4th of July and while that means water, fireworks, BBQs, and fun for humans, for pets this holiday could be anything but. See the following safety tips to keep the holiday weekend fun for both you and your pets. • Public fireworks displays: Do not bring your pets to see fireworks. Animals are much more sensitive to noise than humans and the loud noises can scare many animals and many get lost. Pets should be left at home where it is quieter and escape-proof. • “At home” fireworks: Besides the risk of severe burns that lit fireworks can cause, many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances that will cause your pet to have gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, a painful abdomen, and bloody diarrhea. • Sunscreen and insect repellent: Unless the product is specifically labeled for use on animals, do not apply sunscreen or insect repellent to your pets. Both products contain harmful substances if ingested by animals. This is also true of citronella candles, insect coils, and oil products. • Alcoholic beverages: Keep alcohol beverages out of reach. If ingested, alcoholic drinks can cause your pet to become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed, or could go into a coma. In severe cases death from respiratory failure is also a possibility. While this list has many “don’ts”, we do encourage you to enjoy your weekend and spend time with your family, friends, and pets! We wish you a happy, healthy, and safe 4th of July weekend.
Summer is officially here! It’s a great time for outdoor fun and BBQing or grilling with your pets, friends, and family. While you may know what your pet can and cannot eat, it is important to share this information with others. Don’t assume that your friends know what foods are toxic to pets. Several foods to avoid include fatty sausages (pancreatitis), chocolate from s’mores (chocolate toxicity), and wild mushrooms (mushroom toxicity can prove fatal to certain dog breeds). While the list can be very extensive, we encourage you to have a brief conversation with your friends. They will appreciate it and so will your pets!