Labor Day is fast approaching, and many of us are looking forward to a long weekend full of block parties, barbeques and soaking in the last few drops of summer sun.
We know you’ll agree that holidays are much more fun when we celebrate with the four-legged members of our family, but pet parents should note that many beloved Labor Day festivities and foods can be downright dangerous to our animal companions. So this weekend, as you say goodbye to summer, keep your pets happy and healthy with these safety tips in mind:
Mind the dog days of summer. It may be September, but the weather is still hot, hot, hot. Animals can become dehydrated quickly, so be sure your pets are getting plenty of water over the weekend—especially if they’ll be enjoying the holidays outdoors. Make sure your pet has a shady place to escape the sun, and avoid letting your pup linger on hot asphalt. Your dog’s body can heat up quickly and sensitive paw pads can get burned.
Stash the sunscreen—and the bug spray, too. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in serious problems for pets, including drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy, while the misuse of insect repellents that include the chemical DEET can lead to neurological problems. Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of pets’ reach, too. And never apply sunscreen or insect repellent to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals.
Grilling? Keep matches and lighter fluid out of paws’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which can damage blood cells and result in breathing difficulties or even, in severe cases, kidney disease if ingested. Lighter fluid can be irritating to the skin and, if ingested or inhaled by a curious pup, can produce gastrointestinal irritation, central nervous system depression and aspiration pneumonia.
Leave the treats to the humans. Labor Day is the perfect time for backyard barbeques—and the tasty treats that come with them. While it may be tempting to serve your pup some scraps from the grill, remember that any changes to your pet’s diet can result in severe digestive ailments. Keep them away from raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and sugar-free products made with the sweetener xylitol, as these holiday favorites are toxic to pets—and never leave alcoholic beverages unattended where your pet can reach them.
Celebrating Lakeside? Buy your dog a life jacket—and use it. If you’ll be boating or spending time by the beach, lake or pool, never leave your pets unsupervised around the water. Just like with people, it’s easy for your pup to develop a cramp in her leg while swimming, become exhausted too far from shore or get overwhelmed by tides. Please consider purchasing a life jack for your dog. It’s easy to become distracted, and a life jacket can save her life.
Fireworks and pets don’t mix. Loud noises like the ones caused by fireworks can be frightening for pets. In fact, one in five pets goes missing after being scared by loud noises. In addition, exposure to lit fireworks can result in severe burns or trauma, and many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances like potassium, nitrate and arsenic that can be deadly when ingested. Keep your little ones calm and safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.
On a recent Sunday evening, New Yorker Oscar Q. was watching his three dogs play when he noticed something unusual about his five-year-old Shih Tzu, Buddy: The dog’s left eye was dangling from its socket.
Oscar immediately took Buddy to the Animal Medical Center, who referred him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) the following day. At AAH, Buddy was assessed by Drs. Kristen Frank and Anna Podgorska, and on Tuesday, Dr. Maren Krafchik removed his eye.
Displacement of the eyeball out of the eye socket is a condition known as proptosis, and it often occurs after fighting with a larger dog or following trauma to the face or head.
“I wanted to save his eye, but as long as he’s alive, that’s what's more important to me,” said Oscar, adding that Buddy often plays with other dogs, but such a thing had never happened to him before.
Eye proptosis is not unusual in brachycephalic dog breeds—those with bulging eyes, short snouts and shallow eye sockets—like Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Pugs, Lhasa Apsos and Boston Terriers. For these breeds, even mild restraint or play can result in eye proptosis. Dog breeds with long noses and deep-set eyes are less likely to experience proptosis.
Because proptosis occurs most commonly after trauma, there are no real preventative measures pet owners can take. “Owners of brachycephalic breeds should be aware that their pet is predisposed to this condition and seek medical attention immediately in the event of proptos,” said Dr. Frank. “In certain cases, [eye removal] can be avoided with prompt medical and surgical intervention by a veterinarian.”
As of August 31, 35 eye removal surgeries have been performed at AAH this year for a variety of reasons, including infections and deformities of the eye, diseases of the eye, and trauma like Buddy’s.
On the bright side, eye removal is usually tolerated well by dogs and cats, and Oscar says Buddy is recovering well. “We treat our dogs like kids,” he said. “And Buddy is adored by everyone.”
Disaster can strike at any time, so it’s important to be prepared to take action at a moment’s notice. But have you considered what to do with your pet? September is Disaster Preparedness Month, and we’re taking this opportunity to make sure that pet parents are ready to respond if necessary.
Here are three ways to make sure your family is prepared to handle any emergency:
Toby, an eight-year-old male tabby, had never had any medical issues until he suddenly became blocked, or unable to urinate, one day last month.
“He was going to his litter box constantly,” said Carlos B. of the Bronx, who adopted Toby as a kitten. “Back and forth, back and forth—and his personality seemed to change.”
So Carlos and his girlfriend, Julie, brought Toby to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), where he was diagnosed with Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS), or urinary blockage, by Dr. Maren Krafchik.
Most cats affected by FUS are in the one- to eight-year range, like Toby. Common symptoms include:
Straining to urinate
Frequent small urinations
Blood in the urine
Inappropriate urination (somewhere other than the litter box)
Straining without urination (urinary obstruction)
Crying, restlessness, or hiding because of discomfort
Loss of appetite
“Urinary blockage is a life-threatening emergency,” says Dr. Krafchik. “Potassium levels (as well as kidney toxins) rise in the bloodstream and can cause death in a cat.”
A urinary catheter was placed to unblock Toby’s urethra and allow urine to drain from Toby’s bladder, and he received intravenous fluids and pain medication. The urinary catheter was removed a few days later, and Toby was sent home. Unfortunately, this condition can reoccur, and Toby returned to the Hospital three weeks later with another urinary obstruction. “He went back to his old symptoms,” Carlos said.
Given Toby’s history of chronic straining and urinary problems, ASPCA veterinarians recommended a Perineal Urethrostomy (PU). This is a surgical procedure in which the external penis/urethral tissue is incised and sutured open in order to permanently widen the urethral opening. This surgery, commonly performed at AAH, helps decrease the chance of future bladder obstruction.
“Male cats are susceptible to developing obstructions of the urethra because their urethral diameter is so small,” says Dr. Krafchik.
As of earlier this month, AAH has performed catheterization procedures for urinary blockage on 163 cats, and 37 PU surgeries—an average of almost one procedure per day in 2015.
“Many people think their pets are misbehaving by urinating outside of the litter box,” says Dr. Krafchik. “The reality is that there can be an underlying reason for the behavior such as bladder inflammation, crystals, stones, or less likely, infection.”
Carlos reports that since Toby’s PU procedure, he is back to his old self. “He is really happy, very friendly, and playful, which we missed so much,” Carlos says. “He's eating and his bodily functions are back to normal.”
It began as an innocent walk in the park: A 9-month-old, 60 lb. German Shepherd mix went out for a stroll with her owner before spending 30 minutes alone in the backyard. When the dog reentered the house, her owner noticed that her eyes were rolling back and that her gait was uncoordinated. She also defecated in the house.
At the critical care facility, things only got worse: the pup was drooling, feverish and began seizing and vomiting. That was when veterinarians discovered the root of her illness: blue-green algae. The owner confirmed that the algae had been present in a backyard pond.
After 18 hours of critical care, including emergency intubation and ventilation for respiratory failure, the dog’s life was saved. She was discharged after three more days in the hospital, and fortunately, she is now back to her normal, happy self. But blue-green algae can form almost anywhere and can be a danger to any unsuspecting pet parent. That’s why the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to keep you informed about this toxic bacterium.
Members of the phylum Cyanobacteria, blue-green algae usually form on or near bodies of water during warm weather months. It is typically found in ponds and lakes, but can also be present in oceans, fresh water, damp soil, backyard fountains and even on rocks. Dogs can develop poisoning when they drink from or swim in contaminated water sources. If consumed, blue-green algae can cause severe neurologic or liver signs. Signs of blue-green algae toxicity include:
Prevention is key. Don’t allow your pets to drink from stagnant ponds, lakes or other bodies of water that have bluish-green scum on the surface or around the edges. Blue-green algae cells can also stick to a pet’s fur and be ingested when the animal cleans itself, so think twice before allowing your pet to jump into a body of water.
If you think that your pet is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately!