Category Archives: Safety

Caring for Your Canine Athlete

The field of sports medicine for people has grown a lot in the past few years, and within veterinary medicine, sports medicine for dogs isn’t far behind. Of course, it makes sense. As people adopt more active lifestyles, they enjoy involving their dogs in activities, too.

Most dogs are more than willing to run and play until they drop. A lot of times, their owners don’t realize inactive or out-of-shape dogs can over-train or hurt themselves just as human “weekend athletes” do.

Major differences in canine and human physiology make dogs more vulnerable to overheating than humans. Dogs don’t tolerate heat as well as people. Instead of sweating, they pant. When the air outside is hot, the panting doesn’t help them cool down as much, so they may be at risk for a heat stroke in situations that wouldn’t normally cause a person to overheat. Most people think if they’re OK in the heat, the dog is OK, too. But that’s not always the case.

Of course, we want our clients to have fun with their dogs. Walking or running and playing together are great for the dog and the owner. We just want people to ask themselves a few key questions before they get into any heavy exercise program with their dog—particularly in hot weather.

Is your dog in condition? Like people, dogs need conditioning to build muscles and cardiovascular fitness before walking or running long distances. If you want your dog to go with you on long-distance walks or runs, start with short distances and increase distance gradually.

Is your dog old enough for running? It takes 12 to 24 months, depending on the breed, for a young dog’s skeletal system to mature. Your veterinarian can advise you about your breed. Until then, limit running, jumping and other strenuous exercise.

Does your dog have hip dysplasia? Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic problem in dogs, especially in the larger breeds. If you have a breed that’s prone to hip dysplasia, or if your dog seems to have trouble getting up and moving around, you need to avoid strenuous exercise until your veterinarian X-rays your dog’s hips.

How’s your dog’s cardiovascular system? Any kind of aerobic exercise works the cardiovascular system. Before you get into a strenuous exercise program with your dog-especially if it’s an older dog-you should have a veterinarian check for heart defects or disease.

Is your dog obese? It’s a great idea for overweight dogs to get exercise, but you should start slowly and build up levels of exertion gradually. To tell if your dog is overweight, you should be able to feel, but not see your dog’s ribs.

Does your dog have access to fresh water? Water is necessary for proper muscle function and flushes out waste products without damaging the kidneys. Water helps keep a dog cool, too. We suggest taking along a water bottle or canteen when exercising with your pet.

Do you know the symptoms of heat stroke? Dogs do not tolerate heat as well as humans. Hot weather can be deadly to dogs if they overheat enough to have a heat stroke. If your dog pants incessantly, feels hot to the touch and has pale or blue gums, you must cool him down immediately. Douse him with cool water and get him to a veterinarian at once. Some breeds are more vulnerable to heat stroke than others. Any dog with a pushed-in face, like a Boston terrier, a bulldog, a pug or a Pekinese, is usually more likely to have serious problems with heat than a breed with a longer muzzle.

The veterinarians at Brownsburg Animal Clinic agree the benefits of exercise for dogs far outweigh the risks, provided owners take the recommended precautions. “We don’t want to scare anybody, and we certainly don’t want to discourage people from exercising and playing with their dogs. We just want to be sure dog owners are aware of possible problems before they happen.

Sully and the Sunscreen

Last Saturday, my son Rhys and I took a bike ride. Before we left the house, I applied sunscreen to protect his fair skin.

When we returned home about an hour later, I found a large pile of strange-looking thick, white vomit in front of the couch. As I prepared to clean it up, I discovered more vomit on the stairs and in the hall. Then I discovered a chewed-up sunscreen bottle.

Most clients in my situation would have immediately called the clinic for help and guidance. But as general practice veterinarians, we doctors at Brownsburg Animal Clinic are like family doctors for our patients. We know a lot about your pet’s overall health and many common conditions they may have, but we can’t possibly know everything on every subject. That is why we often enlist the help of veterinary specialists, ranging from surgeons to dentists to dermatologists and yes, even toxicologists.

If I had received a call last Saturday morning about a patient who ingested sunscreen, I would not have been certain of the best course of treatment to take. There are so many new drugs and chemical compounds available, it is impossible for a general practitioner to keep up with which ones cause toxicities in pets and how to treat these toxicities if a pet is exposed. That’s why, when we receive such calls, if we’re not absolutely sure of what to do, we make an immediate referral to the Pet Poison Helpline.

The Helpline serves as 24-7-365 poison control for your pet. For a per-incident fee of $59, they will help you and your veterinarian (if needed) work through exposure to medications and chemicals that may be harmful to your pet. You will be assigned a case number and you and your veterinarian can call as many times as needed to seek advice on how to proceed with care.

At the clinic, we have referred clients to the specialists at Pet Poison Helpline several times. In some cases, we found the pet’s exposure to a potential toxin did not need follow-up care because the helpline staff determined the dose was not large enough to be toxic. In other cases, our clients were instructed to bring their pets to our office so we could induce vomiting and give activated charcoal and IV fluids. We also have had clients referred to a 24-hour veterinary care facility for several days of decontamination.

Chewed bottle of sunscreen

With that chewed-up sunscreen bottle in my hand, I thought about all the different chemicals Sully had swallowed, and while I know just what to do in cases of chocolate exposure or exposure to anti-freeze, I had no idea about these chemicals.

So I essentially referred myself to the Pet Poison Helpline, and one of their veterinarians helped me assess the situation.

I was able to provide her the name and brand and some of the ingredients still legible on the chewed-up label. We were able to determine the missing ingredients and estimate how much he was exposed to. Luckily, the level was not fatal and not enough to cause kidney damage. But it was enough to potentially cause stomach ulceration, so I started him on a stomach protectant.

The doctor also recommended doing some blood work the following day, just to make sure the exposure wasn’t higher than we suspected. I found Sully’s liver values were slightly elevated, so I checked back in with the doctor at Pet Poison Helpline, and we discussed adding a liver supplement and rechecking blood work in a few weeks.

This experience with Sully taught me a lot.

  1. Keep sunscreen out of my dogs’ (and son’s) reach.
  2. Zinc oxide is a good emetic (vomiting agent) that stains carpet white.
  3. The Pet Poison Helpline is a great, potentially life-saving resource for pet owners–including general-practice veterinarians like me–who need fast, accurate advice from a specialist in toxicology.

Wishing you all a safe summer!

 

Thanksgiving Safety for Pets

If this painting depicting the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is to be believed, a dog was among the guests at the celebration. But Thanksgiving as we celebrate it today can be very dangerous for pets.

Here’s a quick summary by Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association, of guidelines for safeguarding your pet this Thanksgiving.

Medicines for Humans Can Be Dangerous for Pets

Nearly half the calls to the Pet Poison Hotline involve pets who have ingested over-the-counter or prescription drugs for humans.

In some cases, the pet got into the pill bottle or daily dose holder on its own. In others, a well-meaning owner deliberately gave the drug to the pet to relieve pain, nausea or other symptoms. Owners who store their pets’ prescription medicines next to their human family members’ prescriptions sometimes pick up the wrong bottle and accidentally give the pet a dose of a drug prescribed for a human in the household.

And pet owners sometimes use a drug prescribed for one pet to treat another. This is especially risky when using a drug prescribed for a dog to treat a cat.

Surprisingly dangerous are common over-the-counter pain relievers, including non-sterioidal anti-inflammatories–NSAIDS–such as Aleve, Advil and Motrin, and acetaminophen–the active ingredient in Tylenol. Even one or two pills can be seriously damaging and even deadly for pets.

For a top-ten list of medicines for humans and their damaging effects on pets, visit the Pet Poison Helpline. There’s also a brief video on the page with additional pointers and safeguards you can take to protect your pet.

Although aspirin is not on the Poison Helpline’s top-ten list, treating your pet with aspirin before coming in for an office visit can delay treatment with a more effective drug because we have to wait for the aspirin to clear the pet’s system before starting the appropriate drug. In these cases, using aspirin as a “home remedy” in hopes of avoiding an office visit keeps your pet in pain longer and slows recovery.

Before using a drug intended for humans to treat your pet, call our office to confirm it is safe and effective and to determine the proper dosage.

If you discover your pet has ingested a drug meant for humans on its own, and it’s during our office hours, call us immediately. We need to know the name of the drug, the dosage and how many pills you believe your pet has swallowed. We may have you bring your pet in right away, or we may refer you to an emergency clinic. We may have you call the Pet Poison Helpline, or we may call on your behalf to consult with the toxicologists on the most effective treatment.

After hours, call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 and be prepared for a trip to the emergency clinic.

 

Managing Your Dog’s Noise Anxiety

July 4 is upon us, and chances are at least 40 percent of our canine patients will experience noise anxiety during the celebratory fireworks. Summer thunderstorms can trigger similar fears, causing panic and dangerous reactions, destruction of furniture and fixtures, self-inflicted injuries and frantic escapes.

