Thursday, August 09, 2007

Does Your Dog Rummage Through the Trash? The ASPCA released a report regarding the dangers of this "bad dog" behavior. Check out why it's important to nip this behavior in the bud.

Picture the scene: you walk into your kitchen and are greeted by a veritable smorgasbord of refuse with tell-tale paw prints surrounding the “scene of the crime.” Yes, your four-legged friend got into the garbage—again! “What may appear to be a minor, albeit, frustrating annoyance to many pet parents could actually pose a great risk to your pets,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, board-certified veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Midwest Office, which houses the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). “It’s important that pet parents understand and familiarize themselves with the potential dangers that can be found in everyday trash.” Here are some of the major threats your pets might suffer from “talking trash”:

1. Physical Obstruction Hazards. Items such as meat and poultry bones, plastic, metal or paper can cause choking, trauma to the gastrointestinal tract, or may even lead to a life-threatening intestinal blockage that could require emergency surgery.

2. Bacteria. Spoiled food can harbor millions of bacteria, which in some cases could lead to food poisoning or a condition known as bacterial enteritis. “This is where the animal’s intestinal tract becomes irritated and inflamed, resulting in painful bloating of the abdomen, vomiting, and diarrhea,” cautions Dr. Hansen.

3. Toxin-Producing Molds. Certain rotting foods such as cheese, nuts, grains and pasta are ripe environments for a variety of molds, some of which can produce substances known as “tremorgenic mycotoxins.” These toxins affect the nervous system, causing muscle tremors or even seizures that can quickly become life-threatening.

4. Poisonous Household Items. The list of potential poisons to animals could go on forever. “The main toxic hazards commonly found in trash include medications, harmful foods like onions and coffee grounds, poisonous plant cuttings, and chemicals such as household cleaners, insecticides or batteries,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, also a board-certified veterinary toxicologist with the APCC. Ingestion of these substances can produce a wide range of effects, from irritation of the mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal tract, to seizures or damage to vital organs such as the heart, kidneys or liver.

Drs. Hansen and Wismer agree that the best way to avoid potential hazards is through prevention. “In fact, there are some easy ways to make sure your pet can’t get into the trash,” says Dr. Hansen. These include:

1. Use wastebaskets that are covered, and not easily tipped over. “If possible, keep the container in an out of reach area such as in a secure cabinet under the sink, or better yet, eliminate the danger of your pet getting into potentially harmful trash by taking it directly to your garbage can outside.”

2. Dispose of potentially poisonous materials properly. “Many communities have special guidelines for disposing of common, yet potentially-poisonous household items, such as batteries. If you’re not sure what those are, check with your local garbage disposal company or city or county office,” says Dr. Wismer.

3. Should your pet have an accidental encounter with your trash despite your best efforts, prompt action is important in heading off any harmful effects. “Please contact your veterinarian immediately,” urges Dr. Hansen, “making note of any items that may have been in the container.” If you can’t reach your veterinarian or local emergency animal hospital, call the APCC poison control hotline at (888) 426-4435 (a fee applies).

No comments: