Don't be sweet to your dog

Christmas holiday is upon us. In the season of giving, chocolate is a popular gift.

As a chocolate lover, I know how a chocolate can raise your spirit. As well as most people, dogs tend to have a “sweet tooth” too, but for our canine friends, chocolate in large amount is harmful, even fatal. 

Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which contain a toxic substance called theobromine.

Cacao beans also contain caffeine, but in much smaller amounts than theobromine. Both theobromine and caffeine are members of a drug class called methylxanines.

Theobromine is toxic for dogs because they process it much more slowly than humans. Seventeen hours after eating chocolate, half of the theobromine is still in the dog’s system.

Theobromine is also toxic to cats, however, cats are less likely to ingest chocolate than dogs. 

Theobromine and caffeine can adversely affect the nervous system, and the heart. They can also lead to increase of the blood pressure.

The early signs of chocolate intoxication are nausea (manifested by drooling and smacking the lips) vomiting, and excessive urination.

Truly toxic amounts can induce hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures and eventually respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

The more theobromine a cocoa product contains, the more poisonous it is to your dog. 

Researches showed that one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is potentially lethal.

Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are riskiest, milk and white chocolate pose a much less serious risk.

Twenty ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate could potentially kill a 22-pound dog. 

Small dogs are at greater risk of chocolate toxicity than large dogs because they can be poisoned by small quantities of chocolate.

In most instances, diagnosis is based upon physical exam findings in combination with a history of access to chocolate. There is no definitive test for chocolate ingestion.

Unfortunately, theobromine has no antidote. The treatment for chocolate toxicity is primarily supportive.

Treatment focuses on addressing symptoms and problems that develop until the toxins are excreted by the body.

In most cases, intoxication resolves within 24-36 hours.

If the dog was presented shortly after the ingestion, attempts to reduce the poison absorption can be made by inducing vomiting or feeding active charcoal. Intravenous fluids and anti seizure medication are also frequently required.

Symptoms of intoxication usually occur four to 24 hours after ingestion.
Prevention is the key. Keep all chocolate goodies in a non-accessible place for your pet. Don’t share any chocolate with your pet on any circumstances; not even on its birthday.

If you suspect that your dog got exposed to chocolate, contact your veterinarian.

The dog’s weight, the type and amount of the chocolate ingested are all important information for the vet, in order to assess the dog’s risk and condition.

The holiday season is a wonderful time for families to spend time together and connect.

Paying attention to your gluttonous pet’s eating is a one sure way of keeping you joyful and away from the vet’s office.  

Sleeping with your dog

Dogs are known as man’s best friends, but their place in the family has changed.

It used to be common to keep the dog outside, even it was a companion and not a guard dog.

Nowadays, it's much more common to keep the dog indoors.

In fact, many dog owners are welcoming their dog into their beds, and I get asked quite often whether this is recommended.

Whether dogs should sleep with their owners is a personal choice, but there are pros and cons.

The bond between a human and a dog can be potentially even stronger than the bond between human beings.

Your dog doesn't judge you. Your dog loves you unconditionally, and always will. It’s a bond you can trust and rely on.

Many people find the physical presence of their dog in their bed soothing and a source of security.

The problems that can arise from sleeping with a pet are divided — behavioral aspects, and medical aspects for both owner and dog.

When it comes to aggressive dogs, dominant dogs or young dogs still being trained, sleeping with their owner can blur the boundaries for the dog.

In a healthy relationship between a dog and its owner, it is clear that the owner is the alpha (the leader), that the owner is in charge and sets the tone.

If the dog is allowed into the owner’s bed, it may confuse it and send mixed messages. Having its own bed, and sometimes even sleeping in a crate, is required for some dogs in order to establish this hierarchy.

As for the medical aspect of the owners: clearly, the biggest issue is hygiene.

Dogs walking outside bare paws may step in urine, feces or any other contaminated surface.

If you let your dog into the bed, it's recommended to minimally clean the it’s paws before allowing it into the bed.

One should also be mindful for external parasites such as ticks, fleas, or lice, which can also infest humans. The parasites are not found only on the dog, they may also be present anywhere in its environment.

Letting your dog sleep in your bed increases your chance of getting exposed and the potential infestation by these parasites.

Dogs that are commonly taken on hikes, camping and have an abundant access to the outdoors, as well as dogs that spend time in doggy daycares, grooming facilities or any other place that they can come in contact with other pets, can get by these external parasites.

If your dog is infested by external parasite, it’s an easy fix when it comes to the dog.

There are a wide variety of recommended veterinary pest control products. One must know that a crucial part of the parasites extermination is by sterilizing the entire dog’s environment including all the house and bedding.

Some dogs are very sensitive and prone to allergies. The laundry detergent and softeners that people use can be a source of a severe contact dermatitis (allergy that causes severe skin inflammation).

A special hazard concerning small dogs can arise from the dog jumping off the bed, or falling off the bed. Especially if the mattress is very thick, which makes the bed very high.

I’ve witnessed dozens of leg fractures and knees ligament tearing because of a bad fall of the bed.

There is no one right answer to the question whether your dog should sleep in your bed.

It is a personal choice that depends on a few factors:

  • the type of dog 
  • its personality 
  • your family lifestyle and activities that can potentially expose the dog to some unwanted invitees
  • the type of bond you are choosing to have with your pet.

If you choose to welcome your dog into your bed, take some precautionary measures such as keeping your pet up to date on his pest control and deworming, and make sure the dog has a safe way of getting off the bed without risking an injury.

If you want your dog close, but not necessarily in your bed, place its bed near your bed, which may be the best compromise for all.    

Hot pets dangerous

We are all so lucky to live in a paradise like the Okanagan.

We get to enjoy the best of the best that the valley has to offer. Your pet would absolutely love to join you to any activity in the sun. Even if the pet stays behind at home and is kept outside the house, it is important to remember pets should be protected from the sun and prolonged exposure to hot temperature that can lead to heat stroke.  

Heat stroke occurs when the body is exposed to high temperature or humidity over a long period of time. The heat-regulating mechanisms of the body are unable to effectively deal with the heat, causing the body temperature to climb uncontrollably.

Young and old animals are more sensitive to high temperatures, as well as heavy coated pets and short snouts animals such as pug, shih tzu, boxers, Pekinese, bulldogs and Persian cats.

Heat stroke is considered when the body temperature is generally higher than 40 C or 104 F.

The high body temperature affects cellular activity of all internal organs and is a life-threatening condition.

The symptoms start by heavy panting and drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, weakness and confusion.

As the heat prostration progresses. the gums become dry due to dehydration, and vomit and diarrhea may become bloody.

Terminal stages are manifested by seizures or coma, shallow breathing or absence of breathing effort and finally death.

Heat stroke is an emergency condition that requires an immediate medical care.

If your pet is showing signs of heat stroke, transfer it immediately to a cool, shaded spot, pour cool, but not icy, water on your pet. You can pour alcohol on your pet paws. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, which is helpful in cooling down the body.

First aid is crucial in the first minutes heat stroke, however your pet’s well being should not stop there.

Your pet should be checked by a veterinarian as other medical problems (kidney failure, heart, neurological, intestinal problems) could arise hours or even days following a heat stroke.

Prevention is the key. Here are few tips how to keep your pet safe.

Pets should stay well hydrated when travelling or hanging out in the outdoors. Don’t forget to bring along water for your pets.

Do not encourage your dog to run and play outside in the hot hours of the day, exercise your dog in the early morning or evening hours. 

Make sure your pet has a shady place to rest at. It is very important to remember not to leave pets in cars greenhouses or similar hot environments.

Leaving a pet in the car in the hot day, even with a cracked open window can be deadly even just after few minutes.

When you are taking your dog to the lake, don’t assume that they are hydrated just for the fact that they are in the water. Supply drinking water for them.

I hope you’ll enjoy the summer with your pet, keep everybody safe and cool and away from the vet’s office.

Does my pet have cancer?

Breast cancer has been one of the hottest topics drawing people's attention and awareness in the last few years. 

There are numerous fundraising campaigns to raise money for improving and further developing research on breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Women are not the only target of this nasty cancer

Pets very often suffer from this type of cancer as well. According to veterinary literature, breast cancer in bitches is three times more common than in women.

The exact mechanism and cause of mammary cancer is still unknown, however it is known that the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, play a role in its development. 

Mammary cancer types and biologic behaviour differ between dogs and cats

Mammary tumours in dogs are most frequent in intact bitches, and extremely rare in male dogs. 

Due to the cancer relation to hormones, it is very important that new dog owners be aware that they can be proactive and most likely prevent the cancer occurrence in their bitch just by spaying her at an early age.

Spaying the bitch before the first estrus cycle reduces the risk of mammary neoplasia to 0.5% of the risk in intact bitches, which is a very low risk. 

If the procedure is done after one estrus cycle, it reduces the risk to 8% of that in intact bitches. Bitches spayed after maturity (having had two or more estrus cycles) are generally considered to have the same risk as intact bitches. Spaying the dog at maturity still carries other medical benefits, but unfortunately does not prevent mammary cancer.

In cats it is a bit of a different story. Early spaying, before the first menstrual cycle, does reduce the chances for mammary cancer development but the degree of protection is less precisely documented than that for dogs.

Only 45-50% of mammary tumours are cancerous in dogs. In cats, however, about 90% of mammary tumours are cancerous.

A mammary tumour is usually suspected on detection of a mass during physical examination

Grossly, the tumours appear as single or multiple nodules in one or more glands. The tumour appearance is usually lobulated, grey-tan in colour, firm to the touch, and often with fluid-filled cysts.

Once the tumour has been found, a pathological examination is required to characterize its nature. This is done by sampling the tissue either by fine needle aspiration, an easy procedure that is usually done within several minutes and commonly does not require sedation/anesthesia. 

Fine needle aspiration cannot always guarantee reliable results, though. A more accurate method is by acquiring a true sample of the tumour tissue, done by a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia. 

Once the tumour is diagnosed as cancerous, other tests such as lymph nodes sampling and chest x rays are recommended to assess the tumour spread. 

The primary treatment for any mammary tumour is surgical

The surgical options include the removal of the tumour only (lumpectomy), removal of the affected mammary gland (mastectomy), or removal of the entire mammary chain (radical mastectomy). Chemotherapy is also available, but is not always successful in helping to prolong the pet’s life. 

The earlier the tumour is found and diagnosed, the better the chances for treatment and spread prevention. If you suspect a mammary tumour in your pet, take it to be checked by your vet ASAP. 

Do your part

If you’ve just adopted a kitten or puppy, and you are not interested in breeding it, don’t delay the spaying. Beyond spaying, keeping your pet fit and on a healthy diet play a role in mammary tumour prevention. 

It has been demonstrated that consumption of red meat, obesity at one year of age, and obesity a year prior to the tumour diagnosis are associated with an increased risk of mammary gland tumours in both intact or spayed dogs. 

You can be proactive in helping with the prevention of mammary tumours in your pet. Talk to your veterinarian to get more information on mammary tumours and their management.  

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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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