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Ignorance is not Bliss…. Three Entirely Preventable Pet Health Hazards

In life there are always going to be a few eureka moments, you know that instant when a fact, a feeling or realization suddenly just makes sense… Likewise, we are constantly learning, whether subconsciously or intentionally… from the moment we first open our eyes, our mental faculties are designed to continually process information and store it away for future reference… whether that’s the cast and plot line of your favourite series, the Rugby World Cup winning team (which may require a little more brain space if you’re from the Southern Hemisphere) or any one of a trillion things that are important in life and which we experience and assimilate throughout our years… Which for vets include such things as, treating a poisoned pet and how to carry out lifesaving procedures on a pet that has suffered heat stroke.

Sadly, every year around the world there will be thousands of vets treating millions of pets for poisoning and toxicity, along with heat stroke and associated over heating issues. Of which the majority are entirely preventable. 

So, we at GVC have decided that a lack of awareness should not be a reason for these issues to continue causing our pets harm and we really want to avoid any more pet parents having a nightmare eureka moment when they suddenly learn the tragic cost of a new lesson learned – specifically in relation to these three causes of emergency pet visits.

  • 1. Lilies are Lethal!

But they are such pretty flowers and waft out wonderful aromas… Yes, and they are also exceptionally toxic to cats and can be harmful to dogs. A cat that ingests any part from one of several common lily varieties is likely to suffer from serious kidney issues within hours and, without timely veterinary intervention, will likely have a very poor prognosis (including death). For dogs, the toxicity may not be as serious but can still lead to stomach problems, vomiting and potentially serious allergic reactions.  

So please, please please… If you are a pet parent enforce a strict NO lily allowed rule on your property (and let any potential “gifters” know in advance).

  • 2. Chocolate is Poison (to pets)!

Yes, that is correct. Chocolate, that source of human happiness (eating chocolate increases the release of endorphins in our brains) and nectar of the gods… is poison to our pets.

The fact is that a cat or dog that eats chocolate is consuming a poison, to what degree depends on the amount and type of chocolate consumed but all chocolates are toxic to pets. Importantly, the darker the chocolate the higher the level of toxicity due to the presence of theobromine, which, although present in all forms of chocolate, is contained at a much higher volume in dark and cooking chocolates. Theobromine is a natural substance found in the cacao bean and is registered on the National Hazardous Substances Database (USA). If consumed in a large enough dose, it will cause humans to experience some nasty effects. In animals, especially cats and dogs, those doses are much, much smaller and even a little can have serious and potentially fatal results. So, please do not feed chocolate to your pet, do not leave chocolate lying around and, if feasible, try to keep children eating chocolate away from your pet. Easter and Christmas are both bad news bonanzas for pets and chocolate with dogs snuffling out the Easter Eggs or rummaging through the prezzies for those bumper choccy selections. Fortunately, cats as a rule are unlikely to eat sweet foods, however, we all know of dogs that will happily munch anything and, if this is chocolate, then a very swift trip to the vet is needed!  

  • 3. Heat Kills

This is really important because every year pets, especially dogs, will die because they have been over exposed to the sun, heat, or have been over-exerted to the point that their body temperatures increase to levels that are dangerous and can lead to irreversible damage.   

“Dogs Die in Cars” is the bleak but true message that the RSPCA promotes each summer. In the UK, a climate that is somewhat different to the UAE’s, the ambient temperature even in summer is often not enough alone to cause serious issues, however, the exceptions are when a pet is left trapped in a car, a conservatory or in another confined space that will intensify the heat and quickly raise the temperature. A car experiencing an outside temperature of 30°C can have an internal temperature in excess of 50°C… after all, cars are metal boxes with lots of heat magnifying glass… So, a parked car in the sun is absolutely not the place to leave a dog… And even under cloud cover, those summer temperatures will quickly become a problem. The advice therefore is to leave your pooch pals at home and avoid car rides during summer.   

Here in the UAE, with summertime peaks nudging 50°C, just being outside in the summer can quickly cause our pets physical distress and heat issues… however, add into the mix any exertion and those heat issues can escalate rapidly and with dire consequences. So please avoid any exercise with your pet during the hottest hours of the day (e.g. between 8:00 – 17:00 but always check temperatures…) and, even in the morning and evenings, please check the ambient temperature, check the surface temperature (tarmac and road surfaces get very hot… too hot for sensitive paws) and keep a very close eye on your dog when you head out for (short) walkies… Any signs of distress should be treated with urgency to allow your dog to cool down (think damp towels, nice cold a/c and plenty of water to beat the thirst). 

The fact is that dogs can heat up very quickly and once their body temperature rises above 40°C they are entering in to a potentially very dangerous situation (bearing in mind that ambient temperatures can be quite a bit higher here in the UAE)… so the advice is clear:

  • Please protect your dog from the heat! 
  • Know the early warning signs of distress in your dog and 
  • Avoid any opportunity for the Knock-Out combination of heat + exertion. 

Cooling down a hot dog is something we’re probably all familiar with. Treating a dog with heatstroke is something our vets are sadly all too familiar with… in summer, the margins between the two can be so small that we may not know the difference until it’s too late. 

Whilst we always try to make our blogs positive and fun, with these three topics, the tragic statistics speak for themselves… If you have any questions or concerns relating to any of the above or have any reason to suspect your pet has been exposed to a toxic substance, heat exertion or heat stroke… please just get to the vet. Minutes can matter and no Vet will ever be anything but very appreciative of fast thinking pet parents. Stay safe and stay cool! 

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