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Canine Sense - Did You Know

Check out these articles by Dr. Stanley Coren (BC, Canada) Canine Corner

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Keeping our Fur-Kids Safe

I've already posted some things that seem way out, and not even considered, that would be toxic to your canine friend ... like the sweetener xylitol (chewing gums), and blue alga (small backyard feature ponds) ... here are a few more you might not have considered.

Did you know that the composter you have in your backyard that you are so diligent in keeping up to help our landfills out ... well as it does its 'work' it is also making deadly toxins that if your dog gets into it, it can be deadly for them. Specifically, it contains mycotoxins that can result in seizuring, tremoring, and secondary hyperthermia. Signs usually occur within 2 hours of ingesting the material, starting with vomiting and tremors (shaking). Whether you know your dog got into the composter or not, these signs mean it's time to get your dog to the vets.
Cocoa mulch shells, that one might put in their garden can also cause lethal effects. These products contain theobromine, which is what is in chocolate, that can make our canine friends so sick. So beware of what you put in your gardens, and also what your non-fur friend neighbours use.

I posted before about xylitol and its harmful effects on dogs. This chemical is not only found in many of the chewing gums, but I've also learned it's in a lot more these days - toothpaste, mouthwash, anti aging face creams, face masks, face cleanser (a whole raft of skin care products in general), and can even be in sun screens.

What does xylitol cause in a dog? In the canine body, the pancreas confuses xylitol with real sugar and releases insulin to store the “sugar.” The problem is that xylitol does not offer the extra calories of sugar and the rush of insulin only serves to remove the real sugar from the circulation. Blood sugar levels plummet resulting in weakness, disorientation, tremors, and potentially seizures. The other problem is with the liver. It is not yet known why, but it starts to destroy the liver tissue.

The hypoglycemic dose of xylitol for dogs is considered to be approximately 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (about 0.045 grams per pound). A typical stick of gum contains 0.3 to 0.4 grams of xylitol, which means that a 10 lb dog could be poisoned by as little as a stick and a half of gum.

How much is too much for liver damage?

The dose to cause hepatic necrosis is 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, about ten times more than the above dose. In the example above, the 10 lb dog would have to find an unopened package of gum and eat it for liver destruction to occur.

I can't tell you how much of this product might be in say, face cream, or toothpaste, but it's enough you need to look at labels and consider your storage options.

Signs can be seen within 30 minutes of ingestion - vomiting, weakness, uncoordinated movement.

If you're interested, here's a site that lists items in different categories using xylitol in them.


Lastly, where does your dog travel in your vehicle? Are they safe? Loose? Riding beside you? On your lap; hanging out the window?

There are about only 1 in 10 dogs travelling by car that are properly secured. The danger is not only to them, but also to you. At just 20 kph (35 mph) a 60 lb dog would become a projectile with a force of 2,700 lbs in a collision.

2 years ago I was 1st on the scene of a car that had swerved to miss a deer and then bounced off a hydro poll, into and out of a small ditch. There was a gentleman and his small dog in the car. I was trying to get to the gentleman, but was faced with this barking, teeth barring terrier. Luckily, the gentleman wasn't injured and was able to control his dog. I was able to leash the dog, with one of my own, and remove him, then able to check both of them. No one was hurt, thankfully.

This just goes to show you that a loose dog in a vehicle accident can impede 1st responders. The dog can get startled by an accident, run off on, causing potentially other accidents as vehicles swerved to miss them, and/or if injured make it even harder for someone to administer 1st aid. However, if they are crated (my preference all the way around), or seat belted, this minimizes the risk to not only the driver, but to the dog and anyone trying to help.

And please don't think it's great to travel with your dog hanging its head out the window ... just think of the # of bugs that hit your windshield or your side mirrors. They can also hit your dog in the eye, or even go down their ears. If your dog loves the smell of the country air, then put the window down just enough that they can smell, or use these window grates.

There are many ways to secure your dog in a vehicle. Crating to me is the best, as I've said. It is an all-in-one safety feature - dog is safe from flying objects, and any one responding to the scene of an accident can easily just remove the dog in its crate. You can seat belt them in; there are booster seats for small dogs; there are gates for the back of vehicles like vans. What ever your choice, please use it, no matter how short of a trip you are taking. Remember, most car accidents happen within 3- 8 km (2-5 miles) from your home.

Keep your fur friends safe during these Dog Days of Summer.
Travel safe.


Anonymous,  September 2, 2011 at 9:42 AM  

Great info. Note - xylitol is also used in children's presciption meds that are also commonly used in liquid form for many dogs.


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