Although dogs are our best friends, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by canines in the United States every year. Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and at least half of the 800,000 people who receive medical care for dog bites each year are children. To reduce the number of these injuries, adults and children should be educated about bite prevention, and dog owners should practice responsible dog guardianship. May 17-23 is Dog Bite Prevention Week, and we’d like to take this opportunity to share a few ways that you can prevent dog bites from happening in your community.
Ask first before petting a dog. When meeting an unfamiliar dog, don’t reach out to pet her. First, ask her pet parent, “May I pet your dog?” A strange hand in a dog’s face may scare her, leading to a bite.
After you receive permission to pet a dog, let her sniff your closed hand. Then, you may proceed to pet her shoulders or chest. Avoid petting the top of the dog’s head.
Don’t toucha dog who is sleeping, eating or chewing a toy. Respect her space, as startled dogs are more likely to bite.
Avoid dogs who are barking or growling. It is also best to steer clear of dogs who are loose, behind a fence or tied up.
If an unknown dog approaches you, stay quiet and still. Do not run or scream.
Please share our handy guide below with your friends and family members on your social media networks. For more information, visit aspca.org/dogbiteprevention.
On Friday, April 17, the FDA issued a new report about the danger that human topical creams can pose to animals. In light of this new safety alert, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants to make sure that all pet parents are armed with the latest information to keep your furry friends safe.
Compounded topical creams (or ointments) may contain common and potent ingredients known as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Examples include diclofenac and flurbiprofen. Although these ingredients are commonly found in creams used to relieve sore joints and muscles, they can be toxic to your pets.
Pet ingestion of even the smallest amount of human topical cream can lead to serious issues, especially in cats. Note that a small exposure can even constitute a pet licking their owner’s skin after recent application of the product. Typical signs of exposure include:
Acute Kidney Failure
Death can occur without immediate treatment after exposure
Please remember that topical products are still considered human medication—the number one cause of pet poisoning in 2014—and should be kept away from your pets at all times. If your pet does come into contact with one of these products, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately!
Today is Earth Day! We all love our furry friends, but many pet parents don’t realize just how much of an impact animal companions can have on our planet. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can go green with the four-legged friend in your life. Here are some simple and fun ways you and your pet can cut down on waste and do your part for Mother Earth this year:
Reuse, Recycle and Donate. Before you throw away the old towels, bedding, litter boxes and leashes you’ve accumulated over the year, call your local shelter. They often have a need for these household items, and your pet’s gently-used products can go a long way in making a shelter animal very happy!
Clean Green. Put away the bleach and protect your pets from toxic chemicals often found in household cleaning supplies by reaching for vinegar, baking soda or lemon to clean pet messes. These eco-friendly alternatives remove odors and kill mold and bacteria. Not sure what products in your house are hazardous? Check out our list of pet toxins that may be in your home.
Go Natural. Consider opting for biodegradable doggie bags over the plastic kind, choosing kitty litter made out of plant-based materials like wheat or wood chips, and looking for pet products made from recycled plastics and natural materials.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL., handled more than 167,000 calls involving pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances in 2014. Nearly 16% of those calls were from pet parents whose pets got into medicines intended for human use, putting this category at the top of the toxin list for the seventh year in a row.
Here are the 10 most common pet toxins of 2014 ranked in order of call volume:
Human prescription medications are most often exposed to pets, as mentioned above. The prescriptions that caused the most concern correlated with the most popular medications prescribed to humans.
Over-the-counter medications, including herbal and other natural supplements, attracted greater concern this year than in previous years resulting in approximately 25,000 calls. This category is exceptionally large, encompassing more than 6,900 different products.
Insecticides dropped to the third slot this year, comprising 9.1% of calls to the APCC (15,000 cases). These products can be very dangerous, especially if the label directions are not followed.
Household items were the cause for concern in more than 13,500 cases, especially paints and cleaning products.
Human foods are appealing to pets, especially dogs. Dogs can get into serious trouble by ingesting onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and xylitol, a sugar substitute which can be life-threatening for animals. Approximately 13,200 cases involved human foods in 2014.
Veterinary medications made up 7% of total cases in 2014. Pet parents should be aware that chewable medications are very tasty and pets might ingest an entire bottle if it is not kept out of their reach.
Chocolate ingestion is very common. At the APCC, chocolate calls make up 6% of the total call volume—more than 30 calls a day! The darker the chocolate, the more potential it has to do harm.
Plants represent approximately 5% of the calls to the APCC and moved up a spot since 2014. Most of these calls involve cats and houseplants.
Rodenticides are made to kill mice and rats, but they can also kill pets if ingested. APCC handled more than 7,500 calls about rodenticides last year.
Lawn and garden products round out the top ten, accounting for about 2.7% of all calls. Many of these exposures occurred because people did not store lawn and garden products out of the reach of pets.
Want more poison control information at your fingertips? Download our free APCC by ASPCA mobile app, which features a searchable database of more than 275 toxins as well as helpful information for pet parents of dogs, cats, horses and birds. The app helps users quickly and accurately identify common hazards.
If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.
Madonna, a three-year-old pit bull mix with a sweet disposition, arrived at the ASPCA last May, part of a group of eight dogs rescued by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). All of the dogs were in extreme stages of neglect and were suffering from skin and ear infections, intestinal parasites, dental disease and other illnesses, but only Madonna tested positive for heartworm.
Heartworm is a serious disease: The spaghetti-like worms, which can grow up to a foot in length, live in the hearts, lungs and associated blood vessels of infected animals. They are carried in a microscopic form (known as microfilaria) by mosquitoes that transmit the worms when they bite other animals. They can circulate in the bloodstream, mature, multiply and can eventually obstruct the flow of blood to the heart and lungs. If not treated, heartworm can be fatal.
While dogs are the most common hosts for this parasite, they can also be found in other species, including cats, ferrets, foxes, even wolves and horses. Dogs can live for years without symptoms after infection, but the heartworms’ long-term effects in an untreated dog may cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries. Cats may develop chronic respiratory disease and, unfortunately, the first signs in infected cats can be sudden collapse or death.
Fortunately, the ASPCA caught Madonna’s case early. She was successfully treated for her infection and subsequently tested for both adult heartworms and microfilaria. Today she is in a happy home and takes a monthly preventive medication.
Heartworm treatment in dogs is a multiple-step, three-to-four month process that involves injections and oral medication to kill the heartworms, as well as prolonged periods of exercise restriction. Since it is very challenging to treat cats for heartworm disease, it is essential to prevent the disease in the first place.
“The best way to avoid heartworm disease is to give your dog heartworm preventive, a once-a-month oral or topical prescription medication,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York City. Prevention comes in several formulations and your veterinarian can advise you as to the best choice for your pet. Heartworm preventives commonly also treat a variety of other internal and external parasites.
Puppies should start on preventives no later than eight weeks of age without a test, but should be tested in six month intervals after the first dose and then yearly after that.
Heartworm infection is harder to detect in cats, because they are less likely to host adult heartworms. Cats should be tested before being put on medication and re-tested as vets deems appropriate to monitor exposure and risk.
Heartworm symptoms in dogs include persistent coughing, fatigue after exercise, decreased appetite, decreased desire to exercise, and weight loss. Heartworm in cats can cause wheezing and respiratory symptoms, as well as vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss.
April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Visit our Pet Care section to learn more about heartworm in dogs and in cats.