Chewing gum, change, and other deadly things in your purse

February 20th, 2010

Yup; two pieces of a certain kind of chewing gum could be fatal to your dog. You’d think that something this dangerous to your family would be sold from behind the counter at a pharmacy, or with a great big warning sticker. But it’s not. And I’ll bet that 2/3rds of the women reading this have such a product in their purse right now. If your dogs should snoop into that, there could be trouble.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that appears quite safe for people, but can be dangerous or fatal to dogs. It can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar, which can result in seizures, coma, and liver failure. This is serious, bad stuff, and yet it looks so innocent. Please, keep your purse away from your dog if you chew gums sweetened with xylitol.

What else lurks in your purse? Over-the-counter medications or prescription medications. A surprising number of calls come in each year where people were poised to take their own medication, set it up on a counter or table, and while they were getting some water or taking a phone call the dog (occasionally the cat) gets the medication. Sometimes, this is not a big deal, but some medications are potentially disastrous for your pet. Also, putting a prescription bottle on the nightstand and leaving it there with a young dog in the house seems to be the equivalent of leaving a squeaky toy there; young dogs love to chew open the vial and get into the pills (never mind that if you HAVE to pill your dog or cat, it can be a three-ringed circus of frustration).

Oh—pennies. That’s right, pennies. Since 1983, pennies are largely made of zinc instead of copper, and zinc dissolved in stomach acid to become a toxic compound in dogs. I saw a number of these while I was a surgery tech at Penn while in veterinary school and saw one as a brand new graduate in 1990 when a Yorkie ate 42 cents in change, including two pennies. Zinc toxicity produces dangerous, sudden loss of blood (the blood cells break up inside the circulatory system); luckily, said Yorkie was saved through good luck, surgical removal of the coins, and good care.

Dogs are always looking for a chance to explore things, to see if chewing and swallowing stuff is as fun as they think—keep your pet safer from the dangers of your purse, and save yourself some anxiety, too.

Welcome Back

February 6th, 2010

To me.  In 2006, I left full-time practice at Bridgewater Veterinary Hospital for a teaching position at Penn Vet in a new program focused on the plight of homeless animals in shelters.  I stopped all clinical work at the practice in 2009, to focus on some new programs in development at Penn.  It’s not as though I haven’t been busy, it’s just that I had to take some time away for the new program under my direction at the vet school.

My job at Penn is to teach spay and castration techniques to the students, and we do this in shelters and also at the Ryan teaching hospital.  So far, I’ve had the pleasure of working  with dozens of interns and surgeons, and over 450 vet students.  We have surgically sterilized thousands of pets, which has been a huge help to the shelters coordinating with Penn.  I also teach classes on the subject of animal sheltering, free-roaming cat issues, and diseases of particular concern to shelters and rescue groups.

The students also bring their own pets to me for veterinary care, so my clinical work has continued.  I like this clinical role, as I get to know the students and their pets just a bit better than I would in the classroom or operating room.

At the urging of several friends and associates, I have returned to clinical practice at Bridgewater, working two shifts each week.  My time in the office should allow me to do more of the things I enjoy—seeing pets and their families.  I’m re-energized to be back, and looking forward to seeing some of you in the office soon.