Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lessons from the clinic

I haven't written much about my summer job since I write under my real name, and discussing specific cases would be a serious breach of patient/client confidentiality. That said, I can write about interesting things that I've learned this summer that I didn't know before. Here is the first installment of What I Learned on my Summer Vacation: Toxic Things.
There are a handful of items that most people are well aware of that are toxic to animals. Chocolate is a no-no, and recently everyone seems to have heard that grapes and raisins can be poisonous. But here are a few items that still surprise people when they hear about them...
Lilies: You tend to see newspaper articles and such about lilies being toxic to cats around Easter time, but they get forgotten about the rest of the year. All species of lily, including tiger lilies, stargazer lilies, and day lilies can cause acute kidney failure in cats. Without veterinary treatment within 48 hours of ingestion, prognosis is poor. If you have cats, or are giving flowers to a friend who has cats, please avoid lilies.
Pennies: Pennies minted after 1983 are made primarily of zinc, which can be toxic to dogs who eat the coins. Zinc toxicity can cause anemia, GI irritation, and organ failure. Keep pennies out of reach of puppies or dogs who like to snack on non-edible items!
Sugar-free gum: Many sugarless gums and candies are now sweetened with xylitol. While safe for humans, xylitol can cause a release of insulin in dogs, dropping their blood sugar to dangerously low levels. Clinical signs of xylitol toxicity include lethargy, seizures, and loss of coordination. Signs of toxicity can be seen after ingestion of as few as two pieces of gum in a small dog.
Onions: While I'm a big fan of adding fresh fruits and veggies to your pet's diet, onions are one to avoid. Onion ingestion can cause anemia in both dogs and cats, leading to lethargy and weakness. Signs can show up as long as a week after ingestion, so don't assume that if your dog is okay the day after eating some onions, he's out of the woods.
If your pet eats something unusual and you aren't sure whether or not it's toxic, you can call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center for help. They're open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, and they save lives!

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