Pet Health

Playing Keep Away

posted September 21st, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

When I set out to write this article, I intended to focus on the effects of “people food” when eaten by dogs. After speaking with veterinarians, I discovered their concern was far more reaching than food.

Of course, they want pet owners to know common foods harmful and even toxic to pets, but they also want them to be aware of the cases they see on a usual basis which could be avoided if pet owners performed their due diligence. In the end, it could possibly save your pet’s life or, at least, a costly vet bill.

Let’s start with the basics. You probably already know many of these foods to avoid for Fido. Thanks to the ASPCA, here’s a handy list of 10 foods found in most households which are harmful to dogs and other pets.

Avocado is toxic to dogs, horses, rabbits, fish and mice. This is due to a compound called persin, an oil-soluble toxin found in specialized cells within the avocado fruit and its skin. It can cause damage to many animals’ heart muscle cells and cause heart failure. In other species, it can cause inflammation of the mammary glands, according to aspca.org.

Although there have been reports of dogs developing heart failure after ingesting a large amount of avocado, most dogs who ingest it develop no serious injuries. In light of the facts, the ASPCA suggests dogs avoid avocado. The possibility of your pet swallowing the pit is reason enough to avoid the fruit, which can cause blockage in the digestive tract, requiring surgery.

Raw Bread Dough The danger in dogs ingesting raw bread dough lies within the warm, moist environment of the stomach where yeast multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough. The ASPCA says expansion of the stomach, if severe enough, could result in decreased blood flow to the stomach wall, causing the death of tissue. Expansion of the stomach could also press on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulty.

Chocolate intoxication is most commonly seen around holidays where candy would be in abundance, such as Easter, Christmas, Halloween or Valentine’s Day, the ASPCA says. The compounds in chocolate that cause toxicosis are caffeine and theobromine, both chemicals are called methylxanthines.

A good rule of thumb to remember is, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. According to the ASPCA, if your dog displays more than mild restlessness after eating chocolate, see your veterinarian immediately.

Ethanol (Alcohol) Ingesting even a small amount of alcohol can cause significant intoxication in dogs. The ASPCA says drinks like White Russians and egg nog (those with milk) are the most appealing to dogs. Alcohol intoxication may cause vomiting, loss of coordination or disorientation (much like humans). The most severe cases could induce comas, seizures or death.

If you believe your dog has alcohol poisoning, he or she should be monitored by a veterinarian until recovered. It is important to note that hops, used in brewing beer, are also life-threatening for dogs if ingested.

Grapes and Raisins Recently, grapes and raisins have been associated with kidney failure in dogs. The exact cause of the kidney failure isn’t clear, nor is it clear why some dogs can eat the fruit without harm while others experience life-threatening problems after eating even a small amount of raisins or grapes. Further unexplainable is the fact that some dogs can eat the fruit with no ill effects, then later on eat them and become sick.

With the cause of illness still a mystery, the safest bet is to keep grapes and raisins away from your dog completely. Dogs that ingest the fruit and develop toxicosis usually develop vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion, according to the ASPCA. With progression of the sickness, dogs may become more lethargic and dehydrated with increased urination, followed by possible decreased or absent urination.

Death could occur in three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may develop. Veterinary treatment should be prompt.

Macadamia Nuts The good news here is that macadamia nut ingestion is unlikely to be fatal in dogs. However, it may cause uncomfortable symptoms for up to 48 hours, the ASPCA says. Symptoms may include weakness in the rear legs, the appearance of pain, possible tremors, and a low grade fever. While symptoms will subside over the 48 hours, dogs may benefit from veterinary care, including intravenous fluid therapy and pain medication.

Moldy Foods Numerous molds grow on food. Some produce toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can be serious or lifethreatening for dogs if ingested. Without a known way to determine whether a particular mold is producing tremorgenic mycotoxins, the safest route is to avoid feeding moldy food to dogs, the ASPCA says. Remove any debris or trash that your dog could possibly eat (from fallen walnuts or fruit to road kill). The signs of tremorgenic mycotoxin poisoning can begin as fine muscle tremors and progress to total body tremors, even convulsions leading to death. Most dogs will respond well to veterinary treatment.

Onions and Garlic All members of the onion family (shallots, scallions, garlic, etc.) contain compounds damaging to dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities. According to the ASPCA, follow this rule of thumb: “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.”

“Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions on an ounce for ounce basis,” the ASPCA article adds. It’s uncommon for a dog to eat enough raw onion or garlic to result in serious problems but exposure to concentrated forms, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk for toxicosis. The damage to the red blood cells may not be apparent for three to five days.

Dogs affected may appear weak, reluctant to move or easily tired after mild exercise. Urine may be orange–tinted to dark red. Veterinary care is necessary and blood transfusions may be needed.

Xylitol This all-natural sweetener is used in sugar-free gums, baked products and is also used as a drink sweetener for those looking to avoid calories or synthetic alternatives. While it’s a good choice for people as it does not affect their blood sugar levels, in dogs it can lead to a rapid, severe drop in blood sugar levels.

Dogs may develop disorientation and seizures within 30 minutes after ingestion of xylitol, the ASPCA states. However, it could take up to several hours after ingestion. Large quantities could cause liver failure. Any dog ingesting xylitol should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Fatty Foods/Fat drippings BBQ, fat drippings or scraps of meat can be hazardous if eaten by dogs, Dr. Troy McNamara of Animal Emergency Center cautions. Vomiting, diarrhea and even pancreatitis could develop. So make every effort to clean the grill and keep Fido away from leftovers or drippings that may be in the trash.

Beyond Food… Trash As just mentioned, the trash can be a danger zone, McNamara says. Too often he treats dogs and other animals that have eaten something out of the trash can. “Most people know that dogs like to get into the kitchen trash for leftovers, but they also love bathroom trash,” he says.

While unpleasant to think about, he says pet owners must be vigilant to keep feminine hygiene products and used disposable diapers away from pets’ reach. Bathroom trash needs to be tightly secured if pets are near, or the end result may be surgery. “Feminine hygiene products are very absorbent and swell inside the dog’s stomach and intestines, causing blockages and rupturing the intestines. Baby diapers are similar and very absorbent,” McNamara says.

Medicine Medications are another area of concern. Common household pain relievers, such as Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofen, are toxic to pets (Tylenol being lethal in cats). McNamara says aspirin is safest, but with any medication, it is best to consult your veterinarian before administering.

Take that one step further and prescription medications may be even more dangerous. Keep all medications in an area your pet cannot reach. “Sleep medications, antidepressants, blood pressure or heart medications are all concerning, McNamara says.

It may go without saying, but veterinarians see pets that have ingested illicit drugs. Any and all drugs should be kept away from pets.

Rodenticides/Mouse Poison McNamara says it is common to see dogs that have ingested rat poison. Most often it leads to bleeding disorders where the blood will not clot, resulting in hemorrhaging and death. “This is 100 percent treatable,” he says, “in the early stages with a prescription medication. However, if left untreated it requires intensive care, transfusions and sometimes is still fatal.”

Common Plants Berries from common plants, such as nandina or burning bush, are toxic to dogs, Dr. Jana Layton of Riverbrook Animal Hospital says. These two particular ones are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. She says burning bush can cause heart arrhythmia, vomiting and diarrhea. Nandina berries may cause seizures, coma or respiratory failure.

Your best line of defense is to know the specific plants your pet encounters around your home. The ASPCA has a detailed list of 17 hazardous plants, which can be accessed at www.aspca. org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/17- poisonous-plants.

Also found in the yard, mushrooms that grow wild should be kept away from pets, Layton says. Its effect is on the liver and may take up to 72 hours to become apparent.

Foreign Bodies Layton and McNamara both find that dogs like to eat things. Period. “Not only food but weird things—coins, fish hooks, silverware, small toys,” McNamara says. Gorilla Glue, a cassette tape ribbon, a Reebok footie sock—all things which Layton has had to surgically remove or treat after ingestion. The bottom line is that pet owners must be vigilant to keep hazardous foods and household items away from pets when possible. Look for signs of distress, pain or sickness in your pet and be quick to seek veterinary care. It could save his or her life.

A FRIEND for a FRIEND

posted July 15th, 2013 by
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by Stacy Pettit

Karl Villadsen has come to grips with the reality that he will struggle with being HIV positive for the rest of his life. However, Karl has always had one consistent friend while battling this lonely disease—his dog Sigmund Freud.

“(Pets) give that unconditional love, no matter what,” Karl says. “You could have the worst day in the world and be running a 110 [degree] fever, and that dog still loves you and will stay by your side when you can’t get out of the chair.”

Now, after being Karl’s loyal friend for 15 years, the aging dog needs a little extra care these days—care that is difficult for Karl to provide after the cost of his own treatments and medicines. It is during times like these that one local organization jumps in to help.

“We take care of it all,” says Jason Eddingfield, co-director of A Friend for a Friend.

For Jason, that means personally delivering more than 1,500 pounds of dog and cat food throughout the month to pet owners with HIV and AIDS, and the organization does not stop there. A Friend for a Friend pays for vet bills and necessary grooming services. Volunteers walk dogs if the owner is in the hospital for an extended period of time, and they change cat litter for people who are too ill to do it themselves.

Today, the organization has grown to help about 100 clients throughout the year, but for Founder and co-director Alice Bates, the life of the organization began through the life of just one person. At the time, Alice was searching for a way to honor her son David Wilder who died in 1991 after his own painful battle with AIDS.

“I wanted to do something to make his life and death more than just life and death,” she says.

So when a friend told Alice a man dying from AIDS was distraught and fearful that his ill dog would die first, Alice jumped in to pay the vet bill. Word of her kindness spread to a news station, and they picked up the story. Soon, Alice started receiving phone calls from people asking to volunteer or requesting Alice’s help with their pets. Then two 12-year-old boys stopped by to tell Alice they could help by walking dogs as the pets’ owners stayed in the hospital.

Purely by accident, Alice had found her way to honor David.

Even now, 88-year-old Alice is surprised the organization was successful during a time when AIDS was only discussed behind closed doors.

“Things were not easy back then, but they were done with such love that it worked,” Alice says. “I had no idea that this would still be going 22 years later.”

Today, the organization generates most of its donations through a fundraising event held in September at Panera Bread. A Friend for a Friend also works with the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, as well as local veterinarians, grocery stores and groomers to get discounted rates and donated food and supplies.

Having these connections is essential to the physical health of the pets, and important for the mental health of clients who often consider their dogs and cats to be part of the family, says Brad Mulholland, client and volunteer for A Friend for a Friend.

While the client list has grown over the past two decades, Alice says she has gained numerous friends through the organization. But she has also had the difficult task of saying goodbye to many of these friends, and she gets emotional when she talks about the dogs that have sat by her feet at their owners’ funerals. During these times, much like the months after her own son’s death, Alice has pushed through the grief to carry on the life of another. After a client passes away, Alice ensures that the organization will find a new home for the loyal and loving pet.

“It has sad, sad times, but it’s so rewarding,” Alice says. “I have friends I would have never had; I know people I would never have known, and I’ve learned a lot.”

For more information about A Friend for a Friend, call (918) 747-6827.

Danger in Dog Days of Summer

posted July 15th, 2013 by
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Summer in Oklahoma means fun in the sun, but for man’s best friend, that fun can easily take a nasty turn for the worst. Dogs love to be with their owners, but owners beware — taking your dog out and about in hot summer temperatures can be a deadly choice.

According to Dr. Lauren Johnson of Hammond Animal Hospital, heat stroke in pets requires immediate emergency treatment. Because dogs are only able to sweat to a very minor degree through the pads of their feet, they do not tolerate high temperatures as well as humans do. Dogs resort to panting to exchange warm air for cool air, but when outside air temperatures are close to or exceed a dog’s normal body temperature, cooling by panting is not an efficient process.

So what are some of the common situations that can set the stage for heat stroke in dogs? Dr. Johnson lists the following:

• Being left in a car in hot weather. Even if outside temperatures are in the 70s, the temperatures inside the car can soar to dangerous levels within minutes, even with windows open.

• Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather. Remember, your dog does not sweat anywhere except from the pads of his feet.

• Being a brachycephalic breed (short or “smashed” nose) especially Bulldogs, Pugs, or Pekingese, because they can’t dissipate heat effectively.

• Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing.• Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces.

• Being confined without access to cool shelter, shade and/or fresh water in hot weather.

Symptoms of heat stroke begin with a dog panting heavily and having difficulty breathing. The dog’s tongue and mucous membranes will appear bright red. You may see very thick saliva and vomiting. With heat stroke, a dog’s body temperature will quickly rise to levels ranging from 104° to 110°F and the dog may be unsteady and disoriented. As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membrane turn gray and the dog may collapse, have seizures, or fall into a comatose state. Death can quickly follow.

Dr. Johnson says that emergency treatment is crucial. Immediate measures must be taken to cool the dog. “Move the dog out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned building,” said Dr. Johnson. “Cool the dog by spraying him with a garden hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water for a couple of minutes, but not ice water.” She also suggests that cool packs applied to the dog’s groin area may also be helpful, as well as wiping his paws off with cool water.

If possible, you should immediately monitor the dog’s rectal temperature, continuing the cooling process until the dog’s temperature falls below 103°F. After initial cooling, transport the dog to a veterinarian for further emergency treatment and support. According to Dr. Johnson the dog is not out of the woods once the initial heat episode sub-sides. Consequences of hyperthermia can manifest hours or even days later and include kidney failure, spontaneous bleeding, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.

Dr. Johnson is quick to advise that prevention is obvious-ly the best medicine. During hot temperatures, it is best to let your pet stay at home. Exercise your pet in the early morning or later in the evening when temperatures drop, and always make sure your pet has easy access to fresh water. If your pet starts panting heavily or falling behind in a walk, it’s time to head indoors.

The Pet Prescription and Returning the Healing Favor

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Anna Holton-Dean

The Pet Prescription

Your formula for good health might only require a little “lab” work or “cat” scan.

Pet lovers know the obvious physical benefits of owning a pet. As you walk Fido, you will reap the reward of burned calories. But wait, there’s more. The scientific research of pet ownership’s effects on health continues to grow, showing lowered blood pressure, less risk of heart disease and reduced anxiety. These benefits aren’t from your daily walks, but rather the bond between you and your four-legged friend.

“Owning a pet gives you a sense of purpose and belonging that can increase feelings of positivity and lower stress levels, all of which translates to health benefits,” Dr. Allen McConnell, a psychology professor at Miami University, says.

Current research backs up this notion. Women asked to solve a math equation with their dogs nearby experienced less stress than women who worked with a human friend in a study conducted by the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology and neuropsychological researcher at the University of British Columbia, has published nine books on the people- animal bond, and he explains that when people interact with a friendly animal, their blood pressure lowers and their muscles relax.

However, this isn’t shockingly new information. Pets have been used for over 150 years in medical settings, according to NPR.org. “One could even look at Florence Nightingale recognizing that animals provided a level of social support in the institutional care of the mentally ill,” Dr. Aubrey Fine, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State Polytechnic University, says.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that scientific research began to explain the human- animal bond and benefit.

NPR.org states one of the earliest studies in this area, conducted in the 1980s, found heart attack patients who owned dogs lived longer than those who did not.

Pets have an effect on a chemical level. Owning a pet decreases cortisol, the damaging stress hormone, and increases dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical. Prevention.com says you can maximize the benefits of your pet’s presence by reaching out and petting him or her. Do not simply vent your cares aloud to your pet. Petting results in an increase of immunoglobulin A, an immune-boosting antibody.

While one might assume it’s the soft fur that activates this response, it isn’t this alone, but rather the simple power of touch. Stroking a pet snake could bring down its owner’s blood pressure and heart rate, according to a study in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. Dr. Coren says it is the power of touch that establishes love and comfort, resulting in the desired physical benefits.

More good news shows that people who interact with animals experience a boost in oxytocin, the hormone that promotes love and trust—also linked to reduced blood pressure and heart rate—intertwining the physical and emotional benefits.

While oxytocin’s immediate results are good, its long-term effects are even better, Rebecca Johnson, head of the Research Center for Human/ Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, says.

“Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier,” she says.

If being in a state of readiness to heal sounds like a state you want to be in, try anthropomorphizing your pet. “People get more physical and psychological benefits the more they [do this],” McConnell says. Creating an emotional bond with your pet just as you would a human friend pays hefty health dividends.

If you’ve ever wanted to dress up your furry friend or bake a doggie birthday cake, now you have medical reasons to do so. Go ahead and throw the pet party of your dreams… for your health’s sake, of course. Sources: Prevention.com, “How Your Pet Can Heal You” NPR.org, “Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other” TulsaPets May/June 2013

Returning the Healing Favor

Dr. Jana Layton of Riverbrook Animal Hospital shares insights from her own experience

of how animals receive healing from their human counterparts

 

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about my years in practice is the difference cats’ people make in their recovery. Most people think of cats as extremely independent, as if they could care less about humans, but I’ve witnessed the opposite to be true. I’ve seen many cats over the years that needed to be hospitalized for a few days, and they get depressed! They typically won’t eat, hide in their litter boxes and sink deeper into depression.

Having their owners visit even just once a day, many times, resulted in my witnessing them eating from their owners’ hands. Their eyes went from glazed over indifference to bright eyed and willing to go on for another day of treatment. Reversely, it is encouraging to the pet owner and to all of us in the hospital. I believe there is healing that happens for all involved.

I have one diabetic feline patient whose owners went out of state to visit family. While they were gone, he developed life-threatening pancreatitis and went into kidney failure. Unable to return home immediately, his owners asked if I would visit him in the emergency care clinic—I have treated him for five years—so he could see someone he knew who cared about him.

When I arrived, he was curled up in the litter box, facing the corner of his cage with tubes coming out of several places. He seemed so depressed; no one thought he would recover. As he looked at me and my technician, I saw recognition in his eyes. I turned him around to face us, and we loved on him a while.

When we were ready to leave, I turned him back toward the wall, and he got up and turned himself around to look at us! There was a noticeable change in him from dull and lifeless to what appeared to be a sense of hope. As we were leaving the hospital, I spoke with the vet in charge, and he was not very hopeful about the cat’s recovery, as he had never seen one this bad recover.

Other people the cat knew came to visit over the next few days. His owners returned home, and he recovered. He is as happy and healthy as he was before he got sick!

Another case that stands out in my memory is of a 12-year-old Labrador diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in her cartilage that invaded her spinal cord and hips. She did well for a year after diagnosis, but eventually became non-weight bearing on the affected hind leg and had difficulty getting around. She was otherwise happy and not in pain, so quality of life was still present.

In this case, also, her owner had to leave the country for two weeks for work, and Emma, the Lab, stayed with a friend. A week after her owner left, Emma fell down outside and could not get up. The friend brought her in to see me, and we determined the tumor had affected the entire spinal cord, leading to nerve damage in both hind legs, leaving her unable to stand or walk.

I Skyped with her owner who was in Scotland, and she knew the time to euthanize Emma was near, but couldn’t bear the thought of not being there for Emma when Emma had always been there for her. We talked about how she was still eating, and I couldn’t find her to be in pain (the lone benefit of the cancer invading the spinal cord).

Because she wasn’t in pain, we decided to take things one day at a time. As long as she was eating and pain free, we would wait until her owner returned home. While Emma’s appetite declined over the coming days, she held on. By the time her owner returned, she had stopped eating, had discharge coming from both eyes and looked like she wanted to die.

As soon as Emma saw her, she perked up, started wagging her tail and made every effort to get up and leave with her. She was leaving this hospital even if she had to drag her hind end behind her to do it! Emma did return home with her owner although she couldn’t walk, and the two of them enjoyed two more weeks together without Emma suffering. I saw healing for both of them in this.

Emma was not healed of cancer or able to walk, but she was able to be happy again even if just for a few more days. Again, the owner had a vital, irreplaceable role to play in Emma’s life to the very end of it, which, in turn, healed her owner’s heart.

We all need to feel we are vital, important, needed and necessary in this life, and our pets are a gift to teach us that role. They are such an example of resiliency, free spiritedness, unconditional love and forgiveness in this sometimes harsh reality that we so often live in.

How could we not heal from them?

Ask the Vet

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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Dear Dr. Best :

I have an opossum in my yard, and I’m not sure exactly if it’s just one. I have fountains around with water, and they probably drink out of them. I also have two dogs. Is it safe to have opossums in the same yard as dogs? I called the City and they said they could trap and relocate them. Any advice is appreciated. And, of course, my dogs are vaccinated for rabies.

Thanks,     A worried dog mom

To the worried dog mom:

It generally is not harmful to have opossums sharing the same yard, but there is a slight risk of opossums and raccoons transmitting Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection of the kidneys. However, I wouldn’t be worried about it, just aware of the possibility. Opossums do not commonly carry rabies, so that generally isn’t a concern. If you don’t want them in the yard, you will need to make the yard less attractive to them—taking away food and water sources and places they could hide or sleep.

Dear Dr. Best :

I have incredibly dry skin and lotion up every morning. However, my dogs love the lotion smell and can smell it several rooms away when I am applying it. They want to lick, lick, lick on me all day. And I discourage this. I use all types of lotions, but do you know if licking it will hurt them?

Thanks in advance,     The dry dog mom

To the dry dog mom:

Most lotions will not be harmful if the dogs lick some of it, although I certainly would recommend discouraging the behavior. If the lotions are medicated, like with steroids or tea tree oil or antibiotics, they could be harmful. If you can’t discourage them from licking it, you may have to keep away from them until it is absorbed.

This issue’s participating veterinarian is Dr. Carol Best of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital, Tulsa. Thank you Dr. Best for answering our readers’ questions. If you have a question of a non-urgent nature for a Tulsa vet, please email [email protected]

Snakebite!

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Lauren Cavagnolo

 

It was a typical day in September last year for Felicia Russell and her dog Deacon. Russell was getting ready for work and Deacon, a 9-yearold German Shorthaired Pointer, was outside.

When it was time for her to leave, he came right into the house and settled into his crate.

“He didn’t act unusual, and I had no reason to inspect him for anything,” Russell said. She left for work and returned about six hours later.

“When I opened the crate, he staggered out drooling, and his head was the size of a football,” Russell said. “His left eye was swollen shut, and I saw blood on his legs and face. I knew immediately what had happened because I have had a dog bitten by a copperhead previously. For some odd reason, I checked the crate for a snake!”

She quickly loaded Deacon into the car and took him to Oklahoma Veterinary Specialists, an all-hours emergency facility, and called from the road to let them know they were on the way.

“They were ready when we came in the door,” Russell said. “Since he had been in his crate for over six hours immediately after the bite, his blood was seriously affected, and they determined antivenin therapy was the best option.”

Inspection showed he had at least a half dozen bites and three envenomated bites, one of which was only a quarter of an inch from his eye. Left untreated, serious damage could have been done to his internal organs, Russell said.

Deacon stayed at OVS for four days until he was stable enough to go home. Overall, the cost of his treatment exceeded $4,500.

He was just one of 21 dogs with snake bites that required antivenin therapy treated by OVS veterinarians last year, according to Shad Wilkerson, DVM, at OVS.

Though Deacon was able to go home just several days after being treated, he also had some longterm effects from the attack.

For the most part, he made a swift recovery, Russell says, “with the exception of the necrotic tissue on his face. That took a few weeks to slough off. He still lacks hair in the directly affected areas.”

Deacon also suffered from clotting issues and red blood cell restriction.

“I can’t do rabies on him anymore because of the effect on his blood,” Russell said. “There have been a couple of cases of snake bitten dogs that had brain seizures and swelling following rabies vaccination. If I ever have a question about his immunity to rabies, I will have a titer done.”