That’s why the busiest day of the year for intake of runaway dogs in animal shelters is July 5.

Cats can be noise-averse, too, but their fear responses are usually not as pronounced. A cat may retreat to a favorite hiding place when frightened by noise, but otherwise appear unfazed. So most of our clients’ concerns about noise anxiety involve dogs.

If noise makes your dog anxious, we can help.

Home remedies we recommend in mild to moderate cases include playing music to mask the noise and carrying on as usual. It’s tempting to comfort a fearful dog, but a better approach is to signal all is well by engaging in normal behavior. A little cuddling is fine, but anything you can do lighten the mood is most helpful. If you can, just be present to your dog, ideally in a windowless interior room, and ride out the storm together.

For more severe cases, there are drugs we can prescribe to reduce anxiety and keep your dog relaxed and safe during fireworks, storms and other noisy conditions. The first step is an office visit to assess the severity of the anxiety and discuss treatment options with you.

We’ve just received our first shipment of Sileo, a promising new drug  approved by the FDA to treat noise anxiety. Visit the drug manufacturer’s web site to learn more about noise anxiety and how this new drug can help.

While we can’t promise a quieter summer, we may well be able to provide a calmer, more relaxed summer for your noise-averse dog. Call to schedule an appointment today.

 

Dogs and Heatstroke

We’ve talked about the dangers of hot weather for dogs before. We encourage all our dog-owning clients to read this article in today’s New York Times. It has some good advice, including the warning signs of heat stroke: excessive panting, lethargy and a deep red tongue.

If you think your dog is having a heat stroke, get it into cool water immediately. If the symptoms persist, treat it as a medical emergency. If it’s during our office hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon, call us immediately at (317) 852-3323 so our staff can prepare for your arrival and offer you advice for administering first aid.

If it’s after-hours, on weekends or a holiday, please call the Airport Animal Emergi-Center at (317) 248-0832. The emergency center is at 5235 West Washington Street in Indianapolis. Maps, directions and more information are available on the Emergi-Center web site.

AVMA’s Check the Chip Day

The American Veterinary Medical Association has declared August 15 “Check the Chip” day.  As you’ll see if you visit the AVMA’s page, the goal is to remind owners of pets with microchip implants to confirm that their registration information is up to date.

For pets without microchips, our strong recommendation is to make an appointment with us to microchip your pet. It’s the best way to increase your chances of recovering your pet, should he or she get lost or be stolen.

For more information about the microchipping procedure itself, here’s a brief video from the AVMA.

At Brownsburg, we use HomeAgain brand microchips. The HomeAgain web site has even more information about the benefits of microchipping, and we are happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.

Fireworks and Pets

With Independence Day fast approaching, we want to remind owners to protect their pets from exposure to fireworks.

  • Fireworks are noisy! While most humans enjoy the lights and sounds of a fireworks display, many pets experience the noise as unnerving or even terrorizing.
  • Lighted fireworks can cause severe burns and trauma to the face and paws of a curious pet.
  • Unlit fireworks can be swallowed, obstructing your pet’s digestive tract and introducing potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

We know of at least one local July 4 fireworks display this year at Arbuckle Acres Park, and we’re sure there will be many families celebrating the day with fireworks in their own backyards.

We encourage you to protect your pet from fireworks this July 4!

Summer Safety Tips

Summer has arrived!

We found an AVMA video that gives a great overview of how to keep your pet safe during the summer months. Even if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, we encourage you to watch the first two and a half minutes for a good overview of heat stress, including emergency measures you can take.

National Heat Awareness Day

May 23 is National Heat Awareness Day, sponsored by the National Weather Service to remind us of just how dangerous heat can be, not only to humans, but to pets.

As shown on this NWS web page about the dangers of heat to children and pets, even when the temperatures are relatively mild, the interior or a car or truck can heat up very quickly. To reveal more details, click the links on the page.

Also addressing this same issue is a brief video from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

We agree with the advice from the AVMA. If you love your pets, leave them at home!

Preventing Dog Bites

Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the third full week of May each year. The goal is to teach people about preventing dog bites.

The AVMA’s web site has a page dedicated to dog bite prevention.  We encourage you to visit the page and learn more about how you can lower the risk that your dog will bite. There are also tips on how to avoid having a dog bite you or someone you love.

Also from the AVMA is this video about preventing dog bites. This is video has dog bit statistics as well as specific tips for avoiding being bitten. We hope you’ll watch it with your kids.