Beware: Algae Can Poison Your Dog


Dog owners have reported this summer that their pets became fatally ill after swimming in freshwater lakes and ponds, apparently after ingesting water laden with toxic blue-green algae.

Intense blooms have led to swimming bans from lakes in the Pacific Northwest to the entire Mississippi seacoast, to Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey’s largest lake. Algal blooms tend to thrive in high temperatures and after heavy rains carry fertilizer runoff and sewage into waterways.

The health threats to animals range from skin rashes to neurological problems. The blooms can release toxins that can cause liver damage, lead to respiratory paralysis or produce other fatal conditions. The danger drew national attention in recent days after a woman in North Carolina lost her three dogs — Harpo, Abby and Izzy — after they had gone swimming in a pond.

Cyanobacteria, the main organisms that produce the toxins that make the freshwater blooms harmful, can cause ailments in people, but dogs are more susceptible because they ingest them, said GreenWater Laboratories, which tests water samples for the toxins.

Sometimes the algae look like grains of floating green sand or scum. They can go undetected by dog owners if they lurk under the water’s surface or attach to plants. Wind can blow algae from one area into another that had previously looked clear.

While the sight and odor of algae repels humans, animals sometimes lap up the water, ingest floating pieces of algae or snap at floating algal balloons. They could fall fatally ill after licking their wet fur. Toxic algae can also dry up into crusts onshore, where dogs might nibble on them.

Brittany Stanton took her 2-year-old golden retriever, Oliver, on Aug. 3 to Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Tex., where he jumped off their kayak into the water.

In a Facebook post, Ms. Stanton said he collapsed after getting out of the water and died at the veterinarian’s office. “It only took one hour from the time we left the water for Oliver to breathe his last breath,” she wrote.

The next day, the city of Austin advised pet owners to keep their animals out of the lake because of the potential presence of harmful algae. On Friday, it said the advisory remained in effect after tests confirmed a neurotoxin from algae had been found in one area called Red Bud Isle.

Morgan and Patrick Fleming of Marietta, Ga., took their Border collie, Arya, to Lake Allatoona, about 35 minutes north of Atlanta, on Saturday, a local television station reported on Monday. The animal became ill and died from what a veterinarian said was “most likely” an algal toxin, it reported.

“It happens every single year in the U.S. and around the world,” Val Beasley, a professor of veterinary, wildlife and ecological toxicology sciences at Pennsylvania State University, said on Monday.

“A lot of times, the neurotoxins will kill the animal before they can get to the veterinarian,” he said. “This time of year is when you have the most numbers of cases and people are out and about with their animals and the conditions are ripe for the cyanobacteria to grow.”

He said that there were no nationwide figures of dog deaths from the poisoning.

Melissa Martin, the owner of the three dogs in North Carolina, said Harpo jumped into a pond in Wilmington, N.C., on Thursday. “He just splashed around in it a little bit,” she said. A few times, he put his face under the water as it he were “bobbing for apples.”

When he got to shore, he apparently got Abby and Izzy, who had stayed out but were muddy, wet with the pond water, she said. When they went home, Ms. Martin started to give Harpo a bath when she heard her wife shriek from the yard.

Abby was having a seizure.

“Her back legs were trembling. Her body was in the shape of a C,” she said. “Burning to the touch.”

Ms. Martin raced Abby to an animal emergency hospital. Their veterinarian was not available to comment on Monday, but Ms. Martin said she was asked whether their other dogs had been around water.

When she said they had been, she was told, “Get your other dogs here right now.” All three animals had been infected she said the vet told her.

“I told him he was such a good boy and he had done so much,” Ms. Martin said, describing her last moments with Harpo, a therapy dog, just before he and the other two dogs died. “He put his paw on my arm.”

photo source: Pexels

source: NY Times

Is Sunscreen Safe for Your Pet?


When you are outside on a summer day, sunscreen is usually something you have on hand. We are all aware of the risks of prolonged sun exposure in people—from superficial wrinkles to dangerous skin cancer and damaging burns—and using sunscreen can help prevent all these things. While sunscreen is good for us, what about our pets?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) gets a lot of calls about sunscreen and pets. Common questions are whether it’s toxic, or if animals need to wear it. So, we’ve put together a handy guide to answer all your burning questions below!

Do Fido and Whiskers Need Sun Protection?

Does your pet need to wear sunscreen? Well, skin cancer is seen in pets, but that doesn’t mean that sunscreen is necessarily the answer. Pets with white or light-colored fur tend to be more predisposed to skin cancer than other pets. Light-colored pets are prone to developing skin cancer from the sun on their nose, the tips of the ears and around their eyelids and lips. But instead of using sunscreen, you should be mindful and limit their time in the bright sunshine during peak hours. Limiting your pet’s time in the hot summer sun also prevents overheating and dehydration.

Pet-Friendly Doesn’t Always Mean Safe

While there are some sunscreen products marketed for pets, they are usually not tested by the FDA. So the effectiveness of these products is unknown.
The main ingredients to avoid when picking a sunscreen for pets are zinc oxide and a group of chemicals referred to as salicylates. With repeated exposure to zinc oxide on the skin, pets can develop zinc toxicity, which can damage the red blood cells. Salicylates are products in the same category as aspirin, and when applied to the skin, your pet may develop mild skin redness and irritation. If you do pick a veterinarian-approved sunscreen for your pet, make sure it does not contain zinc oxide, and make sure it has a low concentration of salicylates.

However, if your pet eats the sunscreen that’s when real problems can occur.

If your pet eats sunscreen, they can develop stomach upset and will likely vomit; they may even have some diarrhea. If they eat a very large amount of sunscreen, the salicylates in the sunscreen can potentially cause ulcers in the stomach and even liver damage, although this is very unlikely. The zinc oxide in some products can contribute to stomach upset and possibly an allergic reaction, which can lead to swelling of the face and hives on your pet. In addition to the ingredients found in the sunscreen, if your pet eats the tube that the sunscreen came in, it can cause a blockage in their stomach or intestines, which can require surgery.

Prevention Is Always Key

The best way to keep your pet safe from the sun is to talk to your veterinarian to determine what products, if any, your pet may need. When out in the sun, make sure you are limiting your pet’s time and taking breaks from the sunshine, especially during peak afternoon hours.

And when you’re out sunbathing or lounging poolside yourself, don’t forget to keep an eye on your skincare products. Keep any products far out of paws’ reach!

If you have questions about whether to use sunscreen on your pet, or which products to use, contact your local veterinarian. If your pet develops a reaction to a product or gets into your supply of sunscreen, please contact an emergency veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 for guidance.

photo source: ASPCA

source: ASPCA

Health Issues to Look for When You Have an Older Dog


All dogs get older. And like us, dogs age at different rates, especially dogs of different breeds and size.

For example, giant breed dogs like Great Danes are generally considered to be a senior by roughly 5-6 years old, whereas a smaller breed dog like a Chihuahua would probably only enter the senior stage at 10-11 years.

As your beloved dog enters his senior years, you should be prepared for certain changes that might occur in your dog’s health. Visit your veterinarian regularly; many vets recommend twice a year for senior dogs.

If you notice any of the following issues, talk to your veterinarian to determine the course of treatment.

1. Vision Loss and Other Eye Problems

Has your dog begun bumping into things, falling or displaying signs of eye discomfort (redness, cloudiness, etc.)? He may be suffering from vision loss or an eye disorder.

Deteriorating eyesight is part of the normal aging process for dogs. Many dogs will develop a cloudiness in their lens as they age, and though this is normal, it does decrease the precision of their eyesight.

Even though it may be due to aging, take your pet to the vet to rule out treatable eye diseases such as corneal damage, dry eye syndrome or conjunctivitis. Cataracts can also be treated surgically.

Loss of vision is usually irreversible, but there are certain things you can do to help your dog adjust. Ask your veterinarian for tips on handling senior dogs with vision loss.

2. Increased/Strained Urination

Increased urination or straining to urinate may be an indicator of kidney disease or urinary tract infection, both of which are more commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs.

Fortunately, urinary incontinence and strained urination can often be alleviated with prescription dog medication or dietary changes. Urinary incontinence quickly leads to uncomfortable urinary tract infections. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.

3. Bad Breath, Bloody Gums and Other Oral Problems

If you haven’t been diligent on brushing your dog’s teeth or bringing him in to the vet’s office regularly for a professional cleaning, he’s probably beginning to display the signs of oral diseases (bad breath, excessive drooling, gum inflammation and loose teeth).

Dental hygiene, after all, is primarily about good maintenance. However, it’s not too late to start. Take your dog to your veterinarian and discuss how you can resolve the issues and prevent them from occurring in the future.

4. Lumps, Bumps and Other Skin Problems

Your dog may encounter skin and coat issues at any age, but he is more susceptible to them as he gets older. These may show up as rashes, lesions, swelling, lumps, dry skin or hair loss in dogs.

But there are often things your veterinarian can do to help alleviate the symptoms (such as make dietary changes) or even cure the underlying cause of the issue.

Many dogs develop lumps under their skin as they age. Lipomas, or fatty growths, are common and benign—meaning they pose no problem for your pet.

However, fatty growths and other more dangerous growths can look very similar, so it is best to have them evaluated by your veterinarian.

Lumps are of increased concern when they are new, when they grow, or if they change shape, color or size.

5. Weight Gain or Loss

Some older dogs have difficulty maintaining their weight and may need a dog food with a higher calorie content or better palatability, while other dogs tend to gain weight and may need a diet for less active dogs.

Neither being overweight nor underweight is ideal for your dog. Overweight and obese dogs, for instance, have a higher incidence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even cancer.

Discuss with your veterinarian when it would be appropriate for your dog to switch from an adult dog to a senior dog diet. Ask about the benefits of therapeutic diets, which can provide key benefits to help manage conditions commonly associated with aging dogs.

In addition, devise an age-appropriate exercise routine for your senior dog with the help of your vet. A proper diet and exercise plan can be important in delaying the signs of aging and increasing your dog’s longevity.

6. Difficulty Playing and Getting Around

It may be hard for you to see your previously active dog having difficulty getting around the house or playing fetch like before, but joint issues such as arthritis are common in older dogs.

Discuss with your veterinarian whether dietary changes (such as the addition of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) would be helpful. Dog ramps and orthopedic dog beds can also help you accommodate your senior dog’s less-mobile state.

Physical rehabilitation can also reverse some mobility losses and is a valuable tool for aging pets.

7. Behavior and Memory Problems

Changes in your dog’s behavior may be a normal part of aging or a symptom of a disease like dog dementia (canine cognitive dysfunction).

Therefore, you need to consult your veterinarian should he exhibit signs of confusion, disorientation, memory loss, irritability, unusual pacing or other personality changes.

Some specific signs of canine cognitive dysfunction include staying awake or pacing at night, having urinary accidents and forgetting cues (e.g., sit, stay) that he once knew.

photo source: Pexels

source: Pet MD

Fourth of July Pet Safety Tips


For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including furry friends. While it may seem like a great idea to reward your pet with scraps from the grill and bring him along to watch fireworks, in reality some festive foods and activities can be potentially hazardous to him. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:

• Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.


• Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.


• Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.


• Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pet severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals. Please visit our People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets page for more information.


• Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.


• Keep citronella candles, insect coils and tiki torch oil products out of reach. Ingestion can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.


• Never use fireworks around pets! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.


• Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets, who can become frightened or disoriented by the sound. Please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities, and opt instead to keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.


photo source: Pexels

source: ASPCA


How to Keep Your Pets Cool this Summer


As the weather continue to get nicer this summer, you may find yourself wanting to be outside as much as possible with your pets. But excessive heat can cause serious problems for our four-legged counterparts. Luckily, there are quite a few ways to have fun, and stay cool. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a few tips to help keep your furry friend keep cool, have fun and enjoy all that the summer sun has to offer.

Water Is Key

One of the easiest, and most fun, ways to help your dog stay cool is to find some water to splash around in. Try to find parks and trails in your area that have creeks or small streams, or even dog-friendly water fountains or lakes.

Pro Tip: Be sure to keep your dog on a leash where it is required, and avoid any bodies of water that contain blue-green algae.

If you don’t have any good parks nearby with water features, another option is to purchase a small kiddie pool. Many supermarkets and hardware stores have these in stock during the summer months, and you can give your fur friend its own private swimming hole for a reasonable cost.

Pro Tip: Remember, never allow your dog access to the pool unsupervised and change the water frequently.

Enjoy a Cool Treat

Dogs love to eat, and they appreciate frozen treats when the temperature is hot outside just as much as we do. If your dog gets bored easily, try stuffing a Kong with the canned dog food of your choice, or peanut butter, then put it in the freezer for a few hours. This will keep them busy for a while, and if you have two Kongs, you can always have one waiting in the freezer. Be sure to take into account the calories from this treat and adjust your pets’ regular meals accordingly.

Here is a simple recipe you can try at home that both you and your dog can enjoy:

1. Cut a cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces (be sure to remove the skin and seeds).

2. Freeze the melon pieces for at least four hours, using a baking sheet to spread them out.

3. Blend two cups of frozen melon along with two tablespoons of plain, unsweetened yogurt in a food processor or blender, adding water to thin if necessary.

4. Enjoy!

You can also use watermelon or bananas instead of cantaloupe, or substitute peanut butter for the yogurt to mix things up. Just be sure to check that there is no xylitol in the yogurt or peanut butter.

For our feline friends, you can freeze water in a balloon or a plastic egg and let your cat bat the frozen toy around until it melts.

Pro-tip: Be careful that as these items start to melt, no humans accidentally slip on any wet spots. Also keep an eye out while your pet is playing to ensure that if any kind of toy breaks, the pieces are removed from of paws’ reach immediately to avoid ingestion and possible obstruction.

While we encourage you to take advantage of the long summer days with your pet, don’t let heat stroke stop the fun—ensure that your pet is properly supervised during all hot weather activities and contact your vet if you notice excessive panting, loss of balance, weakness or collapse.

photo source: ASPCA

source: ASPCA