Macadamia Nuts are Toxic to Dogs

As a veterinarian, I caution people about giving human food to dogs. That’s because dogs and people metabolize food differently. Macadamia nuts, raisins, grapes and sugar-free gums are some of the human foods that are toxic dogs. Although the exact mechanism for the toxicity is not known, it is thought to be from a serotonin like compound that may come from the nut, processing the nut or a contaminate associated with the nut. More information on serotonin syndrome may be found by visiting Dr. Nelson’s prior post or clicking here. Clinical signs start with weakness of the rear legs, vomiting and lethargy. As the toxin builds, the dogs often experience muscle tremors and weakness. The hind leg weakness progresses until the dog cannot stand.

Like most toxicities, treatment focuses on removing the toxin and treating the symptoms. If the dog isn’t vomiting already, this is one of those toxins in which it is recommended to remove the nuts from the stomach. If too much time has passed since ingestion, then activated charcoal is given to absorb toxins from the gastrointestinal system. To avoid aspiration into the lungs, charcoal is only given to conscious animals that can swallow. Enemas may also be needed to evacuate the nuts. Symptomatic treatment is tailored to the individual patient but often includes intravenous fluids and cooling with tepid baths, fans and  ice packs wrapped in towels on abdomen, neck and paws.

Unlike other compounds, the toxic effects of macadamia nut poisoning are relatively short-lived. With prompt medical attention, most dogs will make a full recovery within two days.

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Source:

-Shell, Linda. ‘Macadamia Nut Toxicosis’ Associate Database, VIN, 01/02/2006.

 

Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs and Cats

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain and spinal cord.  It is also in the peripheral nervous system which is basically, the rest of the body. It is synthetized from an amino acid called tryptophan. According to Dr. Sharon Gwaitney-Brant, this important neurotransmitter is involved “. . . in the regulation of many CNS functions including personality/behavior, sleep, appetite, aggression, temperature regulation, sexual function, motor control, and pain perception. Peripherally, serotonin is involved in platelet aggregation, and stimulation of smooth muscle contraction regulating vasoconstriction, bronchoconstriction, intestinal peristalsis and uterine contraction.”

Serotonin syndrome is the term used to describe the clinical signs that occur when too much serotonin is found in the body. In veterinary medicine, the most common cause is an overdose of serotonergic drugs and supplements. The common history is when a veterinarian prescribes a drug that increases serotonin levels without knowing that the dog or cat is on a supplement that does the same. In my experience, this occurs most often when amitriptyline, buspirone, clomipramine or fluoxetine are combined with St. John’s wart. I have also seen it when animals are on a combination of serotonin elevating medications or when a dog or cat has been transitioned from one drug to another without allowing enough time for washout of the first drug. The worst cases occur when animals ingest large quantities of serotonergic drugs.

Signs of serotonin syndrome fall into three general categories depending upon the area of the nervous system being stimulated and can vary greatly from mild lethargy or restlessness to coma and death. The syndrome usually starts soon after ingestion with diarrhea, vomiting and a mild fever. As it progresses, dogs and cats are often ataxic which means they walk like they are drunk. By the time I usually see them, the animals are often experiencing seizures, are struggling to breathe and have dangerously high body temperatures of >105 F. If not quickly controlled, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) occurs which usually results in the patient’s death.

As with all intoxications, quick medical care is the key to helping these patients. If you think your pet may be suffering from serotonin syndrome, bring them in for immediate care.

Sources:

-Gwaltney-Brant, Sharon. ‘Serotonin Syndrome’. Associate Database, VIN, last updated 05/23/2011.

-Gwaltney-Brant, Sharon. ‘Serotonin Syndrome’. International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium 2015.

Keep Pets Safe from Firecrackers Hidden in Tennis Balls and Other Household Items

The Fourth of July is a dangerous time for pets. Backyard barbecues lead to dogs and cats eating all kinds of things that are bad for them. From the high fat ribs that cause pancreatitis to chocolate laden deserts, our feasts create a lot of problems when shared with our pets. Another common problem is injuries when animals try to escape the loud noises. The Fourth of July is one of the worst holidays for escaped pets. And now, there is a new danger to watch out for – firecrackers hidden in normal household items.

In 2000, a man found a tennis ball when walking his dog. He tossed it to his pet not knowing what was inside. When the dog bit the ball, it exploded. The dog suffered severe injuries and was euthanized immediately. People will remove the explosive material from firecrackers and place it inside other items to watch them explode. Beside tennis balls, other items include pipes and ping pong balls. Some of these homemade bombs explode prematurely, injuring the person who made them. Others, smolder for longer than expected before detonating. According to Jarod Kasner for the Kent, Washington Police Department, “People light them, leave them thinking it’s a dud, but who knows what’s happening on the inside. Then a dog comes and picks it up . . . .”

To keep you and your pet safe over the Fourth of July, stay away from abandoned items in public places. Before picking up an unfamiliar item including bottles, pipes and balls, look for burnt areas where someone may have tried to lite them. Also look for tape or a wick that might be used to set off the explosion. And leave the fireworks to the professionals to keep your home safe for everyone.

Source:

-Earl, Jennifer. ‘Dog owners warned about “tennis ball bombs” ahead of Fourth of July weekend.’ CBSnews.com June 29,2016.