Thursday, 22 March 2012

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Top 10 British Dog Poisons

Every year thousands of dogs (and cats) suffer or die needlessly because they ingested substances which are commonly found around the house and garden but which are harmful to animals.

We can't rely on the fact that dogs should know better. They don't always know what is and isn't good for them and the fact that they are naturally curious (especially where puppies are concerned) means that it's up to us to make sure our dogs are safe at all times.

I thought that today I would give you a list of the top 10 household poisons that will harm your dog if ingested. Some will be quite obvious and others not so much.

So here we go:

  • COMMON HOUSEHOLD ITEMS - I have made this a single listing simply because if I listed each item individually the title of the post would have to be 'The Top 100+ items That Could Poison Your Dog'. Bleach, cleaning fluids, firelighters, cigarettes, bath and beauty products, insecticides, furniture polish, matches, turpentine, white spirits, mothballs...the list is endless. I would say that if you or your family shouldn't eat or drink it then your dog probably shouldn't either. It makes no difference if the product states on the packaging that it is a 'natural' product. Keep everything in a safe place away from your dog.

  • PESTICIDES - Ingestion of rat poison can be lethal for dogs. It is often coated with sugar and/or peanut butter and other sweet substances so that rats, mice and other rodents are attracted to it. Unfortunately this also attracts inquisitive dogs. Slug pellets are equally dangerous and great care should be taken when using such things. Flea and tick collars will make your dog sick if he chews or licks them. Flea and tick treatments are the same so ensure that dogs are supervised after treatment and that they are not allowed to groom each other when the treatment is first applied. Make sure that all poisons are placed where dogs can't get to them, don't leave anything lying around even for a minute or two and keep all unused product safely under lock and key.

  • ANTIFREEZE - As well as several other chemicals, antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which is sweet-tasting and appeals to dogs who are more than happy to drink it. It is highly toxic and a tiny amount can be a lethal dose for a medium sized dog.

  • MEDICATION (both human and veterinary) - Again, like everything else, great care should be taken when using medication intended only for human use. There have been many cases of dogs dying after helping themselves to medication which has been left lying around the house. Sometimes the medication can fall on the floor, the dog finds it and before you know it, it's gone! But the saddest cases of poisoning by human medication are the ones where a dog is injured or ill and the concerned owner, who loves their dog dearly, decides to try to make their beloved pet more comfortable and inadvertently poisons him/her by doing so. Never give your dog any medication which is intended for human use unless you have discussed it with your vet beforehand. Care should also be taken when administering veterinary medicine. Don't be tempted to give the dog more than the vet has instructed. They have worked the dosage out taking all the information relating to the individual dog into account. You could be overdosing your dog without realising it.

  • PLANTS - Almost all garden plants ingested in large quantities can be potentially poisonous but I will give you a list of the most common ones found in the UK: azalea, foxgloves, hyacinth, hydrangea, ivy, all varieties of lily, night-shade, rhododendrons, tulips and yew. Be aware that any dog could eat a plant but be particularly vigilant when puppies are out in the garden. Many plants are also toxic to humans so - if you wouldn't eat it - your dog shouldn't either. Another way that dogs can be poisoned by plants is when they brush past certain plants and the pollen lands on their coats. There is a chance that they will lick it off and in doing so - ingest it.

  • CHOCOLATE - Chocolate contains theobromide, a substance similar to caffeine. It is not easily metabolised by animals and, depending on the size of the dog, even a small amount can cause a lot of damage. My recommendation for chocolate is keep it for yourself. Why would you want to share it anyway?

  • ALCOHOL - This is an absolute no-no for a dog. Whilst a glass (or two) of alcohol does us no harm, a small amount of alcohol consumed by a dog can very quickly lead to alcohol poisoning.  Many years ago I had just got a German Shepherd puppy (Jake). I also had my border collie, Sam. Whilst I was out the dogs were only allowed in the hall and the kitchen however, one day, when I returned after leaving them for a couple of hours, they had somehow let themselves into the living room and created a terrible mess; pulling plants around, ripping cushions etc. Later that evening I had some friends in. One of them asked what was wrong with the puppy. Jake was out in the garden barking and growling at nothing and staggering around. I couldn't understand it. I had been telling my friends about what they had been up to earlier on and, on further investigation, we discovered a decanter with a small amount of brandy had been knocked over during their earlier shenanigans and was under a table. He had obviously been drinking it. I called the vet who arranged to see me at the surgery and confirmed that he was indeed drunk! Luckily he was fine the next day although he may have been slightly hung-over but it could have been a lot worse.

  • ONIONS - Onions can be fatal for dogs if ingested in large quantities or in small quantities over a long period of time however poisoning is quite rare. Onions contain thiosulphite which causes the red blood cells to burst open into the bloodstream causing haemolytic anaemia which is a dangerous condition. Garlic also contains thiosulphites however it is also good for dogs and feeding it in tiny amounts can be beneficial to them.

  • XYLITOL - Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in sugar-free gum, sugar-free sweets and some bakery items. Whilst it's fine for us humans, with dogs it causes their blood sugar levels to drop rapidly. Xylitol is potentially deadly for dogs. Xylitol can also be found in mouthwash. Never ever give your dog human mouthwash if he has bad breath. If it's caused by his eating something disgusting, the bad breath will disappear again. If he constantly has bad breath then a visit to the vet is required to find the cause.

  • VINE FRUITS - Grapes and raisins are particularly toxic for dogs if ingested in large quantities. They cause acute kidney failure. Be careful when putting vine fruits out for the birds. I buy bags of raisins etc. for the wild birds but I only put them on the bird table and not on the ground as I know that Storm would just go around hoovering them up until they were all gone.

There are many other substances that are toxic to dogs but the above list is of the 10 most common items. The main symptoms of poisoning are: vomiting, diarrhoea, irregular heartbeat, dilated pupils, pale gums, swollen abdomen, muscle tremors, bleeding from any orifice and blood and/or pain when urinating/defecating. Of course, any or all of these symptoms could also be indicative of some other illness or injury but my advice would be that if you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, contact the vet immediately. After all - better safe than sorry!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Stay Safe - Be Seen!

How many of you walk your dog after dark?

I think it's something that probably almost everyone who owns a dog has to do at some time if not regularly but do you give any thought as to what you are wearing when you are out walking in the dark?

Earlier this evening I was driving along a fairly busy and fast road. On two separate instances I suddenly caught sight of two people out walking their dogs. They were walking into the oncoming traffic which is the right thing to do, but I was literally only feet away from them before I even realised they were there. There wasn't much of a verge for them to walk on and so the people and their poor dogs were very close to the oncoming traffic. Why didn't I see them? They were all wearing very dark clothing.

If you are interested in finding out about stopping distances etc., please click on this link to read a very interesting article on pedestrians and peripheral vision (the Science bit).

I'm not sure why people put themselves and their beloved dogs at risk in this way. Perhaps they quite simply just don't think ahead. I have to confess that when I walk my dogs in the dark I look like Blackpool Illuminations. In the warmer weather I have a fluorescent waistcoat with reflective strips. In the colder weather I have a fluorescent jacket also with reflective strips. I also have two small but powerful flashing lights which attach to each of the dog's leads.  It may not look pretty but at least I can be sure drivers will see me in the dark. I think it comes from always wearing reflective gear when I am out riding my horse. Even in daylight, people wearing reflective gear can be spotted much more quickly than those not and from a much greater distance.

There are many reflective items on the market which are recommended for non-professional use including dog collars, harnesses and clothing for humans. The only thing that I would suggest is that you check the item conforms to the relevant standard for reflective gear. The standard in the UK is EN13356.

Enjoy walking your dog but please ensure that you stay safe by being seen.

Electric Shock Collars and The Best Way to Deal With Them

This video is for anyone who has ever used or considered using an electric shock collar to train their dog. Please watch and follow this guy's advice to the letter to ensure your dog doesn't suffer unnecessarily.

P.S. The dog was moved to safety before the demo started.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Dogs Will Be Dogs

Have you ever noticed that people no longer want their dogs to behave like dogs?

People are more than happy to share their lives with their canine companions but the minute the dogs want need to do something remotely doggy then the humans become annoyed and upset. They find it unacceptable that this ANIMAL isn't behaving like a human. 

How many times have you heard people say 'I can't let him off the lead because he runs up to other dogs and starts sniffing them!' or 'I can only walk my dogs when there's no-one else around as they bark at other dogs!' What about 'I have to keep her on a really short lead as she sniffs everything otherwise' or even 'Every time I let him off the lead he goes and rolls in something disgusting and so he's never getting off again!'?

The thing is, although we might not like some of these behaviours, they are perfectly normal to dogs and we really should be letting our dogs be exactly what they are - dogs. Dogs like to sniff other dogs so that they can decide whether the other dog is a friend or a foe but all too often I see people dragging their dogs away from other dogs as they are afraid of a fight starting. A fight is more likely to start because the dog is being dragged away and not allowed to carry out his investigation. 

We speak. Dogs bark. That's all there is to it. I'm not saying that dogs should be allowed to bark continuously - of course they shouldn't - but they do need to be allowed to bark occasionally. Barks can mean all sorts of things but I intend go into that in much more detail in another post. One of my dogs starts barking whenever she sees another dog. She's not aggressive and it doesn't go on for long but it worries some of the other owners. I spoke to my vet about this recently. He said that he felt that her letting the other dogs know that she was there was perfectly acceptable. In fact he said that she was just doing what dogs do and I absolutely agree with him.

How would you like it if, every time you went to read a newspaper or watch the news on TV or look at a news channel on the internet, your dog pulled you away and told you that you weren't allowed to do that? I'm guessing you would feel pretty annoyed. Well, that's what we do every time we stop our dogs from sniffing out on a walk. Sniffing is one of the most natural things for a dog to do and yet day in and day out I see people hauling their dogs away from trees, lamp-posts etc. It seems to be that if the dog isn't walking perfectly by their side with its head in the air and complete focus on nothing but getting through the walk then it isn't behaving. Again I'm not saying that you should allow your dog to tow you all over the place but I do think they need a bit of freedom to do the things that dogs do.

So please, give a little bit of thought to the needs of your dogs. They are not little humans in furry coats. They are animals who are driven very much by instinct and have needs just like we do. What we have to remember is that our needs and our dogs' needs are very different and we have to learn to accept that. Try putting yourself in their shoes. Would you like to have to give up doing something you loved just because it didn't conform to someone else's idea of perfection?

I certainly wouldn't!