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Garden Safety Tips

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Spring has arrived and with the pleasant weather many of us will be outside working in the yard and garden. Always willings to offer “help” and provide us with company, our canine and feline friends may be right by our side – digging in the dirt or sampling the plants like a gourmet salad in a 5-star restaurant.

As pleasant as the outdoors can be during this time of year, it is not without potential safety hazards. There are a large number of plants that are potentially toxic.

The seeds, fruit and base of the Sago palm, so common in Southeast Texas, are all toxic to dogs. Vomiting often occurs within 3 hours of ingestion, followed by other signs such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and depression within 12 hours. Liver failure, coma and death may follow. In fact, once clinical signs develop, uo to 1/3 of dogs will die.

Azaleas are another abundant locally-found plant that has poisonour potential for both dogs and cats. The entire plant is toxic and ingestion of just a few leaves can cause serious problems. Signs include GI disturbances such as vomiting, diarrhea and excessive salivation, which may occur within 6 hours. Weakness, coma, low blood pressure, cardiovascular collapse and death may follow.

Cats are at risk of poisoning from multiple varieties of the lily plant. Lilies can cause sudden kidney failure withing 24-48 hours after ingestion. Without early and aggressive threatment after a cat eats a lily, the mortality rate is high. Every part of the plant is toxic. There have even been documented cases of cats developing kidney failure after exposure to only the pollen of a lily plant.

The number of poisonous plants is far too extensive to list here. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has a searchable database on their website that shows both toxic and non-toxic plants, including photographs to aid in identification. This information can be found at:

Other garden items can pose hazards to your pets. Fertilizers are good for our plants, but not so good for our four-legged family members. They can cause stomach upset and, if eaten in large enough amounts, can cause GI blockage.

Many fertilizers and lawn care products can be used safely around pets. But you must follow the instructions for use, including waiting the appropriate amount of time before allowing pets onto the treated areas. Carefully read the label for pet-specific instructions and, if absent, call the manufacturer directly.

Insecticides can be especially dangerous to pets. Watch out for snail bait with metaldehyde, systemic insecticides (usually for roses) that contain disyston or disulfaton, most forms of rat poisons, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide, and fly bait with methomyl. I’ve seen too may cases of toxic ingestion in which the pet owner thought the baits and boxes were in areas inaccessible to their pets. The best advice is to never use these items if you have pets.

When selecting which mulch to buy to beautify your landscaping, it is wise to avoid cocoa mulch. This mulch contains cocoa bean shells, which is a by-product of chocolate production. Just as chocolate is toxic to dogs, so is this type of mulch; and the sweet smell may be too appealing for a dog to resist. Shredded pine and cedar bark are safer alternatives.

Enjoy the springtime weather with Fido and Fluffy! Spending time outside in the yard and garden is a welcome change from our winter routine. Just remember that patential pet toxins are all around and it is up to us to make the outdoors safe for our furry friends.

Toxic Plants and Symptoms

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Plants, Fruits & Vegetables Toxic to Dogs
And their symptoms

Amaryllis: vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hyper salivation, anorexia, tremors

Autumn Crocus: oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, bone marrow suppression

Creeping Charlie: sweating, drooling

Daffodil, Narcissus: severe gastrointestinal disorders, convulsions, shivering, hypotension, dermatitis, muscular tremors and cardiac arrhythmias

Hyacinth: intense vomiting, diarrhea, occasionally with blood, depression and tremors

Gladiolas, Iris: vomiting occasionally with blood, depression, diarrhea, occasionally with blood, hyper salivation, abdominal pain

Lily of the Valley: ataxia, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, death

Tulip: intense vomiting, depression, diarrhea, hyper salivation, in appetence

Australian Nut: depression, hyperthermia, weakness, muscular stiffness, vomiting, tremors, increased heart rate. Only reported in dogs at this time.

Asparagus Fern, Emerald Feather (aka Emerald Fern), Lace Fern, Plumosa Fern: allergic dermatitis with
repeated dermal exposure. Berry ingestion could result in gastric upset (vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea.)

Cyclamen: vomiting, gastrointestinal inflammation, and death.

Hydrangea: vomiting, depression, anorexia, diarrhea, bufodienalides are cardio toxic

Christmas Rose: abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, convulsions, delirium

Foxglove: cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, delirium

Marijuana: prolonged CNS depression, respiratory depression, weakness, ataxia, sedation, sometimes hyper excitation

Morning Glory: seeds may cause hallucination, may cause diarrhea

Nightshade, Tomato Plant: hyper salivation, inaptness, severe gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, drowsiness, CNS depression, confusion, behavioral change, weakness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate

Glory Lily: oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney and liver damage, bone marrow suppression

Day Lily, Orange Day Lily, Asian Lily (liliaceae), Easter Lily, Japanese Show Lily, Red Lily, Rubrum Lily, Stargazer Lily, Tiger Lily, Wood Lily: vomiting, inaptness, lethargy, kidney failure, (Cats are only species known to be affected.)

Heavenly Bamboo shrub: cyanosis, pale mucous membranes, slow heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory congestion, seizures, semi-coma, respiratory failure, death

Holly shrub: intense vomiting and diarrhea, depression, also same symptoms as Jerusalem Cherry (see below)
Jerusalem Cherry shrub: gastrointestinal disturbances, possible ulceration of the gastrointestinal system, seizures, depression, respiratory depression, and shock
Mistletoe “American” shrub: gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular collapse, dyspnea bradycardia, erratic behavior, hallucinogenic in humans

Oleander shrub: vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac abnormalities, decreased body temperature, death
Precatory Bean shrub: beans are very toxic, especially if broken or chewed. Can see severe vomiting and diarrhea, increased body temperature, lack of coordination, inaptness and death

Cycads, Sago Palm Shrubs: vomiting, melena, icterus, increased thirst, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, coagulopathy, liver damage, liver failure, death
Tree Philodendron

Yucca: vomiting, depression, diarrhea, drooling, seizures

Aloe (Aloe Vera): vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, tremors, change in urine color

Avocado: vomiting, diarrhea, death, inflammation of mammary glands, cardiac failure, respiratory distress, generalized congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart

Buddhist Pine: severe vomiting and diarrhea

Chinaberry Tree: Berries are most toxic. Can see slow heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, depression, weakness, seizures, and shock

Japanese Yew (aka Yew): sudden death from acute cardiac failure, early signs muscular tremors, dyspnea, and seizures in dogs

Macadamia Nut:
Queensland Nut: depression, hyperthermia, weakness, muscular stiffness, vomiting, tremors, increased heart rate. Only reported in dogs at this time.

Branching Ivy: allergic dermatitis with repeated dermal exposure. Berry ingestion could result in gastric upset (vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea)

European Bittersweet: drooling, in appetence, severe gastric upset, drowsiness, lethargy, weakness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate

English Ivy, Glacier Ivy, Hahn’s self branching English Ivy, Needlepoint Ivy: (The foliage is more toxic than the berries.) gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, hyperactivity, breathing difficulty, coma, fever, polydipsia, dilated pupils, muscular weakness, and lack of coordination

American Bittersweet: weakness, convulsions, gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea)
Andromeda Japonica, Azalea, Rhododendron: vomiting, diarrhea, hyper salivation, weakness, coma, hypotension, CNS depression, cardiovascular collapse and death

Bird of Paradise: gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, vomiting, lack of coordination is possible. Deaths in rabbits have been reported

Buckeye: severe gastroenteritis, depression or hyper excitability, dilated pupils, coma

Castor Bean: (beans are very toxic): oral irritation burning of the mouth and throat, increase in thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, convulsions

Clematis: vomiting, diarrhea, oral ulcers, ataxia or vesicant action
Corn Plant (aka Cornstalk Plant), Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron, Florida Beauty, Gold Dust Dracaena, Madagascar Dragon Tree, Ribbon Plant, Red-Margined Dracaena, Striped Dracaena, Warneckei Dracaena: In cats: dilated pupils, breathing difficulty, abdominal pain, increased heart rate. In cats and dogs: vomiting depression, in appetence, drooling, lack of coordination and weakness.

Caladium hortulanum, Calla lily, Ceriman (aka Cutleaf Phiodendron, Charming Diffenbachia, Chinese Evergreen, Cordatum, Devil’ Ivy, Dub Crane, Elephant Ears, Fruit Salad Plant, Flamingo Plant, Golden Deiffenbachia, Golden Pothos, Green Gold Nephthysis, Heartleaf Philodendron, Horsehead, Marble Queen, Mauna Loa Peace Lily, Nephthyti, Peace Lity, Philodendron, Hurricane Plant, Lacy Tree, Mexican Breadfruit, Mother-in-Law, Panda, Philodendron Pertusum, Red Emerald, Red Princess, Saddle Lef Philodendron, Poinsettia, Satin Pothos, Scheffiera Tree, Spotted Dumb Cane, Swiss Cheese Plant, Taro Vine, Tropic Snow Dumbcane, Variable, (Dumb Cane) Dieffenbachia, Veriegated Philodendron: oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips, tongue, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing

Yellow Jasmine: Convulsions, death

Sweetheart Ivy: gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, hyperactivity, breathing difficulty, coma, fever, polydipsia, dilated pupils, muscular weakness and lack of coordination

Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow: Depression, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, convulsions, increase urinations, lack of coordination, hyperthermia
Should your pet eat a substantial part of a toxic plant, rush to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Time can cause a lot of damage. If you can, take the plant or part of it with you for identification.

Known Food Toxins To Dogs
Fruits, Vegetables, Food

Apple, Almond, Apricot, Peach, Wild Cherries, Plum, Balsam Pear, Prunes and similar fruit: Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, (Stem, Seeds and Leaves) The seeds of most fruits contain cyanide, which is poisonous to dogs as well as humans.

Avocados: The fruit, pit and plant are all toxic. They can cause difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen and heart

Broccoli: reported to be pretty potent gastrointestinal irritant

Cherry: rapid breathing, shock, mouth inflammation, heart rate increase

Chocolate: seizures, coma, hyperactivity, rapid heart beat, tremors, death. Bakers chocolate is the most dangerous. A dog can consume milk chocolate and appear to be fine because it is not as concentrated but is still very dangerous.

  • 1 oz per lb of body weight for (2 oz per kg) of body weight for bakers chocolate
  • 1 oz per 3 lbs of body weight (1 oz per 1.5 kg body weight) for semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 oz per 9lbs of body weight (1 oz per 4 kg) for bakers chocolate

Please keep in mind that these are only guidelines, and if you suspect your pet had ingested chocolate, please keep an eye out for ANY signs of poisoning! Every dog reacts differently to quantity.
Coffee/Tea: Drinks/Foods: containing caffeine or sugar may cause many of the same symptoms chocolate causes

Cooked Bones: uncooked bones should be safe but if they are cooked you should refrain because they deteriorate and easily splinter. Can cause extensive damage to internal organs and passage ways, may times resulting in death.

Mushrooms: acute gastric effects, liver and kidney damage, abdominal pain, nausea, salivation, vomiting

Nutmeg: tremors, seizures and death

Tobacco: nausea, salivation, vomiting, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)

Onion: (cats are more sensitive), gastrointestinal upset, hemolytic anemia, heinz body anemia, hemogloinria, destroys red blood cells

Grapes, Raisins, Prunes: kidney failure, as little as a single serving of grapes or raisins can kill a dog. It takes anywhere from 9 oz to 2 lbs of grapes and raisins (between .041 and 1.1 oz/kg of body weight), to cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, and possible kidney failure

Salt: excessive intake can cause kidney problems

Raw Eggs- many people feed raw eggs to their dogs but keep in mind that they can contain salmonella. Dogs do have a higher immunity against salmonella poisoning but are not immune and have been reported to get it from uncooked eggs.

Dental Health for Our Pets

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“Ewww, Fido, your breath stinks. Don’t lick me!?” Do you find yourself saying similar words to your pet? There is no doubt that bad breath in our kitty and doggie friends is unpleasant, but could it represent a more serious problem? In a word ? YES!

Inside your pet’s mouth live thousands of bacteria. These bacteria can adhere to the teeth and make a clear, sticky film called plaque. As plaque hardens and becomes mineralized, it turns into tartar. This tartar and all its bacteria then work their way under the gum line to cause gingivitis, recession of gums, and eventually bone destruction and tooth loss. The bacteria can also enter the blood stream and travel throughout the body, causing damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver.

Oral health problems are widespread in our pets. Approximately 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have evidence of dental disease by age 2 years, making it one of the most common diseases affecting our pets. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help improve your pet?s dental health.

The most effective preventative measure is daily brushing of your pet’s teeth. Be sure to use specially formulated pet toothpaste and go slowly when first starting. If your pet is aggressive or does not tolerate having the mouth handled, do not force the tooth brushing. Also, never use human toothpaste or baking soda on your pets, as these can lead to GI disturbances. There are also specially formulated dental diets, dental treats and chews, as well as oral health rinses which will aid in preventing plaque and tartar build-up. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about what is best for your pet.

Finally, just like we need to go to the dentist for regular exams and cleanings, so do your pets. When your pet is being examined by their veterinarian, be sure that the doctor does a full exam which includes the mouth and teeth. Recommendations can then be made based on the degree of dental disease. You may even be told that your pet needs to have the teeth cleaned. Take this advice seriously. Remember, dental disease is more than just stinky breath. It is infection in the mouth which, not only can affect other body organs, but can cause great discomfort to your furry family members. So “flip the lip” and take the first steps toward good dental health for your pet.