Elena Shirley, DVM, of Hunters Glen Veterinary Hospital, explains that depending on the type of snake and the type of poison, it can interfere in different ways with the animal’s clotting factors.

“Some animals can experience bleeding disorders or coagulopathies, those are the kind of things, even once we get the immediate symptoms under control, that can linger, and we have to monitor that as you go forward,” Shirley said.

Shirley, a general practitioner who has treated her share of dogs with snake bites, says it can take up to two weeks for other symptoms to kick in.

Rarely, some animals will experience what is called “serum sickness” or an unusual reaction to any foreign substance in the body, she said. Symptoms include hives, joint pain, fever and general malaise.

Where we seem to get a lot of snakebites is late summer when it’s really hot outside, Wilkerson said. “The rattlesnakes and the copperheads, in particular, tend to become more crepuscular or active at dusk and dawn because it is really hot in the middle of the day.”

People also tend to keep their pets inside at the hottest part of the day.

“It’s too hot in the daytime for all the different creatures to be out so everybody congregates in the cooler hours of the day,” Wilkerson said.

Even though late summer is when a lot of snake bites occur, venomous snakes start to come out as early as April, he said.

Typical spring cleaning behaviors, such as taking pool covers off and clearing leaves and underbrush can unintentionally disturb venomous snakes, Shirley said.

“They are not lying in wait to kill people, but they are protecting themselves,” Shirley said. “They are conserving energy at certain times of the year, and they are also protecting nests, and if you see them out during the day, it’s pretty unusual.”

Wilkerson and Shirley both say that the most common venomous snakes in the area are the copperhead, rattlesnake and the occasional water moccasin.

“We really don’t see water moccasins in our area so much,” Wilkerson said. “People are always talking about it, and it really is mostly a misconception.”

There are some varieties of water snakes that look similar to the cottonmouth or water moccasin but are not poisonous, which is what most people are seeing, Wilkerson said.

“We see copperhead bites the most, and luckily they are the least dangerous of the ones we have here,” Wilkerson said.

Pet owners who don’t actually see their animal get bitten by a snake may not immediately put all of the symptoms together and think “snakebite,” Shirley said. Bites are not always the first sign pet owners will notice, especially if the animal has longer hair.

“Either the pet is lying around, has lowered energy, possibly some nausea, some throwing up. Possibly some trembling, and very possibly some problems in the area of the skin where the bite took place. The point is when you see any of that, it’s not that owners aren’t responsible, good people,” Shirley said. “But they may not put it together what is happening. They may think ‘Oh, he’s got an abscess on his foot, or he’s hurt his toe.’”

A pet owner who does see his or her animal attacked by a snake should immediately bring the animal to an emergency vet center, Wilkerson said.

“The best thing to do is just to keep them calm and get them somewhere where they can receive antivenin,” Wilkerson said. “A dog that gets bit by a venomous snake, you’ll see the fang marks, and the tissue starts to swell. It’s very painful, and the swelling is dramatic.”

Wilkerson also advises against using a tourniquet on the animal or administering Benadryl or any other antihistamine.

“I usually do not use Benadryl or any other type of antihistamine with them because the antivenin does a better job, and the two are not to be used together,” Wilkerson said.

Shirley agrees that a tourniquet should not be used on an animal with a snakebite, but says there are instances where the use of an antihistamine like Benadryl is appropriate, depending on the type of antivenin. It can also be used to prevent and treat allergic reactions to antivenin.

Pet owners should call their veterinarians to find out what the proper protocol is.

All 21 dogs treated with antivenin last year at OVS lived, according to their records.

“[Antivenin] is the gold standard, so that’s what’s recommended. It really does a good job,” Wilkerson said.

Crotalidae polyvalent antivenin is most commonly used in this part of the country and is what both OVS and the Animal Emergency Center keep on hand. A general practice veterinarian may or may not keep antivenin on the shelves.

Russell, Deacon’s owner, knows he is one lucky dog and has this message for pet owners who may be facing the same situation:

“If you have a dog bitten by a snake, and you are unsure if it is a venomous snake, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care,” Russell said. “Don’t even waste time on first aid. Just stabilize and transport.”

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