Wednesday, 26 June 2019

A story about chewing gum

I thought it was time I wrote a post dedicated our tiny friend chewing gum. We as humans love the stuff, we sometimes chew it noisily on the underground or when we're talking to people. It's a handy candy that freshens the breath. Ever noticed how the taste and mintyness wares off super quick tho!?

Now the responsible amongst us place these extinct sticky things into the nearest waste bin, but there is the other half of the population that simply spit them onto the ground, or drop them onto it. We've all seen those cardboard posters placed on lamposts to encourage people to dispose of them correctly, this isn't a new problem.

What has changed or is a new development is that increasingly they are made with the ingredient 'Xylitol'. Xylitol is a polyalcohol that is used in foods as a sugar substitute. It's naturally occurring and can be found in strawberries, pumpkins etc albeit in low levels. However high doses even in humans can cause a laxative effect and worse, it's even banned from soft drinks in the EU.

However, in dogs, it's much worse. And what do dogs like to do? Well, this year alone I've seen numerous cases of dogs out on their routine walks in their local park ingesting these little morsels off the floor. I mean to a dog these smell great, the flavour hasn't disappeared for a dogs nose, and once in the mouth, I've yet to meet an owner that can retrieve it before it gets swallowed.

Queue a call to us. Luckily there's been some big campaigns about this recently and public perception of the risk is changing. Quite recently I had a guy call and say that his little dog had ingested what he thought was chewing gum and before I even had to start my routine speech of trying to convince them that they should really bring their pet in he announced that he had seen on crufts just how dangerous this could be and he wanted to come down right away to make his dog sick. Great, that made my life a little easier! However, there are still just as many owners that don't believe that one tiny weeny piece of gum can really cause harm.
So the facts: *readily available online

'Xylitol may cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar as well as causing liver damage to dogs. Cats and people do not experience this problem. Typically, the dose needed to cause poisoning is at least 0.05 grams per pound of body weight (0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight). Chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22-1.0 gram of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint. Thus, to achieve a potentially toxic dose, a 10-pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum!'

Key facts there is 'just one piece'. In dogs Xylitol causes Insulin to be released as it's absorbed very quickly. This huge release of insulin causes low sugar in the bloodstream - Hypoglycaemia which is dangerous, can lead to seizures and be fatal! Xylitol also affects the liver and can cause damage to it. The prognosis for liver failure is poor.

Luckily the case that I was talking about earlier made a full recovery. His owner acted quickly and we were able to make his pooch sick and bring up the gum before it had a chance to have a huge effect. However that dog still went on to have fluids for 24/48 hours and repeat blood tests as is common practice to help flush out all of the toxic substance. Their poor little faces get me every time that we have to make them sick, they come in so happy wagging their tails and then suddenly get the feeling they need to vomit, but at least we get to give them lots of cuddles afterwards!

If you think your pet has ingested chewing gum or another harmful substance get it to your local vet without delay.
There's loads of literature online that you can read and another helpful service open to pet owners is: - Further reading

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Fireworks, it's almost time again

Fireworks are almost upon again us here in the UK, perhaps they've already even started where you are.

It's always a tough one for animal lovers and those that love fireworks. On one hand, you have a fun family night with lots of Oooohs and Ahhhhs and neck craning. Let's face it even pet owners like fireworks, owning a pet doesn't make you immune. It does however maybe make you more aware of the potential effects. 

Perhaps you're one of the lucky pet owners, then your pet doesn't bat an eyelid, barely notices them or is tone deaf. Wonderful, we all hope to be those kinds of owners!

In my experience, though you're more likely to be one of those unlucky pet owners. Your pet, be it a cat, dog, horse or other, is anxious, nervous, petrified. It's well known that Dogs have hearing 3 x better than that of a human. "The frequency range of dog hearing is between 16-40 Hz (compared to 20–70 Hz for humans) and up to 45–60 kHz (compared to 13–20 kHz for humans), which means that dogs can detect sounds far beyond the upper limit of the human auditory spectrum."

Cats on, on the other hand,n hear even higher frequencies than that, they're similar to us at the lower ranges but can hear up to 64 kHz which is 1.6 octaves above us!

Their impressive hearing is just one factor, it's probably the biggest. However, there's also the bright lights, change of routine (not being allowed out in the garden). I feel even more sorry for those horses that aren't put away for the night and have close proximity to the fireworks themselves. There's also the anxiety of the owner and how this can have a negative impact on the pet - 'if they're scared I should be too...pack mentality.'

Keep an eye on your pet's behaviour, it doesn't have to be the terrier running around the house like a mad dog and barking, it can be more subtle - hiding, odd toileting habits etc. There are steps you can take to help and visiting your local vet practice could be the first step. One of my biggest bits of advice is not to solely think that sedatives are the answer - some of these merely make your pet more immobile, this doesn't stop them hearing or seeing the fireworks and these can sometimes cause more harm than good. Some of the following can help:
  • Close the curtains, keep your pet inside - or walk your dog earlier in the day. 
  • Provide a den, a comfortable place to hide,
  • Think about putting the TV on, try not to leave your pet alone but equally don't get worked up yourself - as this will only add to the anxiety.
  • Don't punish your dog. If your cat decides to hide let them.

Some of the products below I not only have experience of in my day to day work but I have also personally had to use on my own pets. However, each animal can react differently, what works for one may do nothing for another. So I must advise that you see your local vet and never rule out that something else may be going on. *please note I have not been paid or asked to review any of these products

Some useful products currently on the market most if not all are available without a prescription; 
  • Feliway - For cats - Home diffuser - 
  • Adaptil - For dogs - Home diffuser - Both of these are in my opinion really helpful. Below explains their use, and it's exactly the same for cats.
"Mother dogs communicate with their puppies using natural “comforting messages” released from the mammary zone.  These "comforting messages“ are scientifically called Dog Appeasing Pheromones. They are odourless and are only perceived by dogs.  These “comforting messages” provide a strong signal of comfort and security to the puppies but also have the same effect on dogs of all ages."

  • Zlykene - This can be a helpful non-prescription medication. It's a capsule that can be given to both cats and dogs. Some people fear giving cats capsules as it may stress them out more, and I can agree with this. However, the capsules can be opened and sprinkled on food. I've personally used these for my own cats and noticed a marked improvement. 
  • RCW Calm - Again I've used this myself and it can be a really good alternative for people that don't want to have to give medication and pills. It's a complete diet with the added benefit of; "equilibrium - Contains hydrolyzed milk protein and tryptophan, an amino acid involved in balanced serotonin metabolism." 
I have linked some really helpful websites below, most have reviews of the products and helpful videos.

This video is also really helpful from the charity Cats Protection: