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Pets Large & Small


Dr. Kimberly Brokaw, DVM

(4/2013) I still remember my client telling me "But he's not a mouse" when trying to explain why she thought it was okay for her Jack Russell Terrier to eat mouse poison. Apparently the dog had been eating mouse poison for years and thus far had been lucky enough not to get a high enough dose to get sick or die. In fact the dog was just in for his annual vaccines when the topic came up. In my thought processes, it is obvious that mouse poison is poisonous to mice and rats, but is also poisonous to dogs and other species, including human children. To other people, the toxicity of mouse poison to other species just doesn't seem obvious. Unfortunately, some other substances that are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, are less known, even to experienced, long time, pet owners.

Two of the most frequent sources of poisonings that I see or am asked about are ibuprofen in dogs, and herbicides in horses. Owners often give their dogs ibuprofen because the dog hurt his leg or has some other minor injury that seems it isn't severe enough to see a vet immediately. Since it isn't a severe enough injury to see a vet, the owners don't get a prescription pain medicine like Previcox that is fairly safe for dogs. I always advise owners to avoid giving Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, or really any of your pain killers to a dog, unless you have asked a veterinarian about it first.

I am usually pretty calm when talking with clients, no matter what ill advised treatment clients have done prior to coming in. I believe that clients usually go to great efforts to take good care of their animals. When they make mistakes, it is usually because they did not know there was a better way to care for their pet. In fact I can only think of one client who upset me so much that I inadvertently yelled at him. This client had brought his dog in because the dog had hurt his leg. He'd given the dog ibuprofen. When the dog began vomiting blood and had diarrhea, he came to me at the clinic, wondering what was wrong. I told him that the vomiting and diarrhea were caused by the ibuprofen and that ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) is toxic to dogs. He nodded as if he understood. Luckily I was able to treat the dog and the dog got better. Not only was I able to get the vomiting and diarrhea to stop promptly, but the dog was lucky in that follow up blood work showed that there had been no damage to the liver or kidneys. By the time the dog had recovered from the ibuprofen related gastrointestinal problems, he was no longer limping and his leg seemed to have healed.

Two weeks later, the gentleman came back to the clinic. The dog had been running in the field and fell in a hole and hurt his leg again. The owner even admitted that while he knew I had told him not to give the dog Ibuprofen, the dog seemed so sore on the leg that he gave it to him anyway. While the dog was no longer limping, he was vomiting and had diarrhea. Again I treated the dog and told the owner that ibuprofen is poisonous and he should NOT give it.

About a month later, one of my vet assistants came into the office with a patient folder in her hand. She handed me the folder and told me to take a deep breath before I opened it. My assistant told me the gentleman was on the phone and he needed to speak with me because he had given his dog ibuprofen and again he was vomiting. I lost my composure. I picked up the phone and flat out asked the man loudly how many times he was going to give his dog poison and risk killing him. After my brief and angry outburst, I felt guilty. I told him to put his wife on the phone. I nicely explained the situation to her. I said that her husband was repeatedly giving the dog something toxic and that while I'd discussed it with him he wasn't listening. I told her that if she wasn't lucky her husband might inadvertently kill the dog. As I was hanging up the phone I heard her screaming furiously at her husband. It has been almost a year since our phone call, and I haven't had to treat the dog for ibuprofen induced bloody vomiting.

Sometimes, things that are fine for humans to eat are not good for pets. While pets may enjoy nontraditional foods (such as my sister's older horse who loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) not all human food is safe for pets. Some foods that you should avoid giving your dog include: coffee and other caffeine containing products such as chocolate and tea, avocado, grapes, raisins, raw meat (salmonella and E.coli), xylitol (an artificial sweetener), onions (raw and cooked), garlic and macadamia nuts. Some of these foods are safe in moderate amounts if your dog is large. My mother's 95lb Chesapeake Bay Retriever has finished off a batch of chocolate brownies on several occasions. When the amount of theobromine, the toxic ingredient in a chocolate brownie, is calculated, the 95 lb dog can eat several brownies without risking illness. If a Jack Russell Terrier ate the same number of brownies, it could be fatal. If your pet eats something and you are worried it might be poisonous, contact the Animal Poison Control Center 888-426-4435. There is a charge for calling the Animal Poison Control Center, but you may be able to avoid an expensive trip to the emergency clinic by listening to their advice.

Some serious poisoning are related to dogs eating old, decayed food. While the leftovers from your Easter dinner may not be a problem if Fido takes them off the kitchen counter right after dinner, they may cause serious harm if he eats them after they have been in the trash for a week. When hunters leave deer carcasses in suburban areas, it is common for neighborhood dogs to eat the carcasses days or weeks later, and to become extremely ill. Dogs seem to not realize that their stomachs cannot always tolerate old and rotten "leftovers." These poisonings are difficult for owners to prevent because a dog can gulp down rotten food before the owner realizes that the dog has found and is eating something spoiled.

It is not always possible to avoid exposing your pet to poisonous substances. However, a little thought can prevent many common poisonings. When poisoning occurs, the Animal Poison Control Center and your local veterinarian can help you treat the problem.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw