Pets eat rocks?

Does your pet eat bizarre things? Some pet owners don’t have to worry about their fur kids eating out of the trash or gobbling up inanimate objects, but others have to keep everything out of reach from their chow hound. When your pet eats table scraps, garbage, or spoiled food, also known as dietary indiscretion, they can develop symptoms similar to food poisoning in humans such as vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and lethargy. Sometimes the symptoms pass on their own with rest and a bland diet. More severe or longer lasting symptoms need veterinary treatment as pancreatitis is a major concern with gastrointestinal illness caused by eating spoiled or high fat foods.

Sometimes inedible household items are eaten and intestinal obstruction is a danger. A foreign object can lodge itself in the intestinal track causing blockage and your pet may require surgery to remove it. Socks, rocks, toys, plastic, wood, metal, jewelry, coins, silver ware, and Christmas ornaments are just some of the items pets have ingested, the list goes on and on. Linear foreign bodies like string, ribbon, yarn, and rubber bands can get caught up and stretch or tear the intestines. Cats often play with and eat stringy items so keep them out of reach of your feline family. Go to your vet if your pet is lethargic, has a painful abdomen, is vomiting, having difficulty defecating or has any other signs of illness. X-rays often reveal the offending object. Some of the most amazing things I’ve seen while working for veterinarians are x-rays of foreign objects in the intestines of pets. You can never predict what a pet will eat, take a look at the x-rays here, the belly is full of rocks! I’ always amazed, I bet you will be too!

Dogs eat rocks

Next Topic: Toxic Plants

Foods That Are Toxic To Your Pets

toxic food


Now that the holidays are here, there will be a lot of opportunities for your pet to have access to foods that are toxic to them. Who hasn’t been tempted to throw their pet a table scrap now and then? I mean, look at that face! How can you resist those puppy dog eyes or that kitty cat purr? Unfortunately, our pets can’t decide what is good or bad to eat so we have to do it for them. Below are some people foods that are toxic to pets and should be avoided.

Many pet owners know that chocolate is toxic and keep it out of reach. Sometimes the sweet temptation is too hard to resist and our pet ends up consuming it despite our efforts to prevent it. When this happens a trip to the vet is almost always necessary. The level of toxicity depends on the size of the pet, how much and the type of chocolate ingested (dark, milk, unsweetened bakers…) Different types contain different levels of Theobromine, the toxic chemical in chocolate. Contact or go to your veterinarian as soon as you find your pet has eaten chocolate no matter how much or what type.

Although once thought to be an urban legend, grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs. Many pet owners have used them for treats or snacks but the toxin, which is not known at this time, can potentially cause kidney failure. Some dogs may be more sensitive than others so the amount consumed can be a handful of raisins (more concentrated) or a pound of grapes. Some dogs will seek them out, keep them out of reach of your hungry hound!

The toxin in Macadamia nuts is also not known and, like grapes and raisins, the sensitivity of the pet to the toxin and the number of nuts causing toxicity may vary. Signs to look for are, weakness and inability to walk, especially in the hind legs, vomiting, staggering gait, depression, tremors and elevated body temperature.

Xylitol, a common artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and mints, nicotine gum, chewable vitamins, and oral-care products, can be fatal if ingested. In addition to causing a sudden sharp decrease in blood glucose, liver failure can occur within 12 to 24 hours of ingestion. Increasing use of the sweetener in our diets has, of course, increased the number of xylitol poisonings according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Seek veterinary attention right away if your pet consumes xylitol.

When in doubt, don’t feed it to your pet. We love to spoil them but when it comes to treats, pet appropriate ones help keep our fur kids happy AND healthy. As I always say, better safe than sorry!


Next Topic: Dietary Indiscretion

Summer Time Pet Safety, How cool are you?

Flare from the sun

Sun Flare

Summer time means lots of outdoor fun and just like you, your pets need protection from the heat and sun. Pets can’t wear sunscreen of course and they don’t sweat through their skin like we do. Dogs regulate their body heat primarily by panting, as well as through the pads of their feet and their nose. If they are unable to expel heat quickly enough, they can suffer a heat stroke. Recognizing the following signs of heat stroke and can enable you to act quickly and help prevent an avoidable disaster:

  • Increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency)
  • Vigorous panting
  • Dark red gums
  • Tacky or dry mucus membranes (specifically the gums)
  • Lying down and unwilling (or unable) to get up
  • Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
  • Thick saliva
  • Dizziness or disorientation

If the dog continues to overheat, breathing efforts become slowed or absent, and finally, seizures or coma can occur. ASPCA expertssay taking simple precautions will help prevent your pet from overheating. Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water and shade while outside. Keep them indoors when it’s too hot and limit exercise in extreme summer temperatures. You should never leave any pet unattended in a car at any time. According to the Humane Society of the United States, on a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police. You can also spread the word about the dangers of pets in hot cars by downloading fliers and posters at to distribute in your community.

Growing up in Texas I endured many a hot summer and have some of the best memories of time spent with my family and pets back then. Practice warm weather safety so you can have tons on fun in the sun with your pets too!

Happy Summer and stay cool!

Next Topic: Toxic Foods

Is Your Pet Part of the Obesity Epidemic?

The obesity epidemic in America has unfortunately passed on to our pets. According to Karen Becker, DVM,  between 30 to 40 percent of U.S. pets are too heavy, and 25 percent are obese. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has created a list of ideal pet weight ranges based on breed as well as guidelines for caloric intake. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM offers 7 ways to tell of your pet is fat. Your veterinarian can also help you determine if your furry loved one is obese and may prescribe a weight reducing diet. Exercise is a beneficial part of a weight loss plan, walking your dog every other day or so will help you get in shape as well. Cat toys that allow kitty to jump and run are a good source of activity. Some cats will play fetch, and some will even walk outside on a leash!

For more information on pet obesity, Patty Khuly, DVM discusses giving your pet the gift of proper weight.


Next Topic: Summer Safety

Pet Oxygen Mask Project Part 2

The Invisible Fence Company is on a mission to equip every fire/rescue truck in the US and Canada with pet oxygen masks through Project Breathe. According to industry web sites and sources, an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires. To date, Project Breathe has donated more than 3,000 kits to fire stations throughout the US and Canada. They’ve set up a donation program and are asking for your help, please donate if you can!

A similar project, the Wag’N O2 Fur Life Program, has provided over 1,550 pet oxygen mask kits to over 660 departments in North America since 2008. You can sponsor a department on this site as well. All over the US and Canada there are thousands of rescue vehicles that are still not equipped with kits. April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month, what better way to honor the safety of our pets than to donate pet oxygen mask kits?


Pet Oxygen Mask Project

Next Topic: Pet Obesity

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Last year Americans spent $45.5 billion on their pets for food, vet care, accessories and other products. That’s billion with a “B” folks! Veterinary care can be one of the largest of those pet expenses and the holiday presents many dangers for our furkids. If an accident happens while your regular vet is closed, your only choice is an emergency clinic adding to an already expensive situation. Taking precautions to protect your pets over the holidays will help prevent expensive disasters and spare you a lot of stress and worry. These top five holiday dangers can be easily avoided so you and your pet can enjoy a wonderful season:

Holiday tinsel and ornaments
Holiday lighting and candles
Gift wrap ribbon
Food hazards
Toxic holiday plants

Dietary indiscretion is prevalent this time of year. According to the Pet Poison Help Line, the top 5 most common holiday calls in 2009 all had to do with pets eating something that didn’t agree with them:

Mistletoe and other holiday plants
Duraflame logs

Another way to reduce stress over Christmas is to maintain the normal schedule as much as possible. Pets are creatures of habit and changes to their daily routine can create anxiety (we furless creatures are often the same way!) Also, spending extra one-on-one time each day goes a long way and is beneficial to both you and your furry friend!

Have a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year!!


Next Topic: Pet Oxygen Mask project Part 2

The ABCs of CPR

The ABCs of CPR are Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. This is a quick overview of CPR to introduce the initial steps to take which must be done in order.

If you come upon a pet that is not breathing, after determining that the environment is safe, check the throat for obstructions and clear the Airway. Any obstructions in the mouth/throat should be removed manually or by performing the Heimlich Maneuver. Once the obstruction is removed and/or air can pass through the airway, check for Breathing. (Even if you cannot remove obstructions from the airway completely, you can give rescue breaths as long as some air can get to the lungs. It is more important to get air into the lungs than it is to completely clear the obstruction.) You can check for breathing by laying the pet on its left side then watch for the chest expand. Also, if you have a small mirror, you can check for condensation when placed next to the nose/mouth. If the pet is still not breathing after clearing the airway, a few quick rescue breaths are in order. The next step in CPR addresses Circulation. Check for a heartbeat by putting your hand on the left side of the pet’s chest. You can also check for pulses at the femoral artery which is located in the groin area, at the crease where the lower abdomen meets the upper thigh. If the heart is not beating at all, begin chest compressions. Alternate between rescue breaths and chest compressions until you get to the vet. We will learn more about CPR and how to perform it later, this is a summary and is by no means complete instructions on pet CPR.

Once you determine if Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is needed, you can help get oxygen to the lungs and blood flowing to the major organs until you get to the vet. Note: It is very important to make sure the pet is not breathing and does not have a pulse before starting CPR. It can be dangerous to perform CPR on a pet that is breathing normally and has a heartbeat.

More information can be found at these sites:

CPR for Dogs and Cats

Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs

Pet CPR & First Aid

Suggested Books:

Dog First Aid

Cat First Aid



Next Topic: The Pet Oxygen Mask Project

Do You Know What to Do in a Pet Emergency?

If a pet emergency occurs, the goal is to get to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible. An initial visual evaluation of the pet and area will be essential, so stay calm and be observant.

Look for abnormalities on the scene such as blood or vomit around the pet, access to poison or additional hazards in the area. Also, take notice of the pet’s condition – conscious or unconscious, disoriented, unable to walk, and other physical or behavioral abnormalities. All of this information will help you properly assess the situation before taking action, so staying calm and observing the environment first is vital. The information you gather will also be very helpful for the veterinarian and their staff once you arrive with the injured pet.

The most important thing to keep in mind is YOUR safety. If you are injured, you will not be able to help the pet. For example, if we see a dog get hit by a car, we may panic, not watch for traffic on the road then run into harm’s way as we try to get to the injured pup. Also, a pet in pain may lash out and bite, so handling an injured pet on the scene of an emergency may be very tricky. Once you assess the situation and ensure your own safety, then you can begin transport to the veterinary hospital. If possible, call the vet immediately to let them know you are on your way and what the situation is. This will give them time to set up the proper pet emergency equipment to treat injuries.

In addition to proper observation and safety skills, knowing our pets’ normal vital signs may help us administer basic first aid in a pet emergency. So, in our next blog, let’s find out what’s normal!

Here are some excellent resources on pet first aid by the American Red Cross:

Pet First Aid: Dogs and Cats

Be Red Cross Ready Safety Series Vol. 2: Dog First Aid

Be Red Cross Ready Safety Series Vol. 3: Cat First Aid

Pet Emergency

First Aid for Pets

Next Topic: The ABCs of CPR