Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

The use of xylitol has grown rapidly over the last few years. It is increasingly found in sugar-free gum, candy, and foods. It is also available in granulated form for baking. It is popular among diabetics and those on low-carbohydrate diets. It also is increasingly being included in toothpastes and other oral hygiene products due to its anti-cavity properties.

In humans, xylitol is absorbed slowly and has little to no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. However, in dogs, xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. It then acts as a strong promoter of insulin release, which causes profound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The resulting rapid drop in blood sugar may result in unsteadiness, depression, dilated pupils and, in severe cases, seizures.  
In dogs, xylitol can also cause liver failure, bleeding, and death. 
Finding and eating sugarless gum appears to be the most common way that dogs are poisoned by xylitol.  Toxicity in dogs occurs with ingestion of between 30 and 45 mg of xylitol per per pound of body weight.  Since different brands of gum have different xylitol levels, ingestion of even 1 or 2 sticks of gum can prove toxic in a small or medium-sized dog.  Gum manufacturers typically do not label the amount of xylitol in the gum, but have provided some of this information to the Animal Poison Control Center operated by the ASPCA.  If your dog eats sugarless gum or any product containing xylitol, contact the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or see your veterinarian immediately.

More Than Meets the Eye

It should be obvious if your pet has fleas, right? Unfortunately, not always. Even if you’re the most attentive pet owner and you’ve never seen a flea on your pet, your house could harbor a substantial flea problem.

Fleas are not that easy to spot on a pet. Not only are they tiny, they are also usually very well hidden by the coat of most animals. So unless you’re actively looking for fleas, you might not know they’re feeding on your favorite four-legged friend. A telltale sign that might be more obvious is “flea dirt.” These tiny dark specks on your pet's skin or bedding are actually flea feces containing digested blood. If you see what you suspect is flea dirt but you’re not sure, put the specks on a piece of white cloth or paper and wet them. If the specks turn red, you’ve got flea dirt.

Because adult fleas live most of their lives on a host (namely, your dog or cat), this is probably the only stage of the flea life cycle you’re likely to encounter. However, adult fleas are just the tip of the iceberg. Within a few days of feeding, the adult female flea begins to lay eggs, as many as 40 to 50 per day. Within a few weeks or months, she can lay hundreds or even thousands of eggs. And that’s just one flea.

Because of these tremendous reproductive abilities, adults usually make up only 5 percent of the fleas in the environment, with the other 95 percent of the population being in earlier stages. Untold numbers of tiny eggs, larvae and pupae (the cocoon stage) can be hiding out in the rugs, carpets, furniture and bedding throughout your house.

The Facts About Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Once they get to be adults, fleas need to find a host to feed on. And that’s where the problem often starts for pets. How can you know if your pet has fleas? The No. 1 sign is scratching. If you have a dog, you may notice that he bites, scratches or rubs a lot around his tail, back legs and abdomen. If your cat has fleas, other areas of his body, particularly the head and neck, may be affected as well. And though cats are famous for keeping themselves fastidiously clean, if your feline friend can’t seem to stop grooming, this can be another sign that she has fleas.

“When fleas consume blood, they inject salivary proteins into the bite area,” Dr. Dryden explains. Some pets have a severe allergy to flea saliva, a condition called flea allergy dermatitis, or FAD. After being bitten, these pets will experience a prolonged reaction that causes them to be intensely itchy. Flea allergy dermatitis can strike any dog or cat and is typically characterized by skin irritation, hair loss and open sores that can leave the skin vulnerable to infection.

Flea allergy dermatitis can make an animal miserable. If your dog or cat is diagnosed with this problem, eliminating fleas and then making sure they stay away from your pet permanently is absolutely essential.

The problems that fleas cause can go more than skin deep, though. Fleas are often infected with tapeworm larvae. If a dog or cat ingests an infected flea, the tapeworms will be released inside the pet and go on to infect its new, larger host. This means that if your pet has tapeworms, he almost certainly has a flea problem as well. Flea dirt also may harbor a bacterial agent that can cause cat scratch disease in people, which is often transmitted by an cat scratch or bite. 

It's Always Flea Season
With the return of warmer weather comes flea season, a time when flea populations rise dramatically in many areas of the United States. However, this is not the only time you need to worry about flea control. It’s important to remember that fleas have been found in all 50 states, and they can be a persistent threat to your pet indoors. No matter where you live, conditions inside are perfect for fleas to thrive and multiply, even in the dead of winter. And once fleas get a foothold in your home, it can be a challenge to get rid of the unwelcome guests.

The bottom line is that it is essential that all pets — even those who stay strictly indoors — need protection against fleas at all times. “Why should we let animals suffer from flea infestations year to year? Dogs and cats should be on a year-round, lifelong preventive treatment regimen,” Dr. Dryden says.

