103 The Top 10 Animal Toxins of 2018

National Poison Prevention Week- March 17-23, 2019.

It’s that time of year when the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center examines its data and releases the Top 10 categories of toxins pets come in contact with each year. The data was gathered from about 213,773 cases of potential animal poisonings examined by the APCC in 2018.
Here are the top 10 toxins, beginning with the category which caused the most calls to APCC toxicologists.

1) OTC Medications:
Over-the-counter medications were the most common group of toxicants pets ingested this year. This is a varied group of medications including items such as vitamins, OTC pain medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen), herbal supplements, antihistamines and cold and flu medications. Ingestion of OTC medications are usually accidental, but I have seen owners give too much aspirin for pain, over several days. Last year this was #2, after human prescriptions.

2) Human Prescriptions:
Medications prescribed for people dropped to number two this year. ADHD medications, antidepressants and heart medications make up a significant amount of these cases, which is typically what I have seen, along with birth control and topical hormones. Remember to keep all medications out of reach of pets.

3) Food:
Food is number 3. Xylitol, grapes and raisins, and onions and garlic make up most of these cases. Xylitol is one that I worry about because it is in many sugar free gums, and not harmful for people. Who knew gum could be toxic?

4) Chocolate:
Chocolate moved up another spot from last year! The popularity of chocolate gifts for occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter adds to the danger. If your pet has eaten some chocolate, call us or the poison control center. We have a calculator to determine if the amount and type of chocolate is enough to be toxic. (Dark chocolate is stronger and more toxic)

5) Veterinary Products:
Chewable medications and misread labels are a big reason pets run into trouble with veterinary products. I have had more than one patient eat six months of heartworm prevention at a time. Those are expensive dog “treats.” Make sure to read the prescription labels and keep the containers safe. Just because it is childproof doesn’t mean it is dog proof.

6) Household Items:
This group includes cleaning products, moth balls, batteries, detergents, cigarettes, and alcohol. Or maybe alcohol should be food?

7) Rodenticides:
Rodenticide exposure is increased from last year. Unfortunately pets, along with rodents, find baits very tasty. We had a patient die this winter after eating rat bait from a bait station. While anticoagulants and bromethalin baits are still available, cholecalciferol baits made a comeback this year. Rats are tough.

8) Insecticides:
Insecticide exposure cases decreased for the second year in a row . Insecticides includes items such as ant baits, bug sprays and yard products. Ant baits use attractants like peanut butter which unfortunately attract pets as well as ants. I don’t see nearly as many insecticide toxicities as I used to. Thank goodness.

9) Plants:
Plants remained in ninth place. Indoor and outdoor plants as well as prepared bouquets can present major problems. The APCC app has lots of helpful information regarding plant exposures as well as other toxins. Would this include marijuana and edibles? I expect to see more therapeutic uses of CBD oil for humans and pets, which seems to have low toxicity.

10) Garden Products:
Garden products still came in last. Fertilizer, bone meal and compost are all garden products many dogs find irresistible. Many pet owners call about herbicides like Roundup, but they usually aren’t tasty, even though we commonly use them in pet areas like yards.

102 Local Emergency Pet Clinics

The Flower Mound Emergency Pet Clinic and the North Texas Emergency Pet Clinic have both been purchased by an outstanding veterinary corporation, Southern Veterinary Partners. These two local emergency clinics were started by local vets who pooled together as shareholders to start the corporation to build and manage them. I have been a shareholder of the NTEPC almost since the beginning in the 90s, and with the FMEPC since it was built in the 2000s. This now means I am not a shareholder in these 2 clinics, but I still highly recommend them to my clients. If my puppies or Sarge were to get sick at night or on a weekend, I would take them there.

Being purchased by a large vet corporation has many positives, especially for an emergency clinic. They have greater success in finding emergency specialist vets and nurses, and usually offer more benefits than a small practice can offer. They have better purchasing power for medicines and equipment. I expect great things to happen at our two local emergency clinics.

The other local emergency hospital is the Center for Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Care, which is a large full service hospital with day specialists in neurology, neurosurgery, and internal medicine. It is conveniently located in south Lewisvlle, just off 121 tollway, near Costco. They have an outstanding reputation also and are open 24 hours. I have referred neurology and daytime emergency patients there since it opened a few years ago.

We are very fortunate here in Lewisville to have 3 great options for our pet emergencies. Just like the numerous small and large emergency clinics for humans, it is great to have choices.

101 Puppy Toys

So last week I started Puppy Kindergarten for my little Dachshund mix, Chuck. We had a small class of 4 dogs, so it was easy for Chuck to focus. We all brought quiet chew toys so the puppies could entertain themselves as the instructor was talking. We also had some reward treats. I brought his favorite (so far), little “Slim Jim” style jerky dog treats from Winco that I can pinch off little tiny bits easily and some cooked chicken.

We started off with rewarding their response to their name. No problem there. We move on to sitting, staying for 5 seconds, then longer. Chuck is up to 15 seconds. Then we started stepping away or circling him. We didn’t get very far yet, but it was a new lesson for both of us. We walked on a leash inside the gym keeping a bubble around each puppy so they weren’t distracted. We ended by calmly walking around, “doing a drive by” the other puppies. They really didn’t greet each other yet. That will come later.

So by the end of the class, each puppy had 45-60 minutes of undivided time with their pet parent, and lots of rewards for performing the commands. No punishment, no choke collars, just lots of love and treats.

I have learned there are 5 kinds of toys: Passive, Active, Working, Old and New. Who knew? Passive toys are quiet chew toys like raw hides, and Bully sticks and yummy filled Kongs. Active toys are tennis balls, squeak toys, ropes, Frisbees. Chuck especially loves to destroy squeak toys. Working toys are ones that stimulate them mentally, and usually dispense a treat. I haven’t use this kind before, but the concept sounds great and sturdier then my plastic coke 2 liter bottle filled with kibble. The Old toys and New toys are self-explanatory, and as parents we all use this trick.

I discovered that the Kong website has a Kong Box, with 4 toys selected for your pet’s size and they mail right to your house. I chose the Kong brand because I was familiar with it and they are the only toys so far that are standing up to Chuck’s teeth. I will share more after it arrives.

100 My Grass Fed Beef

Many of my clients know that my husband and I have a small ranch in East Texas with cows and bees. I know have much honey yet, but we will be “graduating” 3 black Brangus steers to the freezer in late spring. We don’t sell individual cuts of meat, but we do sell “half a cow”, or 2 families may split “half a cow”. These two year old steers were born on own ranch, grass fed on pastures that haven’t had any herbicides or pesticides in over 20 years (as long as the previous owner was managing it). They have been vaccinated and deworm by me personally, and we have not used hormone injections. They will be fattened up on spring hay by graduation day, but they look pretty good right now.

We are taking orders now for interested families. When the “graduation” day comes, we haul the steer to a processing facility in Sulphur Springs, and the butcher turns him into steaks, roasts, and hamburger. Some people even want the liver, tail, tongue, etc. After a few days of cold aging, the thickly sealed packaged up portions are ready to pick up. Typical cow weight has been #1000-1300, “dressed out” 60% to #600-700 of meat. So “half a cow” is #300 -#350. We are asking $6 a pound, and you pick up the meat. You will need a BIG FREEZER to store #300 of beef, but it will last you a long time since it is properly packaged. We are still eating some hamburger from my husband’s favorite cow that never got pregnant, and she graduated 24 months ago.

If you have never had grass fed beef, the fat looks different than feed lot beef. The fat is slightly yellow from grass pigments, not snowy white from GMO corn. You can’t see the lack or hormones or chemical residues, and you can’t taste it, but they aren’t there.

Some people wonder how I can raise an animal for food. That’s what they are raised for, but we do it so they have a have a wonderful cow life, and one bad day. And they taste great!


99 Puppy Kindergarten

Well it’s time I got my puppies into Kindergarten. Puppy kindergarten, that is. Just like children go to school, so can puppies. The trick if finding a good fit.

Current behavior literature suggests puppy training begins with socialization at 7-16 weeks, because they are more open to new things and do learn faster. Our previous recommendation was to wait until 6 months to start because they had a longer attention span. These classes are more than just play time, just like kindergarten is more than playing.

I am going to take one of my puppies to a local trainer, Anne O’Neil. I have taken my Sheltie, Sarge, to her for his Good Manners Class, an Agility Class, and a Sniff and Search Class over the years. My puppy goal is to nail down sitting and coming when called, even when distracted. I also hope we learn how to walk on a leash without pulling and master the “leave it “ command. Basic stuff. I know the class will be based on positive reinforcement, no punishment. And it will be a great bonding time!

I have been working on the puppy socialization stuff at work, but even I need help. I am not too proud to need professional assistance, and the unique opportunities a group class opens. Kind of like a home schooled child still needs to go on group outings.

The classes are usually in Highland Village, and usually weekly. She also does in home training, which is better for some dogs (like private tutoring). Her next round of puppy classes starts Feb 26, 2019.

For more information on Puppy Kindergarten:
For other classes and website home page: http://www.specialtypettraining.com/

#98 Hills canned food recall due to high Vitamin D

We have looked through our canned food, and initially Feb 1 found none from the recalled lots. We looked again Feb 4 and found 2 lonely cans way in the back from the recalled lots. This does not affect any dry food, or any feline diets (canned or dry).

Here is Hill’s letter:
“Hill’s® Pet Nutrition has voluntarily recalled select canned dog food products due to potentially elevated levels of vitamin D. The official Hill’s announcement and a list of affected food can be found here.

Consumer inquiries can be directed to Hill’s Consumer Affairs at contactus@hillspet.com or (800) 445-5777.

As always, your clients can contact us directly regarding their concerns. Due to the high call volume associated with this voluntary recall, we’ve provided information on vetsource.com where clients can find out what to do if their pet has consumed the affected products. This also gives them the opportunity to request a refund.”

So what is high Vitamin D, and why is it bad? What are the symptoms? Have we seen any cases? Have we heard of any sick dogs?

Vitamin D is a necessary fat soluble vitamin, so excessive amounts can build up the body over time unlike water soluable vitamins like Vitamin C. Many humans have low Vitamin D levels and take seasonally (winter), or year-round if they don’t get enough sunlight. But too much is bad for you or your pet’s body. Vitamin D toxicity can cause elevated blood calcium and phosphorous, which can cause kidney damage, showing symptoms of increased thirst and urination.

Here at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital we haven’t seen any dogs with high calcium lately. Some vets on my online vet forums are wondering if some cases of high calcium might be due to the diet, but no one has confirmed any illnesses directly from the diet, yet.

Blue Buffalo had a similar recall last fall for the same problem, high Vitamin D. Some of us are wondering if all the pet food people get their Vitamin D from the same suppliers.

If your dog did eat canned food with high Vitamin D, and isn’t symptomatic, we believe that merely stopping that diet, and feeding one with normal Vitamin D will allow the body to clear any excessive levels over time. Bloodwork does not need to be run on dogs without symptoms.

More as this story develops.

97 Your pet might need a teeth cleaning – Jan 31, 2019

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, again.

In the great tradition of Jeff Foxworthy, let’s play …… “Your pet might need a teeth cleaning”
1. If your dog’s mouth smells worse than his butt…
2. If you smell your dog before you see him…
3. If your dog pants in your face and your eyes water…
4. If you have to feed canned food because she can’t eat kibble anymore….
5. If his pillow is wet in the morning from drool…
6. If the edges of the sofa are stained with blood from her rubbing her mouth on it…
7. If she flinches when you pet her face…
8. And last – If you have to chew your pets food for him…

Actually, these are examples of oral and gum disease gone WAY past needing a “just a cleaning. “

Let us help BEFORE it gets that bad.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Here at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital, we offer 15% off dental cleaning procedures during February. All animals will have pre-anesthetic bloodwork, be fully anesthetized, monitored, and on fluids during the ~30-45 minute procedure. The entire mouth will be fully examined, probed, cleaned, polished & fluoride treatment applied. If we find problems like teeth that need extractions or oral masses, you will get a phone call with a plan. It is a “day” anesthetic procedure, and they don’t stay overnight. We don’t perform dental radiographs, but if they are indicated, we will refer your pet to the local veterinary board certified dentist.

Test Yourself!
How much do you know about your pet’s dental health? Take this quiz to find out.

For more information:
Periodontal youtube video by AVMA

96 Cold Weather Tips

It feels like winter has finally arrived, and is not leaving.  I am especially aware of it this year with my two 4 month old puppies. 

Sweater weather.  Some dog do need some extra insulation when it is really cold.  Other dogs seem to love it and are friskier.  My Sheltie is one of those cold loving breeds, but he was bred for it with a snow proof coat.  My new short coated terrier/doxie  mix needs a sweater, or a at least a towel wrapped around him when I carry him outside.  He really shivers and won’t spend more than a few seconds outside.   I see numerous small patients that are just more comfortable during the winter wearing a sweater even inside.  So look at your dog after being outside in the cold or rain and dress him appropriately.

Activity.  Few of us want to play outside when it is cold, wet, or super windy like it was this week. Too much indoor inactivity makes us all a little crazy.   In people we call it cabin fever.  Indoor dogs can get it too.  My puppies manifest it by acting out, zooming around more inside, and generally being naughty for attention.  I am trying to counteract that with lots more indoor play, interactive toys, and allowing them to just zoom around.  I used a laser pen for my Sheltie years ago.  It is important to match the play with the dog’s interests.  Ball chasing is great for Labradors, but my terriers want to bite and shake stuff.  Food puzzles are great if your dog is food motivated, and not overweight. Many of my clients are still going to dog parks, they just pick the right day and time for comfort.

Frozen water.  Make sure any drinking water outside doesn’t freeze or your pet can get dehydrated.  Insulate any outdoor dog houses.  Most dogs can tolerate a light freeze if they can get out of the wind and rain, off the ground, and can cocoon themselves in some material like hay or blankets.

Antifreeze/deicing compounds.  It is true that antifreeze can taste sweet and attract dogs and cats to lick it.  Avoid yellowish puddles in streets and driveways.  Be careful applying deicing products (rock salt, “ice melt”) on driveways and porches as the chemicals can burn sensitive bare feet.  There are pet safe deicing products available.

Emergency kit in the car.  It is always a good idea to have an extra leash, blanket and some water for pets.  You never know when the car won’t start, slips off the road, or you might be stranded somewhere. 


95 The Truth about Pet Insurance

One in three pets will need unexpected veterinary care each year. Wouldn’t it be great if there were Pet Health Insurance?

There really is a pet insurance industry, and it works much more efficiently than human health insurance. I think of it more like car insurance or property insurance. You enroll online; no exam need, pick a plan and deductible, and pay a monthly fee. Most plans reimburse at 80-90%, after a deductible. This switches pet medical expenses to a planned monthly budget item.

We all know that veterinary expenses can add up, especially if your pet has an emergency (like gets into rat poison or in a dog fight), or even a chronic problem (like skin allergies, frequent ear infections or thyroid problems), or gets cancer. No company covers preexisting conditions. So I usually suggest signing up when the pets are puppies or kittens. I just looked up the price for my little terrier puppy on Pet Plan, and it was about $30/month. So the insurance pays off if I have a vet bills over $360 after my deductible (not including routine vaccination or heartworm prevention on most plans).

As a veterinarian, I don’t get a commission on recommending pet insurance. The reason I recommend it because those insured pets usually get better care in the long run because the cost isn’t as big an issue. Our staff members have carried pet insurance before, and one nurse used it to have her beloved pit bull treated TWICE for two cancers with expensive radiation & new chemotherapy. She used Pets Best, so I have recommended that company for years.

AAHA has recently partnered with a different pet insurance company called Pet Plan. They have done their research, and picked this company. They cover injuries and illnesses, hereditary and chronic conditions, prescription medications, specialist treatments, imaging (x-rays, MRI, CT scan and ultrasound), and even alternative therapies. Reimbursement is as easy as submitting their claim form on your smartphone. You choose your maximum annual coverage (2500 to unlimited), your deductible (from $100 to $2500), and your reimbursement (70%, 80%, or 90%). You can go online to GoPetplan.com/AAHA to get a free quote, and get a 10% discount using the promo code “AAHA”.

Ask yourself:
1) Would it be comforting to know I have help managing my veterinary costs?
2) Could I handle an expensive veterinary bill without some financial cushion?
3) Would I pay almost any amount to care for my pet?

I suggest checking out several insurance providers before selecting a plan. PetPlan, Pets Best, ASPCA Pet Health, Nationwide, Trupanion are the ones I have seen my clients use.

You can decide for yourself it pet insurance makes sense (and saves you cents in the long run) or gives you peace of mind.

94 New Signage for 2019

Well it has taken a while to get the new sign up, but it was worth it. It all began about two years ago when I decided to redo my logo. I used an online company called 99 Designs to create a new logo to be put on business cards, websites, letterheads and a new sign. It was a fun creative process where you state your preferences, and dozens of global graphic designers submit graphic ideas to you. Over a few weeks, you narrow it down, keep tweaking it, and commit to a final design. I remember I wanted it to be simple, easy to read at 30 mph, convey the species we see, reflect the “garden” in the name, and have 2 colors. You see the winning design.

We began using the graphics on business cards and websites, then this blog, but the sign was the last project. I held off getting a new sign waiting on construction next door, at The Beehive Assisted Living/Memory care facility, thinking I would piggy back on their look. But the Beehive never built out the front, just a structure way in the back.

This is actually the 3rd sign at Garden Ridge Animal Hospital. The first was a rectangle, dark blue, with our name in clear plastic, lit from inside. But it was hit by a car, and was replaced 20 years ago with the one we had until this week.

You may notice we kept the same frame shape, which reflects the cupula shape of our front exam room roofline. The new LED lights inside illuminate it nicely after dark. I think Sigma Signs in Highland Village did a nice job for us. Let me know what you think!