Tag Archives: toxins

Can YOUR Lifestyle Habits Actually Kill Your Pet?

A growing body of evidence continues to point to secondhand smoke as the primary cause of certain kinds of cancers and other health problems in companion animals.

Dogs living with owners who smoke are at particular risk for lung and nasal cancers.

smoking with pet

Cats trapped in smoke-filled environments are at risk for malignant lymphoma, a common feline cancer which in under a year takes the life of three out of every four cats that develop the fatal disease.

“The evidence is striking,” says Steven Hansen of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.

“Most veterinarians believe pretty strongly secondhand smoke presents a strong danger to dogs and cats with pre-existing respiratory problems,” he says.

“And extrapolating, why would you expose a healthy animal?”

Dr. Becker’s Comments:

It’s probably not a huge surprise to learn that just as human health is at risk from second and third-hand smoke, so is the well-being of four-legged family members in smoking households.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products contain deadly toxins, and toxins poison every living thing, including beloved companion animals.

I have personally witnessed the devastation pet parents feel when I inform them their precious pet has developed a cancer that is linked to exposure to cigarette smoke.

As a pet owner, it’s difficult enough to hear that your dog or cat is seriously ill.

But many people who learn it is their own bad habit or that of a family member that caused their pet’s illness, experience tremendous feelings of guilt on top of the anxiety and sadness that comes with caring for a very sick or dying pet.

Smoking-Related Cancer in Dogs

Your dog is aging about seven times faster than you are. Compared to the lifespan of humans, everything in your dog’s lifetime is sped up – including how quickly toxins act on his system and how fast diseases like cancer develop as a result.

Some breeds of dogs exposed to second and third-hand smoke are more prone to develop nasal cancers.

Dogs with long noses, like collies, German shepherds and most varieties of hounds, are more likely to develop tumors in their noses and sinuses than other breeds. Survivability rates for canine nasal cancer are dismal – most pups die within a year.

Symptoms of nasal cancer include sneezing, bloody nasal discharge, and swelling in the nose or sinus area.

Canine lung cancer from cigarette smoke occurs more often in short-nosed dogs like pugs, boxers, Pekinese and other brachycephalic breeds. Their shorter nasal passages allow more carcinogenic smoke particles to reach their lungs.

One study found that dogs living in smoky environments have a 60 percent greater risk of lung cancer. Chronic coughing, extreme fatigue and weight loss are some of the warning signs of lung cancer in canines.

Cats Get a Double Whammy from Cigarette Smoke

A Tufts University study concluded that cats living with smokers are twice as likely to get malignant lymphoma as kitties living in smoke-free homes.

Part of the reason for the increased risk is that in addition to inhaling tobacco smoke, cats also ingest the toxins from cigarettes when they groom themselves. Grooming activity moves carcinogens from your kitty’s fur into her mouth and bloodstream.

All pets in a smoking household are at some risk of developing disease, including birds. Birds are very sensitive to inhaled pollutants, and they can also be harmed by tobacco and nicotine residue on items (and people) in their environment.

It’s Not Just About the Smoky Air

There are other ways your dog, cat or other pet can be poisoned by tobacco products, including:

  • By eating any portion of a cigarette or cigar
  • By drinking water that is contaminated by a cigarette butt
  • By ingesting a stop-smoking aid like nicotine gum or a nicotine patch

Nicotine is toxic to pets, and eating a cigarette, chewing tobacco, or even just a portion of a cigar can be fatal.

Signs of nicotine poisoning include drooling, constricted pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and cardiac abnormalities. If you think your pet has ingested a nicotine product, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately and/or get him to a vet or emergency clinic right away.

How to Minimize Your Pet’s Exposure to Smoking Products

  1. Don’t smoke inside your home or any place your pet spends a lot of time, and don’t allow others to poison your pet’s environment, either. Remember, it’s not just about contaminants in the air. Smoke particles cling to everything inside a home, so the rug your dog lies on, or the comforter your kitty naps on are coated with cigarette residue if people smoke indoors.
  2. Don’t leave butts for your pet to find, in ashtrays, other receptacles, or on the ground.
  3. Dispose of nicotine gum or patches appropriately.
  4. After smoking, wash your hands before handling your pet. If your dog likes to snuggle in your lap, change to clothes you haven’t smoked in. If your kitty likes to rub his head against yours to claim you as his own, make sure he’s not being exposed to smoke particles clinging to your hair.
  5. And finally, consider quitting. If you haven’t done it for the sake of your own health, maybe concern for the health of your furry best friend will be just the incentive you need to give up your smoking habit once and for all.


Leave a comment

Filed under education, health

Animal Poison Control Alert: The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

It began as an innocent walk in the park:  A 9-month-old, 60 lb. German Shepherd mix went out for a stroll with her owner before spending 30 minutes alone in the backyard.  When the dog reentered the house, her owner noticed that her eyes were rolling back and that her gait was uncoordinated.  She also defecated in the house.

At the critical care facility, things only got worse: the pup was drooling, feverish and began seizing and vomiting.  That was when veterinarians discovered the root of her illness: blue-green algae.  The owner confirmed that the algae had been present in a backyard pond.

After 18 hours of critical care, including emergency intubation and ventilation for respiratory failure, the dog’s life was saved.  She was discharged after three more days in the hospital, and fortunately, she is now back to her normal, happy self.   But blue-green algae can form almost anywhere and can be a danger to any unsuspecting pet parent.  That’s why K-9 Angels Rescue, Inc. wants to keep you informed about this toxic bacterium.

Members of the phylum Cyanobacteria, blue-green algae usually form on or near bodies of water during warm weather months.  It is typically found in ponds and lakes, but can also be present in oceans, fresh water, damp soil, backyard fountains and even on rocks.  Dogs can develop poisoning when they drink from or swim in contaminated water sources.  If consumed, blue-green algae can cause severe neurologic or liver signs.
Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include:

  • Seizures
  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Respiratory failure
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Liver failure
  • Death

Prevention is key. Don’t allow your pets to drink from stagnant ponds, lakes or other bodies of water that have bluish-green scum on the surface or around the edges.  Blue-green algae cells can also stick to a pet’s fur and be ingested when the animal cleans itself, so think twice before allowing your pet to jump into a body of water.

If you think that your pet is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, please call your veterinarian or a Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) immediately!

You can also download the

Download the
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center mobile app

Animal Poison Control Alert: The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae


Source: Animal Poison Control Alert: The Dangers of Blue-Green Algae

Leave a comment

Filed under education, health

A Menu for Food Safety

By Victoria Heuer

The 4th of July is such a great day.  It means cook-outs, picnics, and all around revelry as we celebrate our nation’s independence.  And if it falls close the weekend, the parties can go on for days.  We are all for including our pets in the family activities, but there are safeguards that must be taken to ensure their safety.  After all, we don’t want the holiday to be spoiled by disaster.

Some of the most typical disasters to occur during the holidays are related to foods.  Plan your backyard (or indoor) holiday party while keeping in mind that pets are wily little things that will scarf down as much as food as they can before they are caught. Here are some of the most hazardous foods to keep out of reach.

Ribs and Other Meats on the Bone

Throwing leftover bones to the dog may seem natural.  Dogs love bones, right? However, bones can be very dangerous for pets.  They might choke on them, or suffer a grave injury if the bone should splinter and become lodged in, or even puncture the digestive tract.  Have a pet-proof covered container ready for tossed bones.



The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) recently warned pet owners not to feed their pets chicken wings due to the risk of intestinal obstruction, or worse.  Whether wing bones or other bones from chicken pieces, the bones are highly likely to splinter, and because of their small size they are easily swallowed with little or no chewing.

Hot Dogs

Hot dogs can actually be a great treat for pets, but only if they are cut up into bite size pieces and carefully fed one at a time to the pet.  Dogs especially can get very excited and swallow a hot dog whole, without chewing.  Also to keep in mind, hot dogs are a high fat, high calorie food.  Ration them wisely to your pets and make it clear to guests not to share their “dogs” with the dogs.

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob is not directly poisonous, all by itself, but based on its shape and size it can easily form a painful and dangerous blockage within your dog’s intestines, requiring an expensive intestinal surgery to remove it.

Hamburger and Steak

Another food that is not “toxic,” per se, fatty meats like hamburgers and steaks can result in severe pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which can result in vomitingdiarrhea, abdominal pain, and even organ failure.


Chips and Dip

One of the more popular summer dips, guacamole, is also one of the most dangerous for pets.  The three main ingredients are all dangerous in their own right: avocado, garlic and onion.  Onions and garlic can cause gastrointestinal issues, elevated heart rate, and red blood cell damage.  Avocado toxicity, meanwhile, can lead to vomitingdiarrhea, and lack of stool production.


Fruit Salad

Most fruits are safe for pets.  In fact, some frozen pieces of watermelon would be a welcome treat to a dog on a hot day.  But there is one fruit that is common to nearly all fruit salads: grapes.  Although the reason for grapes’ (and raisins’) toxic effects on dogs is little understood, these fruits are well known for causing kidney failure.  In pets who already have certain health problems, signs of grape poisoning may be more dramatic.



As previously mentioned, onions can be highly toxic for cats and dogs.  We mention them again because it is common to find a bowl of chopped onions on the condiment table, on the ground as they fall out of hamburger and hotdog buns, and in most cold pasta and vegetable salads.  Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.  Onions can cause gastrointestinal issues, elevated heart rate, and red blood cell damage.  Even small amounts of onions are fatal to cats.



Ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, brownies … no BBQ party is complete without dessert. And what is the most popular flavor? Chocolate, of course. Unfortunately, chocolate is also highly toxic to dogs, doubly so if it is “sugar-free”; that is, made with Xylitol. Both have fatal ingredients, so even small amounts should not be allowed.

Theobromine, the compound in chocolate that has the toxic effect, is most concentrated in dark chocolate and baking chocolate, the kind found in brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate poisoning can cause heart arrhythmias, muscle tremors, and seizures.  Xylitol, used with sugar free foods as a sugar replacement, can have immediate and irreversible consequences.  Make sure that all of your guests know not to share their sweets, not matter how big those pleading puppy eyes get.



Finally, while not technically a food, we are very aware that dogs will chew on and swallow almost anything, so we would be remiss in our duties if we did not mention fireworks as an ingestion hazard. Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals like chlorates, potent oxidizing agents which are harmful to red blood cells and kidneys; soluble barium salts, which can cause a life-threatening drop in potassium; sulfur, which can convert to sulfate in the intestinal tract and act like an acid; and coloring agents, which can contain dangerous heavy metals.

Keep the fireworks in pet proof containers or high up on shelves until use, and then clean them up thoroughly after they have been set off to avoid curious nibbles.

 Now go and celebrate the holiday, safely!



Leave a comment

Filed under education, health, safety

Very Important: Never Let Your Dog Get at Any Product Containing This

Toxic Pet Food

By Dr. Becker

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol extracted from certain fruits and vegetables.  Because of its sweet taste and plaque fighting benefits in humans, xylitol is a common sugar substitute found in a diverse assortment of products.  These include sugar-free gum, mints and other candy, baked goods, nicotine gum, chewable vitamins, certain prescription drugs, and dental hygiene products.  Nontoxic amounts are even included in some pet dental products.

Because xylitol has a low glycemic index, it’s also sold in bulk as a sugar substitute for baking and in-home use — which is why the Pet Poison Helpline has fielded calls from owners of dogs that became very sick after eating homemade bread, muffins and cupcakes made with xylitol.

Where Else Is Xylitol Found?

According to the Pet Poison Helpline (PPH), xylitol – which, as many pet owners know, is quite toxic for dogs, causing hypoglycemia and hepatic necrosis – is showing up in an ever-increasing number of surprising places.  New products on the market, including some nasal sprays, over-the-counter sleep aids, multivitamins, prescription sedatives, antacids, stool softeners, and smoking-cessation gums, contain “unexpectedly large amounts” of xylitol, according to Dr. Anna Brutlag of PPH.

Dogs who sample these products get a double dose of toxicity, first from the active ingredient in the product, and secondarily from the xylitol.  This potentially deadly combination can greatly complicate the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for these animals.

According to Dr. Brutlag, the following “atypical” products contain xylitol.  Some may surprise you…

Over-the-counter medications:

  • Axia3 ProDigestive Antacid (flavored chewable tablets, propriety amount)
  • Children’s Allegra Oral Suspension
  • Fleet Pedia-Lax Liquid Stool Softener
  • Umcka Cold and Flu chewable tablets (homeopathic product)

Dietary supplements, vitamins:

  • KAL Colostrum Chewable, Vanilla Cream (chewable tablets)
  • KAL Dinosaurs Children’s Vitamins and Minerals (chewable tablets)
  • Kidz Digest Chewable Berry from Transformation Enzyme
  • L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears
  • Mega D3 Dots with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per “dot” (dissolvable tablet)
  • Stress Relax’s Suntheanine L-Theanine chewable tablets
  • Vitamin Code Kids by Garden of Life (chewable multivitamins)
  • Super Sleep Soft Melts by Webber Natural (dissolvable tablets)

Nasal products:

  • Xlear Sinus Care Spray
  • Xylear Nasal Spray (for adults and children)
  • Xyliseptic Nasal Spray

Prescription drugs:

  • Abilify Discmelt Orally Disinteg­rating Tablets (aripiprazole)
  • Clonazepam Orally Disintegrating Tablets, benzodiazepine
  • Emtriva oral solution (emtricitabine), HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibitor
  • Mobic Oral Suspension (meloxicam), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
  • Neurontin (gabapentin) Oral Solution
  • Riomet (metformin) Oral Solution, antidiabetic agent
  • Varibar barium sulfate products, liquids and puddings for swallowing studies
  • Zegerid Powder for Oral Suspension (omeprazole), proton pump inhibitor

Foods with xylitol as the primary sweetener (excluding gums and mints):

  • Clemmy’s Rich and Creamy ice cream products
  • Dr. John’s products (hard and soft candies, chocolates, drink mixes and so on)
  • Jell-O sugar-free pudding snacks
  • Nature’s Hollow jams, syrup, ketchup, honey and so on
  • SparX Candy
  • Zipfizz energy drink-mix powders

Toxicity of Xylitol Is Species- and Dose-Dependent

While xylitol is safe for human consumption, the same can’t be said for pets.  In 2011, the FDA released a consumer alert on the dangers of xylitol ingestion in certain animals.  The sweetener’s effect varies by species.  In people, rhesus monkeys, rats, and horses, intravenous (IV) xylitol causes little to no insulin release.  However, it has the opposite effect on baboons, cows, goats, rabbits, dogs, and ferrets. Its effect on cats is unknown.

Humans absorb xylitol slowly, and the sweetener when ingested orally is absorbed at from about 50 to 95 percent.  However, in dogs, xylitol is rapidly and completely absorbed within about 30 minutes.  Just a small amount of xylitol can cause a dangerous insulin surge and a rapid drop in blood sugar.

The toxicity of xylitol in dogs is dose-dependent.  The dose required to trigger hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) is approximately 0.1 grams/kg, while the amount needed to cause hepatic necrosis (liver failure) is approximately 0.5 grams/kg.  As a point of reference, most chewing gums and breath mints typically contain .22 to 1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint.  This means just a single piece of gum or one mint may cause hypoglycemia in a 10-pound dog.

Determining the Amount of Xylitol in a Product

Product manufacturers aren’t required to list the quantity of xylitol on package labels, and while some companies will reveal the amount in their products, many are reluctant to do so.  Incredibly, some have even asked veterinarians to sign a confidentiality agreement before divulging how much of the sweetener is in a particular product.

Fortunately, the Pet Poison Helpline has been working to get this information from manufacturers, and has been relatively successful.  So if you need to know the amount of xylitol contained in a specific product, the Helpline suggests you call them first at 1-800-213-6680.

In some cases, you might be able to use the placement of xylitol on an ingredient list to estimate how much is in the product.  In the U.S., ingredient lists for foods must be organized in descending order based on weight.  The ingredient that weighs the most is at the top of the list.  According to Dr. Brutlag, in most chewing gum ingredient lists, xylitol appears in fourth or fifth place, making it clinically insignificant.  She says if it appears as one of the first three ingredients, however, extreme caution should be taken.

I’ll go a step further and recommend that dog guardians avoid or very carefully secure any product that contains any amount of xylitol, no matter how small.

When it comes to medications and dietary supplements, U.S. regulations do not require manufacturers to list xylitol by name on package labels.  This is because the sweetener is often categorized as an “inactive” or “other” ingredient, and such ingredients don’t have to be listed in order by the amount contained in the product.  To confuse matters further, when xylitol is named in these products, it is often part of an alphabetized list, which could lead pet owners to assume – perhaps in error – that there is a very small amount in the product.

So I’ll repeat my recommendation to dog owners to either avoid or very carefully store any product that contains xylitol in any amount.

Symptoms of Xylitol Poisoning and Required Treatment

Symptoms of xylitol intoxication in dogs include vomiting, weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, and collapse.

Hypoglycemia is usually evident within an hour or two after a dog ingests xylitol, but symptoms are occasionally delayed for several hours.  Treatment depends on how quickly it is given.  Vomiting is induced in cases where the xylitol has just been ingested.  Once a dog develops hypoglycemia, IV dextrose must be administered until the animal can self-regulate his blood glucose concentrations, which typically takes from 12 to 48 hours.

In dogs who ingest enough xylitol to cause liver toxicity, liver enzymes must be closely monitored, as evidence of hepatic necrosis can show up one to two days after ingestion.  Should the liver begin to fail, the dog will require IV fluids, dextrose, hepatoprotectants (substances to help support and repair the liver), and regular monitoring of blood clotting activity.

When xylitol exposure is caught early in a dog and treated effectively, the prognosis for a full recovery is excellent.  The prognosis for dogs that develop hepatic failure is less optimistic.

——- Source

Leave a comment

Filed under education, health

Pet Poisons: The Top 10 Suspects for Dogs

Toxic Pet Food

By Dr. Becker

Earlier this year, the Pet Poison Helpline released the top 10 household items that caused pet guardians to call for poison consultations during 2013.