The good news is that there are now many excellent flea control products available. It’s easier than ever to protect your pet and your household from being taken over by these pests. In addition to being safe and effective, many flea preventives are designed to be convenient for owners struggling to keep up with today’s busy lifestyle.

But with so many choices, how can you know which one is right for you and your pet? Not all flea control products are equal; they work in different ways, and some work much better than others. That’s why it’s important that you talk with your veterinarian. In fact, the best products on the market can be obtained only at your veterinary clinic. Several of these products need to be used only once a month, making it easy to fit into even the busiest schedule.

As Dr. Dryden sums it up: “With the safety and ease of the products currently available to consumers, the most important thing is not which of the many effective products you and your veterinarian choose, it’s getting your pet started on a preventive regimen.” Together, you and your veterinarian can develop a flea control program that’s best for your pet, your household and your lifestyle.

Don't Take Flea Problems Lying Down

Many of us share our beds with our pets. If you have not yet started your pet on a flea control program, should you be worried about fleas biting you? Though fleas can and do bite people, a flea will choose a meal from a cat or dog before he’ll view you as a more tempting entrée. As a concerned pet owner, though, you need to get hopping on flea control measures to make sure your pet stops serving as flea bait.

Though there are some illnesses associated with fleas, you shouldn’t worry too much about catching a flea-related disease from your pet. According to Dr. Dryden, “With all of the problems that fleas cause, disease transmission to people is generally not an issue.” However, he does point out that for individuals with impaired immune systems, the threat of contracting disorders like cat scratch disease should be taken much more seriously. If you have questions or concerns regarding specific risks to you or your family members, be sure to discuss them with the two individuals who can advise you best on this topic: your veterinarian and your personal health care provider.
How To Get Rid Of Fleas On Pets And Prevent Them From Coming Back
Canine Lyme Disease
Canine Lyme Disease and the bacteria that causes it, Borrelia burgdorferi, have become a huge problem in many areas of the United States and Europe over the last 20 years.  In the last 5 years, the disease has begun showing up with increasing regularity in parts of the country that prviously only had sporadic cases.  

Preventing Lyme Disease
These 3 steps will help ensure that your pet doesn't contract Lyme disease this year.

    The success of preventing Lyme disease increases with the concurrent use of tick control and  

    A very heavy tick burden may lead to infection even in a vaccinated dog.  Tick control in conjunction 
    with vaccination must be stressed.

    It takes approximately 48 hours for an infected tick to transmit Borellia to a dog.  Pet owners in areas
     with a heavy tick burden should examine their pet for ticks daily and carefully remove any tick they find.
Why Does My Dog... Walk in a Circle Before Lying Down?

Many dogs will circle around a spot before they settle down to rest. While no one can be certain of the exact reason why canines do this, the ritual is likely a residual habit from the days when wolflike dogs lived out in the wild, says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, of the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.

Your dog’s ancestors had to sleep outside, in the elements, without much warmth or safety. Walking around a spot was a way to stamp down grass, leaves or snow and create a soft, level surface — something akin to carving out a nest.

Circle There and Dig This
After she circles, does your dog scratch at the bedding or carpeting before curling up? Just like circling, the digging action is probably an ancestral behavior related to staying safe and comfortable.

In extreme heat, digging a hole was a way to reduce a dog’s body temperature by surrounding herself with cool soil that could help regulate body heat. When it was cold — or even freezing — climbing into a hole allowed a dog to retain body heat and keep cozy.

So why haven’t our pampered house pets evolved away from these behaviors?

Don’t worry — circling is not a sign that your pet has heard the call of the wild. Adaptive behaviors tend to linger long after they’ve lost their usefulness if there’s nothing to discourage them or “select against the habit,” Dr. Sueda says.

When Circling Could Be Cause for Concern
Restlessness can be a sign of discomfort or even pain. If your dog is repeatedly circling and digging but can’t seem to get comfortable, she may have a health problem, such as arthritis or neurological problems.

You should observe your pet to see if she’s having trouble getting up and settling down. If she’s restless, take her to the vet to rule out pain and get a proper diagnosis.

Now that the weather is getting warmer, another thing to be concerned about is...
"what do I do if my dog gets sprayed by a skunk?"

This is a simple remedy discovered by a chemist:

In a bucket, mix 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap detergent. Soak your dog with water, work the mixture into it's fur, (keep it away from it's eyes), leave it on for 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Don't try to store the de-skunking mixture; the combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can blow the lids off containers.
Note that skunk spray won't permanently damage a dog's eyes, but they might be red and painful. If inflammation persists, see your veterinarian.