Organophosphate Poisoning in Pets

Organophosphates is the name given to a large group of chemicals that inhibit cholinesterase function.  The two most common members of this group are malathion and parathion but there are many others. Organophosphates are insecticides used in a variety of products for home and garden use as well as in agriculture. 

Because organophosphates inhibit two different sites, muscarinic and nicotinic synapses, there are two sets of clinical signs observed in pets who have ingested this toxin. Muscarinic signs include salivation, lacrimation, urination and diarrhea.  My toxicology professor taught us to remember this as SLUD. As the pet’s condition worsens, they may sweat, have a seizure, become anxious, vomit or have abdominal pain. For me the telltale sign is small pupils. The nicotinic signs include muscle tremors and generalized weakness of all the muscles including those used to breathe. Since the chemical is bound to adipose tissue, thin animals tend to have worse initial symptoms.  Heavier animals exhibit lighter initial symptoms but they last a lot longer.

In addition to the acute symptoms, some organophosphates may cause what is called delayed neurotoxicosis which means it takes a while for the signs of nerve damage to develop.  This is most often seen in cats who get chlorpyrifos on their skin.  Affected cats stumble and have difficulty walking.  It seems to be most severe in their hind legs. 

If your pet has been exposed to organophosphates, please bring them to a veterinarian for immediate medical care. Once clinical signs are present, there is nothing you can do at home to save them. Because this chemical binds to fat in the skin, bathing your pet will be of little help. This poison acts fast, do not delay getting medical help for any animal or human who had been exposed.  

Last, please keep all chemicals away from children and animals. My friend lost two of her cats and almost lost her dogs to organophosphate toxicity.  I dedicate this post and the next one to the memory of those cats; Jasmine and Crissy.   


Shell, Linda “Organophosphate/Carbamate Toxicosis” VIN Canine Associate, Last updated on 3/20/2006.

14 Ways Animals Improve Our Health & Wellness

Animals are great for our health.  Studies of the human-animal bond prove this fact over and over again. So, for 2014, here’s a list of 14 ways that animals improve our health & wellness.  Animals;

1) Lower our blood pressure
2) Lower our blood levels of cholesterol
3) Help us get more exercise
4) Increase our social interaction
5) Lower our blood triglyceride levels
6) Decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness
7) Lessen the risk of allergies and asthma in children raised with pets during the child’s first year of life
8) Help us retain cognitive function even in the face of aging
9) Increase levels of serotonin and dopamine which improve our moods
10) Increase levels of prolactin and oxytocin which make us feel nurtured and secure
11) Teach children empathy and responsibility
12) Shorten hospital stays versus those people without pets
13) Lead to fewer doctor visits than for people without pets
14) Alert us to health problems so we can get help. In 2010, my cat hissed at my abdomen and then tried to cover me with a sheet. Because of Tigre, I went in and had a traditional CAT scan (CT). A week later, I was in the hospital starting chemo for a rare form of cancer – double hit lymphoma. The chemo was successful and today I am cancer-free thanks to a little orange, shelter cat!

As a speaker, I talk about Wellness and the science and terrific stories behind this list.  If I can speak to your company, clients or group, please reach out.  My phone if (480) 236-1841 and e-mail is  You can learn more about my talk and see a short demo video at  Look for the talk titled “Embrace Animals To Improve Your Life, Love & Health”. 

If you would like the citations for the scientific studies that support the above list of findings, please post a comment to this site.  I will be happy to send them to you.

Remember Pets in Estate Plans (Wills and Trusts)

   Early in my career, I cared for a lovely miniature Schnauzer who I will call Mindy.   She was owned by a very nice retired couple.  They called her their “baby’ and spared no expense caring for her.  Unfortunately, they did not make a plan for Mindy’s care after their deaths.  They assumed, like so many of us do, that one of their human children would take her. Unfortunately, they were wrong. I received a call asking what could be done with Mindy because no one in the family could keep her.  Imagine how poor Mindy felt losing both her family and her home at the same time. 
    Planning is the key to prevent your pets from ending up like Mindy.  Pet trusts are now recognized to some degree in many states.  According to Ron Wilson of Morris, Hall and Kinghorn, there are three legal areas that need to be addressed regarding pets: a power of attorney, what to do after the demise of the client and what to do in case of the demise of the pet.  

    A durable power of attorney is a legal document that states who (likely the trustee) will be responsible for the pet if something happens to the owner. This trustee may be called upon to find a nursing home that also allows pets, pay for medical bills, provide care or even find another home for the pet if the trustee cannot personally take them.  Since money cannot be given to the pet directly, it is given to the trustee who then uses it for benefit of the pet.  It is also important to provide instructions for the pet’s care including contact information for their veterinarian. 

    If any money is left over after the pet’s death, instructions should be left addressing who receives these funds.  I recommend any remaining funds be used to establish an endowment (meaning only a portion can be spent each year but not the principal).  This could be done through a local animal non-profit with the sophistication and foresight to have endowments. Be sure to name an organization that will likely survive through time and also one that will honor your donor intent i.e., that the funds be endowed. It is very important to make sure this document is readily available in case of emergency.

    What happened to Mindy?  She was one of the lucky ones who found a new home with the next door neighbor.  But, many beloved pets are not as lucky.  Several end up living out their lives at shelters because no one wants to adopt an older pet.  I have seen first hand that shelter staff genuinely do their best to give these special animals love and attention.  But it’s still not like having a real home.  Please take the time to get sound legal help and plan for your pets.  It’s the loving thing to do.  It can also be a blessing to human children who are not in a position to provide for the animals in the event or your incapacity or death.     

-Wilson, Ron. Pet Planning-It is That Important,


Announcing The Publication of Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the second book in the Coated With Fur series will be published!  The world launch of Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love is February 11th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.  We will celebrate at the wonderful Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona.  Be the first to hear Dr. Nelson speak and get a signed copy of this new book.  Please save the date for a fun evening celebrating animals and the immense love they bring to our lives. 

Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love continues the celebration of the human-animal bond.     Share with Kris profound joy as she saves a Chihuahua and delivers Ashley’s puppies.  Laugh as she attempts several times to collect a semen sample from a shy Doberman.  Fall in love with a white cat named Snowflake and meet Lilah the friendly German shepherd.  Let your heart be moved when a blind cat helps Adam overcome a physical limitation. Through it all, embrace the unconditional love that exists when we open ourselves to the wonders of the human-animal bond.


Help Your Veterinarian Diagnose Your Pet

The first step in examining a pet is to obtain a thorough medical history.  This is where a little preparation can really help your veterinarian diagnose medical problems in your pets. It might also lower your costs by preventing unnecessary tests. This is what I like to see people bring to a routine office visit:

1) Copy of ingredient list from all foods and treats.
2) List of all medications and/or supplements
3) Copy of medical records from other clinics including x-rays.
4) List of allergies or abnormal reactions to foods, drugs, cleaning products, etc.
5) Timeline of abnormal behaviors that includes: when and where the problem started, has it improved or worsened, observed triggers and environmental changes
6) Video of the abnormal behavior- As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I love camera phones because it allows people to video their pet’s abnormal behavior.  It is much easier to spot lameness when a dog is running in their backyard versus walking on a leash in the clinic.  Beside orthopedic problems, video has helped me diagnose reverse sneezing, behavior problems, seizures, asthma, allergic reactions and differentiate between regurgitation and vomiting.