According to the Helpline’s Associate Director Ahna Brutlag, DVM, the list of cat toxins didn’t change from last year, but a new item made it to the top 10 list for dogs: canine joint supplements.  These supplements have “limited toxicity” according to Dr. Brutlag, but a few cases of liver failure following a massive overdose have been reported.

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a toxic substance, call your veterinarian, a nearby emergency animal hospital, and/or the 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680.  You can also download their Pet Poison Help iPhone app here.

Top 10 Dog Toxins in 2013

1. Chocolate  Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both classified as methylxanthines. These compounds can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, and potentially death. The more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic, and milk chocolate can be dangerous if ingested in large amounts.
2. Xylitol  Xylitol, a sugar substitute common in sugar-free chewing gum and many other products, can cause life-threatening hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs.
3. NSAIDs  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Motrin and Aleve, can cause GI ulcers and kidney failure.
4. Over-the-counter cough, cold and allergy medications
 Many of these preparations contain acetaminophen (a painkiller) and pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine (decongestants) and are highly toxic.
5. Rodenticides  Rat and mouse poison can contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to dogs. Aside from eating the poison itself, dogs can also become sick from eating a rodent that has ingested poison. Exposure to rat and mouse poison can cause bleeding, seizures and kidney damage.
6. Grapes and raisins  These foods, even in small amounts, can cause kidney failure in dogs.
7. Insect bait stations
 The danger here is primarily bowel obstruction when a dog swallows the plastic shell that contains the bait.
8. Prescription ADD/ADHD drugs
 These drugs are amphetamines that can cause tremors, heart problems, seizures and death in pets.
9. Glucosamine joint supplements
 These supplements are often flavored to appeal to dogs. Overdoses usually produce nothing more dangerous than diarrhea, but in rare cases, liver failure can result.
10. Oxygen absorbers and silica gel packs  Oxygen absorbers are found in packages of pet treats, beef jerky, and other consumables, and they contain iron that can cause iron poisoning in dogs. Silica gel packs are the small white packs found in new shoes, purses and backpacks.

——- Source

Leave a comment

Filed under education, health

Two National Pet Retailers Plan to Phase Out Pet Treats from China

According to a May 16 investigation update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than 1,000 dogs have died and thousands of complaints have surfaced since 2007 about illnesses in dogs and some cats potentially linked to Chinese pet treats.

While FDA has stated that the deaths and illnesses may be associated with the consumption of pet jerky treats (typically chicken) from China, the agency still has not pinpointed a specific cause despite ongoing tests for numerous potential contaminants.

FDA officials have said of the 4,800 reported pet illnesses, “about 60 percent are for gastrointestinal illness (with or without elevated liver enzymes) and about 30 percent relate to kidney or urinary signs.  The remaining 10 percent of cases involve a variety of other signs, including convulsions, tremors, hives, and skin irritation.”

This past week, two of the nation’s largest pet retailers — Petco Animal Supplies Inc., and PetSmart Inc. — announced that they will stop selling dog and cat treats made in China.  San Diego, CA-based Petco indicated that it plans to have all Chinese-made pet treats off the shelves of its 1,300 stores by the end of this year.

“We’ve been following the FDA warnings and related customer concerns closely, and we’ve been actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now,” said Petco CEO Jim Myers.

About half of the jerky treats currently sold at Petco stores nationwide are from China.  The company will now transition to carrying treats made in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and South America, Myers said.

PetSmart, based in Phoenix, AZ, announced plans to remove China-sourced treats from its outlets by next spring.

“By March 2015, PetSmart will no longer sell dog and cat treats manufactured in China.  This is something we’ve been working toward for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers,” Erin Gray, a PetSmart spokeswoman, told NBC News.

FDA is coordinating further investigation into the problem with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is advising people who feed their dogs pet jerky treats to watch closely for any or all of the following signs which may occur hours or days after consumption of the products: decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), increased water consumption and/or increased urination.

If any or all of those are observed, people are advised to immediately stop feeding the jerky pet treats and consult a veterinarian if the signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours.

© Food Safety News

Leave a comment

Filed under diet, education, health, safety

Ten Top Toxins of 2013

Insecticide and laundry detergent led the list of top 10 toxins during 2013, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reported.  In order, the exposures that caused the most reported deaths* during the year were:

1: Permethrin

Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical that is widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent.  Despite the fact that APCC did not get reports of dog deaths attributed to permethrin in the past year, it is the overall leading cause of death because so many cat deaths were connected with the chemical.  The deaths were mostly because of exposure to dog products.

2: Laundry Detergent
Large exposures to liquid laundry detergent or the new individual detergent packs can cause GI signs and aspiration in dogs and cats.  Death is typically due to the severity of the respiratory signs.

3: 5-FU
Exposure to the topically-applied chemotherapeutic agent 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) can cause severe GI upset, seizures, cardiac arrest and bone marrow suppression.  Seizures are the most common cause of death, and they are refractory to even aggressive treatment.

4: ‘Hot’ Carbamates
These insecticides include aldicarb and methomyl.  Aldicarb is illegal in the United States, but we will see individuals who illegal import it from other countries.  Many cases die acutely, and it is common to see these cases die on the way to the vet hospital.

5: Ivermectin
Severe cases involving this antiparasitic medication typically involve inappropriate use of large animal products in cats and dogs.

6: Hops
Severe hyperthermia and then death can be seen very quickly after ingestion of hops, or humulus lupulus.  Hops, commonly used in beer brewing, is a flowering plant native to North America.

Deaths from these exposures are typically seen when pet owners wait to seek treatment until the pet is already in acute renal failure – or if there is a large exposure to ibuprofen and the CNS signs (depression, coma, etc.) that can’t be reversed with naloxone.

8: Caffeine
Products containing caffeine, such as caffeine pills, can cause severe CNS and CV stimulation and hyperthemia that can be very difficult to treat, even with aggressive care.

9: Anticoagulant Rodenticides
Death is common when owners don’t seek treatment until the pet is already showing advanced signs of coagulopathy.

10: Alpha Lipoic Acid & Fluoroquinolones
The antioxidant alpha lipoic acid has gained popularity for human use, but ingestion of the supplement by animals can lead to hepatotoxicity, hypoglycemia, and CNS signs.   High doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics fluoroquinolones can cause severe CNS signs, such as seizures.

*This list is based on reported deaths to APCC; sometimes a pet death, especially at home, may go unreported. The APCC does follow-up calls about some products, such as permethrin or methomyl products, so there may be a reporting bias.

——- Source

Leave a comment

Filed under education, health

Aflatoxin: The Single Pet Food Ingredient to Be Especially Vigilant About

Aflatoxin in Pet Foods

Oct 9 2013

If you’re a regular reader of Dr. Becker’s Healthy Pets newsletter, you know she often discusses the need to feed dogs and cats the right type of protein.  And, of course, species-appropriate protein for carnivorous pets comes from animals – not plants.

But there are other concerns with plant-based pet food ingredients separate from the fact that they are biologically inappropriate protein sources for carnivores.

Almost a year ago, she wrote about the potential for an increase in deadly aflatoxins in pet food made with corn-based ingredients.  The increased risk is due to extreme drought conditions in the U.S. Midwest.  Aflatoxins are naturally-occurring mycotoxins produced by the Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus paraciticusspecies of fungi that grow on certain crops. Aflatoxins are highly carcinogenic.  They poison the liver and promote tumor development.

Given the drought and the number of pet foods – especially dry dog foods – that contain corn products these days, it wasn’t a surprise earlier in the year to learn of several pet food recalls for aflatoxin contamination.

‘Pet Foods with Plant-Derived Proteins May Contain More Harmful Toxins Than Pet Foods with Traditional Fish and Meat Proteins.’

Now it seems the mainstream pet food industry may be catching on.  According to PetfoodIndustry.com:

“Pet foods with plant-derived proteins may also contain more harmful toxins than pet foods with traditional fish and meat proteins, according to new research from the University of Guelph.”

Animal and poultry science professor Trevor Smith at Guelph in Canada is conducting the research.  “A shift in pet food ingredients is on,” says Smith. “Instead of worrying about bacteria spoilage or disease contamination, like we have in the past, we now have to focus on removing mycotoxins.”

According to Smith, who has spent over three decades researching mycotoxins:

“Although we have no exact numbers, we can estimate that when half of the food is of vegetable origin, there will almost always be some degree of contamination.  If the food is mainly of animal origins, the chances of contamination are greatly reduced.”

He counsels pet owners to minimize the risk by avoiding inexpensive pet foods containing vegetable cereals, corn or wheat fillers, and especially rice bran.

Foods Most Likely to Be Contaminated with Aflatoxins

Aflatoxins frequently contaminate agricultural crops before they are harvested.  Conditions that promote pre-harvest contamination include high temperatures, prolonged periods of drought, and insect activity.

Aflatoxins can also be a problem after harvesting if the crop stays wet for too long.  And they can grow on stored crops if the moisture level is too high and mold develops.

The three plants with the highest rate of aflatoxin contamination are corn, peanuts and cottonseed.  Other frequently contaminated agricultural products include:

  • Maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice, and wheat cereals
  • Peanut, soybean, and sunflower oilseeds
  • Chili peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric, and ginger spices
  • Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, coconuts, brazil nuts

Processed foods containing corn can also carry a risk of aflatoxin adulteration.  Infected corn and cottonseed meal fed to dairy cows has resulted in aflatoxin contamination of milk and other dairy products including cheese and yogurt.

How to Steer Clear of Aflatoxin-Infected Pet Foods

Aflatoxicosis is more common in dogs than cats because commercial dog food formulas more often contain corn products.  So if you’re a dog owner, you should be especially vigilant.

Dr. Becker recommends you transition your pet away from all dry food to either a high quality, human grade canned food, or better yet, a balanced, fresh food diet.  can make your pet’s meals at home using recipes that are balanced nutritionally for either a cat or a dog.  You can also look into commercially prepared raw pet foods as well as dehydrated raw.  Or you can consider a mixture of homemade and commercially prepared diets.

In the meantime, study the ingredients in the dry food you buy your pet, and avoid brands containing grains or corn in any form, including corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, corn flour, etc.  Along with the increased risk of for aflatoxin contamination, corn is a notoriously allergenic food that is difficult for many animals to digest.

Also avoid formulas containing cereal grains like maize, sorghum, pearl millet, rice and wheat.

Symptoms of Aflatoxin Poisoning

Aflatoxicosis is chiefly a disease of the liver, causing GI symptoms, reproductive issues, anemia and jaundice.  Certain types of aflatoxins are linked to cancer in animals.

If your dog or cat ingests food contaminated with aflatoxins, you can anticipate one or more of these symptoms: severe, persistent vomiting; bloody diarrhea; lack of appetite; fever; sluggishness; discolored urine; jaundice, especially around the whites of the eyes, gums and belly.

If you think your pet has eaten potentially contaminated food, even if he’s showing no symptoms of illness, get him to your veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic as soon as possible.  And bring the food with you.

Dr. Becker also recommends you talk with your holistic vet about natural liver detox agents like milk thistle, SAMe, and chlorophyll.

Dr. Becker

Leave a comment

Filed under diet, education, health, safety

More Toxic Pet Treats Recalled: Why Pet Owners Must Remain Vigilant


 Dogswell Joins Nestle Purina, Del Monte, Hartz Mountain, Publix Stores and IMS Pet Industries in Recalling Pet Treats Due to Antibiotic Contamination

During the last week of July, the Dogswell pet food company voluntarily recalled several chicken breast and duck breast jerky dog treats due to contamination with residue from an antibiotic not approved for use in the U.S.  Sound familiar?

The Dogswell brands pulled from store shelves include Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality and Vitakitty, all with a “best before” date of January 28, 2015 or any earlier date.

From the Dogswell website:

“During routine testing of our products, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM) discovered that a sample of our Dogswell Happy Hips Chicken Breast Jerky contained trace amounts of an antibiotic residue that has not been approved for use in the United States.:”

“It is important to note that this antibiotic is accepted for use in other countries (including the European Union), and there is no evidence that products containing trace amounts of this antibiotic pose a health risk for pets or humans.”

“Since we were notified by the NYSDAM the week of July 22nd, we have made the decision to voluntarily withdraw Chicken Breast and Duck Breast jerky under the Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality, and Vitakitty brands that are labeled with a ‘Best Before’ date of January 28th, 2015 or any earlier date.  The vast majority of these products were distributed before March 1st of this year. No other products are affected.

Note that Dogswell is quick to point out the antibiotic found in their product, while not approved for use in the U.S., is approved in other countries, including the European Union.  What they don’t mention is the drug is also approved for use in China, which is where Dogswell and many other U.S. pet treat manufacturers source their products and/or raw ingredients.

Treat producers and the FDA want pet owners to believe antibiotic residue poses no health risk, and there’s no relationship between THIS contamination issue and the one that has sickened and killed so many pets since 2007 – despite the fact that the same pet treat brands are involved in both issues.

Treat Producers Insist Antibiotic Residue Poses No Health Risk. FDA Believes It Is ‘Highly Unlikely’ Antibiotic Contamination Is Related to Illness and Death in Pets Fed Suspect Pet Treats.

If you read my February 1st article or one of any number of other news sources on the subject of toxic jerky pet treats from China, you know that certain brands of these treats sold in the U.S. are suspected of causing sickness in thousands of dogs, and death in hundreds more since 2007.

And you know that the FDA has been utterly ineffective in locating the source of the problem.  Fortunately, in January, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) was able to detect residual amounts of unapproved poultry antibiotics in several lots of jerky treat brands – the very same brands that are suspected in the ongoing issue that began in 2007.

Not surprisingly, the pet food manufacturers (including Dogswell) who have voluntarily recalled jerky treat products for antibiotic contamination continue to insist there is no evidence that trace amounts of these antibiotics pose a health risk for pets or humans.

And of course the FDA sings a similar tune in their most recent (January 9) CVM update on jerky treats:

“Based on the FDA’s review of the NYSDAM results, there is no evidence that raises health concerns, and these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats.

Note the FDA doesn’t wish to connect the antibiotic residue issue with the issue of five years of reported illnesses and deaths in pets fed chicken jerky treats made in China, despite the fact that the same brands were implicated in both issues and were recalled by the manufacturers.

When Marketing Rhetoric Defies Logic

From Dogswell FAQs:

“Question: Where are your products manufactured?

“Answer: Most Dogswell products are manufactured in the US.  Some of our treats are manufactured in China, but we hold these facilities to the same stringent quality standards we maintain at our US facilities.  Dogswell sources its ingredients based upon where we find top quality ingredients and a high quality supplier whose facilities and practices meet our safety testing standards.

Dogswell believes they hold the Chinese manufacturing facilities they do business with to a certain quality standard.  I believe they are overconfident.

What does the detection of residue from illegal antibiotics in pet treats say about Dogswell’s ability to hold their Chinese production partners to the same quality standards it maintains at U.S. facilities?

Secondly, according to dvm360, Dogswell began implementing new procedures in January to test for unapproved antibiotics in their products.  Why the need to do that, if the company is sure their Chinese suppliers are following “stringent quality standards?”  If Dogswell is really using “top quality ingredients” provided by “high-quality suppliers,” why the need to implement procedures to check for residue from antibiotics that aren’t even approved for use in this country?  (And while I’m at it, why did it take until July for the voluntary recall, if the company implemented its own antibiotic testing procedures back in January?)

Third, when the FDA visited Chinese producers back in April to investigate the toxic pet treat situation, it was a colossal waste of time.  The agency was stonewalled by Chinese government officials.  It leaves one to wonder how effective U.S. companies like Dogswell are at providing oversight at Chinese manufacturing facilities.

Here’s another revealing observation from The Bark about Dogswell’s marketing claims:

“Today, we received notice that Dogswell ‘voluntarily‘ withdrew select jerky treats from the market.  This is rather ironic because just a couple days ago we visited the Dogswell’s booth at Superzoo, a huge pet trade show in Las Vegas, and asked them about their new marketing campaign ‘Live Free.’ 

“When asked what that means, a salesperson told us that not only does it refer to their ingredients (i.e. the chickens are supposedly raised cage-free, even though they source the meat from China!), but also that their products are free of corn, soy and fillers, etc.  Plus, it means dogs can live free of harmful, unnatural ingredients!  Oh my. Obviously this “voluntary” (a misnomer if there ever was one) withdrawal belies that assertion.

Pet Owners MUST Remain Vigilant.

In case it appears I have a vendetta against Dogswell, I don’t.  They just happen to be the most recent pet treat producer to be busted for tainted products who has responded in a manner that is less than reassuring.

The good news: They did a voluntary recall.  The bad news: They suspected antibiotic residue problems back in January, apparently, but waited to be prodded by NYSDAM in July to pull products from store shelves.  Further, their marketing claims don’t appear to reflect reality when it comes to the quality of ingredients that go into their products.

It’s painfully obvious neither the FDA nor U.S. pet food companies are invested in doing everything possible to insure the safety of imported pet foods and treats.  That’s why it must remain the job of pet owners to stay on top of recalls, and to stay away from products and ingredients made outside the U.S.  An even more careful approach is to make your own treats at home.

Dr. Becker

Leave a comment

Filed under diet, education, health, safety

General Summertime Safety Tips For Pets

  • Keep pets away from hot BBQ grills or coals.
  • Store pesticides and fertilizers out of reach of pets.
  • Make sure that pets are not sniffing grass seed into their noses.
  • Dogs that watch you plant bulbs may dig them up. The bulbs can be poisonous.
  • Dogs or cats with white noses or ear tips can sun burn.  If your pet will wear sunscreen, that’s great.   (Most of them will lick it off.)   It’s best to keep them in the shade when the sun is bright.
  • Keep plenty of clean, fresh water around the house and yard.
  • If the pavement or sidewalk is too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws!  The pads can easily be burned on hot days.  Check pavement temperatures by placing your hand, palm down, on the pavement’s surface, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.

Leave a comment

Filed under safety