Tag Archives: toxic plants

Beware the Dangers of Fall for Your Dog.

Ahh, fall is in the air! Beautiful foliage and temperatures that have dropped.

But don’t let down your guard when it comes to protecting your dog from potential autumn dangers, including:

  • Antifreeze
  • Mushrooms
  • Snakes
  • Rodents
  • Compost Piles/Bins

Keep reading to learn how to protect your pup from autumn dangers.

Antifreeze is a Sweet Menace

Antifreeze (an ethylene glycol-based engine coolant) unfortunately offers a sweet smell that attracts curious pets.

A mere 8 ounces can kill a 75-pound dog and as little as half a teaspoon can kill an average-sized cat.

What You Should Do: Use “Low Tox” antifreeze made of propylene glycol instead. While not completely non-toxic, they are less toxic and could mean the difference between life and death if your pet comes across a spill. 

Mushrooms Pose a Natural Toxin

Autumn means mushroom season! While only 1% of them are highly toxic to pets, prevention is always best because that 1% can cause life-threatening problems. (One of the most dangerous is the Amanita phalloides or death cap mushroom, found throughout the United States.) Since the proper identification of mushrooms can be very difficult, prevention is the most effective way to protect your pet.

What You Should Do: Learn which toxic mushrooms grow in your locality and avoid those areas. Also, keep your dog on a leash to protect them.

Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.

Snakes … oh my!

Snakes are busy getting ready for their winter hibernation which means they may be out and about even more with the cooler temperatures.

What You Should Do: Familiarize yourself with the local venomous snakes. Avoid the areas they are typically found; and again, keep your dog on a leash to protect them.

Heat-Seeking Rodents 

Rodents are also hard at work at finding warmer places to call home during the winter months especially indoors. Consequently, this is the season for prevalent use of rat and mouse poisons as people begin to winterize their dwellings. As toxic poisons meant to kill small rodents, if ingested, these same poisons can potentially be fatal for your pets (particularly for smaller dogs and cats).

Another risk of rodenticides is  called relay toxicity.

“In other words, if your dog eats a large number of dead mice poisoned by rodenticides, they can experience secondary effects,” explains Dr. Ahna Brutlag, Assistant Director of Veterinary Services at Pet Poison Helpline.

Also keep in mind: even if YOU are not using rodent poisons, your neighbor(s) may be using them on their property.

What You Should Do: Only use these fatal toxins in places that are inaccessible to dogs, pets and even children and keep your dogs confined to your property.

Composts are NOT Dog-Friendly

Yes, your compost is environment-friendly and waste-reducing, but it might also be dangerous to your dog(s), pets, wildlife and even children.

As the contents of your compost pile or bin break down, dangerous pathogens (illness- or disease-causing agents) and tremorgenic mycotoxins (poisons from molds which can cause tremors or even seizures) are created and can seriously harm – or even kill – your dog and other pets.

Even small ingested amounts can lead to tremors or seizures within as little as 30 minutes to several hours.

What You Should Do:

  • Never compost dairy, grains, nuts, legumes, breads or meats due to their tendency to become moldy.
  • Use tightly sealed and secured compost containers.

Learn more from our post: Psst … Your Compost may not be Dog-Friendly!

 


To learn more about autumn dangers for your dog, go to ASPCA.org and Pet Poison Helpline.


 

Foxtails: Tiny but Deadly

They are typically called Foxtails (bushy spikelets or spikelet clusters that resemble a fox’s tail) or Grass Awns (bristle-like fibers). They are present from May through December and abundant after rainy, moist weather (in sidewalk cracks, edges of roads, alongside trails and in pastures).

While found throughout the USA; the types of grasses that produce foxtails are most common in the western United States (west of the Mississippi). Usually, the worst cases are found in California.

Foxtails are also known by other names, including:

  • Wild Barley
  • Cheat Grass
  • Needlegrass
  • Bromegrass
  • Spear Grass

Foxtails are produced once certain types of grasses have gone to seed; and their hardened tip and arrow-shaped barbs pose a real threat to your dog (and cat). To make matters worse, the Whole Dog Journal warns that a single foxtail “is made up of dozens of hard, pointed seeds”  all ready to become easily – and quickly – embedded in your dog.

Foxtails commonly become embedded in the following areas (although they are not limited to just these areas):

  • Ears;
  • Eyes;
  • Mouth;
  • Nose (foxtails can be easily inhaled);
  • Paws and toes; and
  • Genitals and groin area.
  • Long ears and long and/or curly hair are also potential targets for foxtails.
  • But foxtails can also just latch onto your dog’s fur or skin with their barbed seed heads and over time eventually work themselves into your dog’s body; even into vital organs (like the brain, lungs, eardrums and spine) causing irreversible damage and possible death.

Despite their tiny size, the real issue behind foxtails is that the canine body cannot degrade or break down these tough, hard seed heads. Once embedded into the body, they easily travel (burrow) throughout the body (and because of the microscopic barbs, they cannot work themselves back out of the body; they can only travel “forward”).  So what may start out as a simple irritation, an embedded foxtail can lead to a deadly infection that could, if left untreated, lead to death.

Signs Your Dog May Have Embedded Foxtails

  • Body/Skin: Persistent licking or chewing at a specific spot (including the genitals); swelling, abscesses and open sores.
  • Ears/Ear Canals: Incessant scratching or pawing; tilting or shaking of the head.
  • Eyes/Eyelids: Redness, discharge or tears, swelling, inflammation, squinting or pawing.
  • Mouth/Gums/Tongue/Throat: Coughing, retching and/or gagging; difficulty eating and swallowing.
  • Nose: Discharge; bloody nose; excessive, even violent, sneezing; repeated pawing.
  • Paws: Swelling or limping.
  • Unexplained fever, vomiting or difficulty breathing.

Preventing Issues from Foxtails

After being outside (especially in areas where foxtails are common; including open fields, areas of tall grasses and overgrown grassy areas), always check your dog’s:

  • Armpits.
  • Coat/fur.
  • Genital/groin area.
  • Face, ears, mouth and gums.
  • Paws (especially between the toes).

Remove any foxtails you find with tweezers (if it can be easily removed). However, if one is already embedded or the area around the foxtail is red and/or swollen, see your veterinarian immediately for proper medical attention.

If you commonly find foxtails in a certain area of your dog’s body, consider trimming the hair in that area to avoid more foxtails becoming attached. To keep painful and potentially dangerous foxtails out of your dog’s ears, nose and eyes, an OutFox Field Guard is helpful (essentially a mesh bag over the dog’s head that doesn’t affect natural breathing, panting, sniffing and drinking). Protective vests (covering the chest and abdomen) can also help prevent foxtails from attaching to the dog’s body.

To learn more about foxtails:

THE Most Toxic Plant to Your Dog (and kids)

water-hemlock-dogs

(Note: We’ve reposted this article because of the very wet winter and spring (and subsequent flooding), this deceptive-looking plant is flourishing in wet areas throughout North America and Europe. Here’s what you need to know to keep your pets – and children – safe.)


It looks soft, delicate and even beautiful, but this wildflower is one of the most toxic plants your dog (or child) can ingest (even in a small amount); with fast-acting and deadly consequences (within minutes).

Water Hemlock: Pretty, But Deadly

It’s called Water Hemlock and is a member of the carrot family. It typically grows in wet areas like marshes and swamps, damp pastures and along riverbanks, ponds, streams, irrigation ditches, reservoirs and other water edges in both North America and parts of Europe. It’s often mistaken for edible plants such as artichokes, celery, sweet potatoes, sweet anise, or wild parsnip.

Water Hemlock Is But One Name

Water Hemlock is also known by a variety of other names, including:

  • beaver poison
  • poison parsley
  • poison hemlock (with red spots or blotches in the stem)
  • muskrat weed
  • poison parsnip
  • spotted water hemlock
  • western water hemlock
  • cowbane/spotted cowbane
  • bulblet-bearing water hemlock

Symptoms of Poisoning

If ingested, the violent effects of toxic poisoning may become evident within a few minutes (from a toxin called cicutoxin, an aggressive, poisonous stimulant that attacks the nervous system) and include:

  • Drooling
  • Nervousness/agitation/weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures and/or twitching
  • Rapid heart rate/difficulty breathing/asphyxiation/choking
  • Coma
  • Death from respiratory paralysis death (occurring between 15 minutes and 2 hours after the first initial signs of poisoning).

While the highest levels of its toxin is found in the roots, all parts of the water hemlock are poisonous and dog lovers should never let their dog get anywhere near it.

A side note, the water hemlock has a strong carrot-like odor which could attract curious dogs (or children). Even if it’s not ingested, touching this plant could give you a rash and smelling or breathing it could cause respiratory issues.

What You Should Do

If you suspect your dog has come into contact with water hemlock, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.  If you suspect a person has been affected, call Poison Control immediately at 800-222-1222.

The More You Know

To learn more about water hemlock and its potential dangers:

THE Most Toxic Plant to Your Dog

water-hemlock-dogs

It may look soft, delicate and even docile, but this wildflower is one of the most toxic – and fast acting – plants your dog can ingest (even in a small amount).

(It’s also highly poisonous to humans.)

It’s called Water Hemlock and is a member of the carrot family. It typically grows in wet areas like marshes and swamps, damp pastures and along riverbanks, ponds, streams, irrigation ditches, reservoirs and other water edges in both North America and parts of Europe.

Water hemlock is also known as:

  • beaver poison
  • poison parsley
  • muskrat weed
  • poison parsnip
  • spotted water hemlock
  • western water hemlock
  • cowbane/spotted cowbane
  • bulblet-bearing water hemlock

If ingested, the violent effects of toxic poisoning may become evident within a few minutes (from a toxin called cicutoxin, an aggressive, poisonous stimulant that attacks the nervous system) and include:

  • Drooling
  • Nervousness/agitation/weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures and/or twitching
  • Rapid heart rate/difficulty breathing/asphyxiation/choking
  • Coma
  • Death from respiratory paralysis death (occurring between 15 minutes and 2 hours after the first initial signs of poisoning).

While the highest levels of its toxin is found in the roots, all parts of the water hemlock are poisonous and dog lovers should never let their dog get anywhere near it.

A side note, the water hemlock has a strong carrot-like odor which could attract curious dogs.

If you suspect your dog has come into contact with water hemlock, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.

To learn more about water hemlock and its potential dangers: