Monday, April 19, 2010

Toxic plants and other outdoor dangers can make pets sick

Katie Gammill,
Charleston Area Dog Activity Club

Spring is peeking around the corner and once again, it is time to dig in the soil. There is no better feeling than sunshine on your back and warm earth between your fingers... Many dedicated gardeners will be accompanied by the family pet during this time.

Listed below are a few toxic plants, as well as other possible dangers. As they say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

This was drawn to my attention as of late. Sharpie ink markers give off fumes that are toxic. A friend’s grandchildren were coloring with Sharpie pens.

The two Cairn Terriers were playing around the children and one went into seizures. The other became quite sick, and after testing, the culprit was a specific chemical used in the marker.

One dog is fine; the other has permanent neurological damage. If packing and marking boxes, do not allow your dog into the area.

Your pet may have a negative reaction when it chews on ball-point pens, pencils or crayons. Other toxic articles are chocolate and jelly beans. Small dead rodents or animals that didn’t make it through the winter months can cause stomach upset, as well as bad breath.

A fungus known as “Rust” in the yard causes your dog to chew on its feet. This fungus can be addressed by a lawn service.

Always check the ingredients when spraying chemicals on your lawn. Many chemicals for insects and lawns are toxic to animals and small game. Inform your lawn person you have pets and insist they use a “pet safe” product to avoid problems.

Containers should be closed and put away in your garage in a safe area. Store them above the level of your pet or in an enclosed area. Be aware of what your neighbors and farmers are applying, as well.

It has been my experience that farm chemicals can cause females to absorb or abort litters. If you see an application in process, turn over all water and food dishes and bring the pets inside. This includes crop-spraying procedures.

Toxic plants that can cause gastrointestinal upsets are as follow: amaryllis, ferns, caladium, calla lily, hyacinth, iris and tulips.

Plants considered very toxic and can result in death are crocus, azalea, rhododendron, tiger lily, Easter lily, bittersweet, clematis, daffodil, purple night shade berries, foxglove, lily of the valley, narcissus, morning glory and death camas.

Poinsettias are on this list also, but of course, that is a winter plant. However, some place this flower in a dark closet during the summer to encourage growth and blooms during the season.

If your pet appears sick, try to determine the plant eaten, how much was eaten, and which part. At times, it is a part of the plant that is poisonous, such as the seeds, roots or stem. Plant identification is crucial. Take a sample into your vet.

There are few antidotes for poison. Your vet can determine if your pet needs intravenous fluids. There may be lasting effects on your pet’s health. Books are available at your local farm stores regarding how to landscape and pet proof your yard.

Compost is one of your biggest dangers. One particular concern is the cocoa mulch. The chocolate scent is attractive to dogs, but contains high concentrations of theobromine and caffeine. Dogs are drawn to organic mulch and peat.

Round Up, commonly used to kill weeds in the yard, has a devastating effect on animals, causing blood disorders and quick death. Although the can says once the chemical dries it is safe, I question whether the morning dew and rain can possibly reactivate the chemicals. If Round Up is applied, secure your pet in a safe place.

Another springtime issue is “shots” and inoculations for your pet. At one time, all shots were given at the same time. This might cause skin and immune system problems now being recognized by the veterinarian community.

In my breed, since we now “stagger” inoculations, the immune system problems are much less. Discuss this with your veterinarian and put your pet on a schedule more conducive to pet longevity and health.

Don’t forget, animals lick their feet and can ingest toxic ingredients like antifreeze and ice melt. If your animal appears lethargic, glassy eyed, is throwing up or having seizures, do not wait. An immediate trip to the vet is in order.

Your local nursery or greenhouse can advise of potential pet hazards and suggest proper storing of hazardous materials. Through careful planning, both you and your pet can enjoy your lawn and garden this spring.

Katie Gammill of Lerna is secretary of the Charleston Area Dog Activity Club, an American Kennel Club judge and free-lance writer. She is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America.

Friday, April 16, 2010 8:16 PM CDT : jg-tc online

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