PET FRIENDLY GARDENING TIPS (written by Pauline Larsen)

dog-gardenSpring is finally bringing more pleasant weather, and gardening season is here!   It’s time to prepare your garden…or at least your outdoor flower pots, for the bountiful time ahead, but if you have a dog, you  need to know that gardens can be hazardous to their health.   The ASPCA reminds animal caregivers to be mindful of the well-being of  their pets as April showers bring May flowers.  The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received more than 60,000 calls last year involving pets who had been exposed to toxic plants, insecticides, and weed killers.

While  plants  found in our gardens are beautiful to look at,  I was naively unaware  that these same plants can cause serious problems for our animals.  Lilies are one of the most  common poisonous plants found both in gardens and in indoor bouquets, but there are many other types of plants that can be poisonous.  Rhododendrons, azaleas, Japanese ewe, foxglove, tulips, hyacinth, daffodils,  crocus, lily of the valley,  oleanders, caster beans, sago palms, amaryllis, English ivy,  chrysanthemums, (and marijuana J),  are among those that can cause serious health problems for your dog.

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Tulips  and hyacinths contain allergenic lactones  that contain concentrated amounts in the bulbs, so make sure your dog isn’t digging up the bulbs in  your garden.  When the plant parts or bulbs are ingested , it can result in tissue irritation, and cause vomiting or diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed.    With large ingestions of the bulb,  increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can occur, and should be treated by a veterinarian.

Ingestion of daffodil bulbs, plants, or flowers can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias, and again, veterinary care is recommended.

There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, with the Peace, and Calla lilies just causing minor irritations.  More dangerous, potentially fatal  ones  include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies.

There are two Crocus plants:  one that blooms in the spring and the other in the autumn.  The spring plants are more common and can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea.  The  Autumn Crocus is highly toxic  and can cause severe problems, including liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure.  If you are like me, you may not be sure what plant you have, so it is best to consult your vet for care.  (Signs of ingestion may be seen immediately, but can also be delayed for several days)

I  love Lily of the Valley, but this plant can cause symptoms similar to foxglove ingestion, including  vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures, and will need to be professionally treated.

. It is important to remember that all dogs are different.  An older dog might not  be as likely to get into  dangerous toxins, but a curious puppy could be a different story.  Puppies  chew on just about anything, so it is imperative to sure that these unintentional “chew toys” aren’t  available to them.  Also, consider the activity level of your individual pet…some breeds are known for high-level curiosity.

Dr. Tina Wismer,   at the ASPCA’s poison control center, asserts, “Our number one phone call to poison control is about Labrador Retrievers.  They are big dogs that can get on the table or counter, and they are retrievers, so everything goes into their mouths, but Labs aren’t the only breed at risk.  Gardeners need to be aware that insecticides and mold growing on compost pile can be deadly to any dog, and fertilizers , and cocoa mulch, often used in landscaping, also pose health risks when large amounts are consumed.  Garden tools, including rakes, tillers, hoes, and trowels can be hazardous, and rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt pose a risk for tetanus, so be sure all tools are stored in a safe place. Prevention is always to best approach, so it is best to keep your dog restricted from any potentially harmful section of your garden.  Both you and your dog will benefit!”

For a complete list of plants that are toxic to dogs, go to www.aspca.org/toxicplants.

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com

Spring #1 2014 (Written by Pauline Larsen)

artworks-000043018258-o5c78s-originalThe calendar officially proclaims that IT’S SPRING, and hopefully the long, bitter weather is behind us. Spring is a great time of the year, and both humans and canines are ready to feel the warm sunshine, with grass on the ground instead of ice and snow. However, spring brings hazards for our companion animals, who are restless from being cooped up, and are eager to shake off the blahs of winter.

  • There are new smells and new places to explore which means that normally well-behaved dogs will suddenly become escape artists and dig or climb their way out of their safe yards to find themselves lost with no clue about returning home. Please be sure that you have up-to-date identification on your dog. We also recommend micro-chipping your animal.
  • In spring, depending on your dog’s breed, you can expect more shedding as the coat changes. Consistent daily brushing is necessary, and remember, in a pet lover’s home, a few dog hairs can be classified as condiments! (I doubt anyone ever died from a dog hair in his soup!)
  • If you have an intact pet, he will really become restless. The alarming statistics of unwanted offspring and animal overpopulation should convince you to spay or neuter, and it is also important to do it for the health and safety of your pet.
  • Spring is a good time to schedule a wellness check. Hopefully the vet will give her a clean bill of health, but if something suspicious is found, perhaps it can be treated in the early stages. Most dogs have teeth problems by the time they are three years old, and since tooth and gum disease can lead to more serious problems, be sure to include a dental checkup for your canine.
  • We used to believe that heartworm was a problem only in the Southern states. Not true. This mosquito-borne parasite is a definite threat to your animals, and while it is true that heartworm can be treated if caught early enough, the treatment is harsh and is also expensive. Get your dog tested for heartworm and on a preventative provided by your veterinarian.
  • Don’t wait until you see a flea to begin treatment…fleas are more than a nuisance, and bother your dog with more than allergies and itchy skin, and by the time you see one, you have an invasion of these nasty little creatures. If a flea swallowed by your dog contains tapeworm larvae, the dog may get tapeworms, and other diseases may also be transmitted by the fleas. Once your dog is infested, the problem extends to the home and yard, and is more difficult to treat. The smart thing to do is to treat your animals BEFORE fleas are present. There are many safe products that will eliminate flea problems. DO NOT use over-the-counter products…many are toxic. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.
  • It is equally important to protect your dog (and you) from ticks, which can carry and transmit several diseases including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Fever. Again prevention is much easier than treatment. Some products are effective against both fleas and ticks. Again talk to your vet about preventative measures, and how, by consistent implementation of relatively easy strategies, you can protect both humans and canines in your household from these unwelcome parasites. Controlling and eliminating fleas, ticks, and parasites require energy, time, and money. The best control is always prevention.
  • If you use herbicides or pesticides on your lawn, be sure to restrict your pets from the treated areas for at least 24 hours, preferably longer. These chemicals are toxic to your pet.
  • By taking just a few precautions, spring will be a fabulous time for both you and your dog!

A day in spring is one thing, but a spring day is another. The difference between the two is sometimes great!—Henry Van Dyke

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 , or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com

Fiona’s Story …

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Cats are given nine lives for a reason. They need each and every one of those lives to ensure their survival.  Nothing illustrates this better than Fiona’s story. She came perilously close to losing one of them at the hands of a madman.  He was going to shoot her.  Look at this face…how could that thought ever cross anyone’s mind?  Lucky for her she was saved just in the nick of time.  Not only is she stunningly beautiful, she is as sweet as they come.  She doesn’t know how close she came to meeting her maker. We never told her. So she goes about her life in blissful ignorance waiting for that special family that will value her and keep her safe from the evils that lurk in dark corners.

(Photo by Anna Schreck Photography; Written by Karyn Moltzen)

TOXINS ARE EVERYWHERE (by Pauline Larsen)

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(kristenhaynie.hubpages.com)

Here a toxin…there a toxin…everywhere a toxin…or two…or more!  We are continually  bombarded by toxins even in our home  environment, and  children and pets  are intensely curious, interested in exploring, discovering, and learning about their world.   That  natural curiosity can get them into trouble.  Dogs (and sometimes young children)  use their mouths in place of hands, and so they pick up, chew, and end up exposing themselves to numerous toxins in and around the home.

The kitchen with its tantalizing tastes and smells is a favorite gathering place for humans, and usually the home of a dog’s food bowl.  This room usually contains large quantities of household  maintenance  and cleaning chemicals, often in lower cabinets.  Many dogs easily learn to open cabinets, and, intrigued by new scents,  are likely to lap of a lethal dose of chemical cleaner or snack on a dirty sponge or scouring pad.   The solution? Childproof locks on the cabinets.   These locks are easy for an adult to open, and quickly become automatic, but are almost impossible for a child or pet to manage.  A second solution is  reconsider your housecleaning strategies, and rather than use caustic and poisonous  chemicals,  choose natural or “green” cleaners that are safer and more ecologically sound than traditional cleaners.

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(myplasticfreelife.com)

The kitchen garbage pail is full of potential  dangers.  Even a cover cannot deter a clever canine.  The greasy mess of wrappers and gnawed bones  are unhealthy, but the molds, bacteria, and toxins are more hazardous.  “People tend to underestimate the problems that eating garbage can cause,” emphasizes New Hampshire vet,  Dr Charles DeVinne.  “Such common throwaways, such as apple cores (and seeds), potato skins, and moldy cheese can make dogs sick, with symptoms ranging from obvious pain to diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by lethargy, depression, or seizures.  All of these symptoms require veterinary care.”

Other  dangers lurk  throughout your house.  Dogs who eat even one penny minted after 1983 or metal game tokens like Monopoly pieces risk zinc toxicity.  Small, sharp parts of toys can also cause internal blockages or even serious intestinal punctures.  The range of items removed from the stomachs of dogs include panty hose, superballs, feminine hygiene products, and plastic bread bags.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, among the top  poisons are:

l.  Foods, especially chocolate, the sweetener zylitol, grapes and raisins, onions, alcohol,  and unbaked yeast dough.

2.  Insecticides, including sprays, bait stations, and some spot-on-flea and tick treatments.(Do NOT buy these over the counter…consult your veterinarian!)

3.  Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison)

4.   Human medications including:

* Nonsteroidal  anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for humans, such as ibuprofen and naproxen

*Anti-depressant  such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Effexor

*Acetaminophens such as Tylenol and cold medications

*Amphetamines such as Adderall and Concerta, medications that are used to treat attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

*Cardiac meds (e.g.  calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, etc.)

*Vitamins and minerals  (Vitamin D3, iron, etc.

*Caffeine pills

5.  Household cleaners  including MANY  sprays, detergents and polishes.

6.  Fertilizers, including bone meal, blood meal, and iron-based products, cocoa mulch.

7.  Veterinary prescribed meds, especially pain relievers such as COX-2 inhibitors like Rimadyl,  Dermaxx, and Previcox, can be toxic if not administered properly.

   (A description of items listed can be found on www.petpoisonhelpline.com )

The best thing a pet caregiver can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly.  If you suspect your dog has ingested something questionable, consult your veterinarian or poison helpline immediately.  Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is important and may save the life of your pet.

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com

BRUSH UP ON DENTAL HEALTH by Pauline Larsen

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We all know that we need to take care of our teeth so that plaque and tarter buildup doesn’t cause bacteria that can migrate into our bloodstreams, resulting in serious health problems. The same is true with our pets. Along with good food, exercise, and lots of love, regular brushing of their teeth is one of the most important things we can do for them. Poor dental health isn’t just about your dog’s teeth and gums. Over 80 percent of them are affected by dental problems including serious periodontal disease by the time they are three years old, which affects their overall well- being.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month with the “ Pets Need Dental Care Too” campaign. Remember what your teeth looked and felt like this morning when you got up? That rough, thick feel to the surface of the teeth after going only overnight without brushing. Can you imagine not brushing your teeth for a couple days…or weeks…or years?

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Dogs depend on healthy teeth and gums for survival. Like their caregivers, they are susceptible to bacterial plaque, tarter, cavities, and tooth aches. Periodontal disease, caused by bacteria and their toxins, if left untreated, will damage the teeth, gums, and supporting tissues. They can also spread through the bloodstream to other organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart. Since dogs cannot brush their own teeth, it is the responsibility to the caregivers to keep their teeth and gums in tiptop shape. According to recent surveys of dog caregivers, almost all confirm that they would proactively do anything to help their dogs live longer, healthier lives, but fewer than l0 percent recognize dental care as one of the top health concerns for dogs. Very few recognize the importance of brushing their dog’s teeth.

Symptoms of periodontal disease include brownish or discolored teeth, tarter buildup at the gum line, swollen, bleeding, or receding gums, irritability, decreased appetite or reluctance to chew, eat, and drink, pawing at the mouth, rubbing the face on the ground, and persistent bad breath.

To help your dog keep a healthy, lifetime grin, humans need to practice preventative care.

  • Don’t dismiss doggie breath. A dog’s bad breath is often an early warning sign of dental problems.
  • Pay attention to your dog’s eating habits. If she is reluctant to eat hard kibble, it could be due to a tooth ache.
  • Provide fresh water daily. Bacteria can escalate inside bowls containing water that is more than a couple days old.
  • Treat your dog to a raw baby carrot or two every day. Raw carrots help scrub plaque away as well as provide vitamins and fiber.
  • BRUSH her teeth…no, we are not kidding! The idea of brushing your pet’s teeth daily can be a bit daunting at first, but it’s the best way to keep gum disease from getting started. If you have never done this, start off easy. Begin by handling his mouth for a couple minutes every day for a few days. Stroke around his face, and then reward him with praise and maybe a carrot! For the next week, work toward getting your dog comfortable with having his mouth handled . Don’t even try to brush….next week’s Paw Prints will cover basic tips for actual brushing.

Please don’t be one of the majority of caregivers who will become discouraged …as Mark Twain said, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. “ With patience (and carrots) , you’ll eventually have a dog who happily lets you mess with his mouth!!

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com

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