http://www.gadzoo.com/nwitimes/Article.aspx?id=5812
Return to article

What's poisonous to pets?

10/3/2008

By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services


These questions about dangers to our pets from weed killer, human drugs and grapes are answered by veterinary toxicologist Dr. Steven Hansen, director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill.

Considered the premier center of its kind, the APCC is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There's always an expert available to handle general questions or emergencies. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call 888-426-4435. A $60 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card. Learn more at www.aspca.org.

Q: Tell me about weed killer. We live in the city and my dog goes on this one area of grass to do her business. I just learned that four days ago, the family who owns this patch put down weed killer. I've read that weed killer is linked to cancer in dogs. How does someone know if weed killer was used on any lawn? I have to take my dog somewhere and I have no way to know which lawns have been treated. - S.C., Miami, FL

A: Relax. There's no convincing evidence that weed killer is truly a danger to dogs, according to veterinary toxicologist Dr. Steve Hansen, director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "We do suggest that you give weed killer about two hours to dry. Four days later is very safe, as far as we know," he commented.

Several studies have investigated a possible link between weed killers and either neurological or carcinogenic effects in dogs. This is definitely an issue in which Hansen says the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is interested -- with one exception. While there's no conclusive evidence of any association between the use of weed killer and dog health, one study did demonstrate a connection between weed killers on grasses and an increase in bladder cancer in Scottish terriers. However, this type of cancer is over-represented in Scotties and other factors - including genetics - likely contribute to the problem.

The bottom line is that when weed killer is used as directed on the packaging, as far as veterinary medicine can discern - to date - there's no danger, particularly once the chemicals have dried.

Q: Call me crazy, but what's the big deal if my dog gets into my Prozac? I know dogs are given this stuff. I realize the entire bottle would be a problem, but what's one or two pills? I ask because I dropped one pill on the bathroom floor and just couldn't find it. Sure enough, our beagle, Sadie, found it. Do I need to worry? -- S.H., Cyberspace

A: You're not crazy, as far as I know. In fact, Prozac (fluoxetine) isn't a big deal; it happens to be a drug which dogs tolerate well and it has a liberal safety margin. Sometimes Prozac is actually prescribed for dogs for aggression or separation anxiety. "Still, if your dog had eaten half a bottle of Prozac, there may be a serious hazard," says Hansen. "And many other drugs are a potential danger."

For example, a drug called Efudex, used to remove warts and other growths in people, can be deadly to pets. Tylenol (acetaminophen), a far more common drug, may kill cats.

Q: You'd never know Mary is 19. She's now an indoor-only cat and acts more like she's 9, although I have noticed her slowing down in the past few months. I think she has arthritis. Can I give her baby aspirin? -- C.J., Tacoma, WA

A: "Do ask your veterinarian, " says Hansen. "It's certainly possible that your vet will feel that baby aspirin is the best option available to keep your cat comfortable. But only your veterinarian knows enough about your cat's overall health to make that determination. This is a medical decision because even baby aspirin may cause intestinal problems for both cats and dogs. Cats, in particular, may have difficulties with aspirin. Aspirin isn't benign."

Q: My neighbor is hollering at me for feeding grapes to my dog, a 6-year-old healthy mixed breed. I feed her several grapes a day, particularly if it's warm outdoors, so she can cool off. I freeze the grapes and use them as a treat. I checked the ASPCA website, and one of your past columns posted online refers back to the same site. My vet says the dog is healthy. Who's right about grapes? -- C.P., Henderson, NV

A: Listen to your neighbor. "You didn't mention the size of your dog," says Hansen. "In truth, we don't know how many grapes may be too many for specific weight or breeds. We also don't know that even if your dog is just fine now, there won't be long-term effects. We do know that in some dogs, grapes can cause serious kidney problems. I strongly suggest you substitute carrot slices or manufactured dog treats for the grapes."

The potential danger of dogs eating grapes is a relatively recent discovery. The problem was first reported in the early 1990s, and grapes were confirmed as toxic in dogs just a few years ago. No one knows why grapes are a problem for dogs. Hansen speculates that the kidneys of domestic dogs - for unknown reasons - just can't handle the processing of grapes.

Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207 or send an e-mail. Include your name, city and state. Listen to Steve Dale's WEEKLY RADIO SHOW, "Pet Central," on Saturdays at http://www.wgnradio.com; or Steve's syndicated radio shows: "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." Learn more at http://www.petworldradio.net. Steve's personal website is www.stevedalepetworld.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.