Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Time Hazards

Summer is here! It’s time to get out and enjoy the nice weather and BBQ with friends and family. While we are all out having great time, we don’t always think about our how our pets are feeling. There are many hazards and stressors that our pets can encounter during the summer.

          Most of us include our dogs when grilling or picnicking. Some foods are not good for your dog to have such as:

                  1.        Grapes and raisins:    

Anything containing grapes and raisins (and even currants) are considered to be poisonous to dogs. Common picnic items like grapes, baked goods containing raisins (e.g., oatmeal raisin cookies), and trail mix all pose a threat.  While one or two grapes are unlikely to cause a problem (depending on the size of the dog), accidental ingestion of the Vitus spp. can result in the following signs:

·        vomiting,
·        abdominal pain,
·        inappetance,
·        diarrhea,
·        lethargy,
·        excessive or decreased thirst or urination, and
·        acute kidney failure

Unfortunately, clinical signs often aren’t obvious until days later, when it’s more costly – and more dangerous – to your pet. Treatment includes decontamination, aggressive intravenous (IV) fluids, anti-vomiting medication, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, and blood work monitoring (to check kidney function).  

             2.      Baked goods containing xylitol: 

Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that is poisonous to dogs. While safe for humans, when accidentally ingested by non-primate species, xylitol can result in an insulin spike by the body (with a secondary life-threatening drop in blood sugar). So, if you have any baked goods, candies, mints, gums, etc. that contain xylitol, keep them out of reach of your dog. Clinical signs of xylitol poisoning can be seen as early as 15-30 minutes, and include:

·        weakness,
·        vomiting,
·        collapse, and
·        lethargy (which are all signs of a low blood sugar). 

Really high doses of xylitol can result in liver failure in dogs, and include signs of black tarry stool, jaundice (e.g., yellowing of the gums), malaise, walking drunk, and rarely, seizures and death. Treatment includes decontamination, blood sugar monitoring, dextrose supplementation, drugs to protect the liver, and monitoring liver function.

3.      Corn on the cob and peach pits:  


While corn on the cob and peach pits aren’t poisonous per se, these two common picnic items are very dangerous to dogs. Both of these leftover garbage scraps can easily get stuck in the intestines and require an expensive abdominal surgery to remove. Corn on the cob is notorious for being difficult to detect on x-rays, as the density doesn’t show up well. This makes it harder to diagnose, and potentially more life-threatening to your dog. Never feed your dog corn on the cob – if you want, slice the kernels off for him instead. Clinical signs of foreign body obstructions include:

·        vomiting,
·        drooling (from nausea),
·        abdominal pain,
·        decreased stool production,
·        inappetance, and
·        lethargy.

Believe it or not, left untreated, these picnic foods can cause the intestines to rupture and, potentially, death.

4.     Fatty table snacks or bones:  

Leftover BBQ bits (like bones, gristle, and fat) and bones should never be given to your dog… especially if you own an overweight dog or one of these breeds: Yorkshire terrier, miniature schnauzer, or Shetland sheepdog. Why? Overweight dogs and certain breeds are particularly predisposed to pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas. This organ breaks down fat, and when overstimulated from a fatty meal, can result in the following clinical signs:

·        vomiting,
·        abdominal pain,
·        fever,
·        diarrhea,
·        weakness,
·        inappetance, and
·        death (from organ failure).

When in doubt, keep these picnic items out of reach. Keep in mind that the sooner that you recognize that your pet is poisoned, the easier it is to treat and the less dangerous (and less expensive) it is to your dog.  Enjoy your summer with your dog, but pay heed to these common picnic pet emergencies!

Then there are the fireworks. If a pet is left unattended around fireworks, they can become accidentally poisoned or injured. Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals such as coloring agents, dangerous heavy metals, sulfur and oxidizing agents such as potassium nitrate. Many of them contain dense cardboard also, which can result in a problem (e.g., foreign body obstruction). If fireworks are accidentally ingested, they can cause gastrointestinal upset in your dog (cats rarely ingest fireworks, thanks to their discriminating palate!). 

 Clinical signs of firework poisoning include:

More commonly, pets develop severe anxiety from the noise of fireworks, which can result in undue stress or even the accidental escape out of the house (in an attempt to run away from the sound).

Keep your pet inside while festivities occur. I like to choose the most sound-proof room, farthest from the noise. Keep the room dark and close all windows and doors to minimize the sound.

  • Use white noise such as a ceiling fan, air conditioner, radio, TV, etc. to block out the sounds.
  • Provide your dog some entertainment (such as a stuffed Kong treat) to distract him from the noise.
  • Consider a Thunder shirt to help reduce anxiety.
  • And of course, medications. Consider talking to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives that can help pets relax during fireworks.
If your pet may have ingested a foreign object or has anxiety from loud noises, please call us at our Elk River Clinic 763-441-4000 or our Princeton clinic 763-389-4071.

If something happens after hours, please call the closest emergency clinic to you.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Heartworm Awareness

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease that is widespread in pets. Heartworms live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels of affected pets. This causes severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworms also live in other mammal species such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and even humans in some rare cases.

Dogs are a natural host for heartworms, which means the worms that live inside your pet mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. Dogs have been known to harbor several hundred heartworms in their body.  Long lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries can affect the quality of life long after the parasites are gone.

Cats are an atypical host for heartworm. If they do become infected, most of them do not survive into the adult stage. They generally only have 1-3 worms, which means that damage can occur.  Immature heartworms can cause damage in the form of a condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). The medication used to treat dogs for heartworm disease can’t be used in cats.

How is heartworm transmitted from one pet to another?

       This is where the mosquito comes into play. The adult female heartworms that are living in coyotes, foxes, wolves, or dogs produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria. These baby worms circulate in the blood stream. When the mosquito takes a blood meal from the infected animal, it picks up the baby worms which mature into “infective stage” larvae over the period of 10-14 days. The mosquito then bites a dog, cat or wild animal, in which the infective larvae are deposited on to the surface of the animal’s skin.  These larvae enter the new host within the wound left behind by the mosquito. It then takes 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5-7 years in dogs and 2-3 years in cats

Signs and symptoms

        Early stages of the disease may not be noticeable in your pet. The longer they are infected, the higher the chance is for symptoms to occur.

        Signs for dogs may include: Persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, heart disease may develop. The longer the disease is present and the more worms your pet has can cause blockages of blood flow within the heart that can lead to cardiovascular collapse which is life threatening. Unless your pet has emergency surgery to remove the worms from the heart, few dogs survive.

        Signs of heartworm in cats can either be subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include: Coughing, asthma like attacks, periodic vomiting, loss of appetite or weight loss. Unfortunately, in some cases, the first sign of symptoms is sudden collapse or sudden death.

Is your pet at risk for heartworm disease?

       Heartworm disease is spreading to new regions of the country each year. Even if you live in a place that doesn’t have a high incidence, you may travel with your pet not realizing that where you are going does have a higher incidence of heartworm. Also, stray, neglected and animals traveling to your area may be carrying it. For example, when hurricane Katrina hit, 250,000 pets, many of which were infected with heartworms were adopted out and shipped to all different parts of the country.

How and when should you test your pet?

        We use an in house blood test that can detect the heartworm antigen. We recommend testing your pet at 6 months of age and then yearly after that. It takes at least 6 months to show positive on the test. We recommend yearly after that.

If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention, the recommendation would be to test prior to prevention. You may be wondering why we recommend yearly testing if your pet is on prevention? We need to make sure the prevention they are on is working. Preventatives are highly affective, but giving one dose late or skipping could be the difference if your pet becomes heartworm positive. The National Heartworm Association is recommending year round prevention to be given.

        Heartworm disease is harder to detect in cats than dogs, because they don’t always have adult heartworms. We can antigen test for it, but the veterinarian may also take an x-ray or use an ultrasound to look for heartworms. Prevention is the best way to go for cats, especially since there is no approved treatment for them.

My pet tested positive, now what do I do?

       Not all dogs have microfilaria circulating in their bloodstream or have been on heartworm prevention drugs that kill microfilaria. We will perform an occult heartworm blood (ELISA) test to detect antigens (proteins) given off by adult female heartworms. Any dog that tests positive for heartworm disease will have additional testing done. We will perform chest x-rays to evaluate the size of your pets heart and see if there are any changes to their lungs. If heart failure is suspected, the Doctor may recommend an echocardiogram to make sure there is no other reason for heart failure to be occurring. Some laboratory testing will be done as well to check other internal organs as well. If other disease processes are found, those would be treated first since heartworm treatment can adversely affect the kidneys and liver.

The treatment used in dogs is an adulticide such as Immiticide. There are 2 different dosing schedules available:

1  1.      2 intramuscular injections are given 24 hours apart. This way kills 90-95% of adult heartworms usually in 2-3 weeks.
   2.    Dogs with right sided heart failure or changes in their lungs on x-rays are administered the Immiticide in split doses. This method kills fewer heartworms with each injection which limits the risk of worsening lung problems or acute death. With this treatment, 1 intramuscular injection is given, the pet is rested for 4-6 weeks, then 2 injections given 24 hours apart.  

This form of treatment is not recommended in cats because killing of the adult heartworms can be fatal if too many die at once. Cat’s lungs can’t handle more than 1-2 heartworms dying at once.

Products that have ivermectin such as heartgard can be used to slowly kill some of the adult heartworms if the product is given for at least 18 months. We do not recommend this method because if your dog is too active, you risk pulmonary embolism and sudden breathing problems. We only use this method if there are other health concerns going on at the same time.

Baby microfilaria can be treated after the adult heartworms have been treated. This is an oral form of ivermectin that we give, while your pet is hospitalized for the day so we can monitor. This kills a large number of microfilaria within 2-8 hours after the medication is given.

All pets are kept quiet for 6 weeks following treatment to prevent any pulmonary embolisms or acute death. 4-6 months out, we will run some additional testing to make sure the heartworm disease has cleared. If your pet remains positive, the treatment would be repeated.


Most dogs do well with treatment and are able to be started on prevention after treatment is complete. We have several types of preventions available depending what works best with your lifestyle. If your pet has kidney, liver, or lung changes problems during the treatment, prognosis is guarded if the problems persist after treatment. Some dogs are able to return to normal activity, but may not have the same energy level they had before. Dogs with right sided heart failure may have a poor prognosis because of the treatment and may need treatment for the rest of their lives. 


We have different preventions available. We offer monthly chewables, monthly topicals or a 6 month injection available. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Valentines Day

Be My Valentine

Do you have that special pet in your life that you love deeply? You're not alone!

Valentines day is fast approaching, which means all kinds of goodies!

As much as we love sharing things with our pets, Not all yummy treats are good for them. 

Here are some tips that can help you remember:

1. Melts in your mouth, not theirs:

        Believe it or not, some chocolate is worse than others. Baker's chocolate is the most toxic causing abnormally high heart rates. A hershey's kiss or two may not cause that kind of reaction, but may cause GI upset. We recommend steering clear of all things chocolaty! 

2.  No Candy Hearts This Time:

         Sugar-free candies and gum may contain a sweetener call xylitol, which is very toxic to dogs. It may cause vomiting, seizures, loss of coordination, or liver failure.

3. Flower Power:

         The aroma of those beautifully arrainged bouquets is so nice. So nice that your pet may want a sniff, or a lick. Be careful! Some flowers such as lilies are very toxic to cats. Check what your bouquet contains before you order, or make sure you have a place to put them away for your pets.

If you really want to spoil your furry friend on Valentines day, pick them up a new toy, or collar.

Always be aware of the closest Veterinary Clinic or Emergency Clinic near you in case of an emergency. 

You may also call the pet poison hotline if your unsure if something is toxic.