Snail Bait Attracts Dogs Too

Jun. 10th | Posted by 0 comments
Such a Happy Box..  NOT!!

Such a Happy Box.. NOT!!

There were more than a few shockers moving from Mississippi to California but I think I have to say that Snail Bait was the biggest. First of all who wants to catch snails? They creep me out. OK so it poisons the snails. But I had never heard of it. Maybe it was because I have the brownest thumb ever. Or because everyone I knew used chickens for slug and snail control. Whatever the reason when my first case presented I was officially the most ignorant person on the subject for miles.

Fortunately my technicians on duty knew immediately what it was. You see if a dog has eaten snail bait they start seizing, and it doesn’t stop. Once you’ve seen it you never forget it. Other poisons and epilepsy can cause seizing but the seizure caused by snail bait goes on and on with no rest periods. And that is what kills the dog. All that muscle activity drives the body temperature up and the dog basically develops heat stroke. The only treatment involves iv catheters and muscle relaxants and enemas (more on all this later)

The most horrifying thing to me about snail bait is the packaging and the taste. Look at that box at the top of the page. Does that look like a highly poisonous substance? The stuff is flavored with molasses of all things and dogs have incredible sweet teeth as I’ve said in other posts. And it comes in cardboard packaging. The box you see in that picture had been opened then put up on a high shelf after only a handful of it was sprinkled around. The big dog in the house jumped up on the dryer, knocked the box on the floor from a shelf and then all the dogs in the house had a party. There is no way to close that kind of packaging and it must smell pretty darn good to inspire those kind of gymnastics in acquiring it. Incidentally people doctors tell me human children will also eat this stuff and develop the same symptoms.

Do not eat

Do not eat

So what to do? If you must use it I suggest buying the granulated and not pelleted form as it it harder for the dog to pick up larger quantities off the ground. And store the leftovers in a dog proof container up high. If your dog does get into some go to the vet… FAST. I say this because there is only a small window before it will no longer be possible to make your dog vomit it up. Once it takes effect vomiting is dangerous because the dog can inhale the vomit with all the seizuring. If your dog has already started to show signs such as becoming wobbly (a technical term there) treatment is only iv fluids and muscle relaxants to prevent the self cooking. Do not try and cool the dog down with a hose. Sudden drops in body temperature can bring about death by causing the blood cells to clot inside the blood vessels. Weird huh?

And don’t be surprised if your vet wants to do an enema at some point. Once the poison gets to the colon the body will start reabsorbing the toxin from the poop back into the bloodstream. So we want to get that “sh#t” out of there as quickly as possible… literally.

Last warning. When you visit other people remember they may not have a “doggie proofed “ yard. The case I treated last week had taken their dog to Grandma’s house. Guess what Grandma had put in her backyard the week before? That’s right… snail bait. Any questions?

Sugar free Xylitol is not so sweet

May. 13th | Posted by 1 comment
Pretty Poison

Sleuthing at Costco

This was going to be a no brainer post. You know one of those that just rolls off easily and I’m done. I got a lot going on this month. Kids transferring to colleges, associate quit so I’m short staffed, car breaking down, you know…the usual. The point was it’s simple… Xylitol the natural sweetener is not good for dogs. It can kill them with low blood sugar or liver failure. Slam dunk done.

The best laid plans of mice and veterinarians. So first thing I wanted to tell you is that dogs have sweet tooths. Big time. So the reason this (and chocolate) is a problem is they will root the gum etc out of your purse, gym bag and Christmas stocking before you even know it has happened. The solution at my house is to not have any there. I decided to research it so I can advise you as to which sugar free gum type is alright to have in your house. And then I got confused, very confused. It turns out the gum manufacturers have started combining all the different sugar substitutes in different combinations in different lines of their products. WHEW. As an example Wrigley’s gums Eclipse, Extra and Orbit gums all contain sorbitol, mannitol and aspartame but only Orbit contains xylitol. All of Trident’s gums except Trident layers have xylitol. The point to take away from this is read the package of gum you buy, every single time, as gum formulations also change over time.

Next During the research I hit some controversy over if the stuff is even good for humans. http://www.crunchybetty.com/xylitol-should-we-stop-calling-it-natural was my favorite blog that dissed the substance and its relationship to human health. I like natural living so this got me a little interested. I previously thought xylitol won out over other sweeteners for humans. But being willing to look at the other side I looked at this site http://www.xylitol.org/about-xylitol. While this site was supposed to make me feel better about xylitol and encourage me to practically bathe in it it had the opposite effect. I was creeped out. I felt I was in a slimey horror movie crossed with Brave New World encouraging me to take my mind altering drugs.

Back to the puppies. Within 10 minutes of xylitol ingestion blood sugar can drop to life threatening levels. This is because xylitol stimulates the pancreas to release insulin which thinks the xylitol is real sugar. Insulin makes all the real blood sugar leave the bloodstream and go into the cells, except the brain cells, which need the sugar in the blood to work. The brain malfunctions and the signs go the gamut from weakness to seizures. The pancreas, which apparently doesn’t give a whiff about the brain, is confused because it thinks the “sugar” didn’t listen to it as there is still all that xylitol in the blood stream. The pancreas dumps more insulin into the blood trying to get that pesky xylitol under control but only succeeds in killing the dog. The treatment is iv fluids and iv sugar to maintain the blood sugar levels until the xylitol is broken down by the liver.

The dosage that is able to cause the low blood sugar phenomena is small, 0.045 grams per pound translates into 1.5 sticks of gum for a 10# dog. Thankfully these problems only last about 12 hours (at most 24).

The potential liver damage from xylitol is a lot less straightforward. We don’t know why it happens. And while it seems to take 10 times the dosage needed to cause the blood sugar reaction. (10 sticks or more of gum per 10# of dog) not all dogs that get the liver failure problem will have the low blood sugar first. Also the liver damage can show up 8-12 hours after eating the gum but may take as long as 72 hours. this means 3 days before you are out of the woods.

Upshot is I really don’t think it’s worth having in the house. One stick dropped on the floor spells disaster for a small dog and a big dog can sniff that stuff out. Any questions?

Grapes are Poisonous??????

Apr. 29th | Posted by 0 comments
Favorite childhood flavor

Favorite childhood flavor

I remember the first time I heard that grapes could be poisonous to dogs. I simply did not want to believe it. After all grape was my favorite flavor growing up: Popsicles, gum, soda pop, you name it. And don’t we put grapes in kids lunch boxes? But then again I remember boycotting them because of the conditions of the workers picking them. But…. isn’t that where Resveratrol comes from which helps with anti aging? But grapes have a high glycemic index (translation bad for making blood sugar go up fast so that our body makes fat). I am so confused.

Well, guess what? So is the veterinary community. We have been noticing this grape problem as far as I can tell since 2002 and we still don’t know why it happens. Sometimes if a dog eats grapes it destroys their kidneys. Notice I say sometimes.

The reason the veterinary community is stumped is that no one has been able to isolate why the grapes damage the kidneys. Scientists have looked at the chemicals used on growing grapes or fungi that can be found on grapes. They have looked the the seeds and the skins. They now think it is in the flesh of the fruit. But juice seems to be safe. The other confusion is that the dosage can be very small that will cause damage but another dog can eat a whole pound and be unaffected. Another confusion is that why do we see this in dogs but not other animals??? Usually dogs can eat whatever people eat as we are both omnivores. While all of that remains a mystery the current toxic dosage is estimated at 0.7 oz per kilogram. This works out to a pound of grapes for a 50# dog. For smaller dogs as there are 4-6 grapes per ounce it works out to about 8 grapes (or raisins) per 5# of dog. Oh yea raisins are bad too. So trail mix and cookies dropped on the floor by school age kids are not good.

Dangerous dude

Dangerous dude

So what does this mystery chemical do? It kills the cells of the tubes that filter the blood in the kidneys. But, thank goodness, it does not kill off the structure known as the “basement membrane.” This means that while the house might be burnt down you still have the foundation. And that is how we save these animals.

If your pet eats raisins or grapes get them to the vet to make them vomit. You have a four hour window and the sooner the better. There are recommendations out there to use hydrogen peroxide but I don’t like it. It really irritates the esophagus and stomach. And any grape ingestion should be followed by iv fluids so you might as well go on in. The most important things to do are:
1. make the dog vomit
2. give activated charcoal to absorb and bind whatever is still in the gut and keep it out of the bloodstream
3. iv fluids for 36-72 hours to maintain kidney health, dilute the toxin and If there is no damage after 3 days you should be out of the woods.

Other things that are good but not as much of a priority ( I say this because if it is a choice between fluids or blood work I always go for the fluids) are blood tests to check the kidneys and various drugs to treat the symptoms of kidney trouble.

With the above treatment some dogs (I have seen a very wide variance in the percentages) regenerate the kidney cells. If the animal shows no kidney test abnormalities in 3 days it is most likely they are out of the woods.

So keep your raisins locked up with your sugar free gum and your dog will be safer. Oh didn’t you know xylitol in sugar free candy damages dog liver cells and can cause seizures? Well I guess I have to write another post. Any questions?

About Me

Dr. Valerie Patton, DVM
After decades in animal medicine, I've experienced everything from C-sections on cows in rural Mississippi to emergency room care in sunny California. I hope my funny escapades and pet care advice helps to make life with our furry friends all the more enjoyable!
-Dr. Valerie Patton, DVM

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