With the return of cold weather, stores are stocking firestarter logs again. Although this product is great for the fireplace, it can be dangerous for pets. Firestarter logs are not toxic per se, in that they do not directly poison an animal who ingests it. (Please note that logs that burn with special colors may contain heavy metals resulting in direct toxicity. Also, the fumes may be dangerous to birds.) The danger comes from the log ingredients causing an obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Firestarter logs are made from saw dust and wax. These products do not breakdown in the stomach becoming foreign bodies instead. Common signs include drooling, anorexia, vomiting and abdominal distention.
When an animal ingests a firestarter log, I recommend abdominal X-rays to look for obstruction of the gastrointestinal system and chest films to look for material in the esophagus. If the material is still in the stomach, I will induce vomiting to help the animal get rid of it. If the pieces are small, they have already passed out of the stomach and there are no signs of obstruction, I recommend a high fiber diet to help them pass. This approach requires careful monitoring as the material may still form a foreign body. I perform X-rays on a daily basis to make sure the material is moving through the intestines and have the family watch closely for vomiting. When animals, usually dogs, eat a large amount of a firestarter logs and/or swallow large chunks, surgical removal is required.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, some firestarter logs contain heavy metals (usually thallium) that create colors when burned. If ingested, signs of heavy metal poisoning may occur. Clinical signs of toxicity vary slightly for each metal but usually include vomiting, diarrhea and/or seizures.
Please seek immediate veterinary attention for any pet who ingested a firestarter log. The Pet Poison Helpline is a wonderful resource for only $49.00 per incident. Their number is (855) 764-7661.
-Lee, Justine. “Top Ten Small Animal Toxins: Recognition, Diagnosis, Treatment. ACVIM 2010. Proceedings Library VIN.com.
5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is an anti-cancer medication commonly prescribed by dermatologists to treat basal cell carcinoma and actinic keratosis on the skin of humans. Unfortunately, this medicine is highly toxic to animals. Pets develop gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms. Gastrointestinal signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, intense abdominal pain and sometimes, sloughing of the intestinal lining. The neurologic signs include ataxia which means the pet walks like a drunk and seizures. I was part of a team of veterinarians who treated a dog who developed seizures after ingesting 5-FU. None of the normal medications for seizures, diazepam or phenobarbital, stopped the seizures. We had to anesthetize the dog to stop them.
Once 5-FU is ingested, it is absorbed quickly making barium or inducing vomiting, useless. Treatment is supportive which means we treat the clinical signs and support body function with fluids until the pet can fight it off. Unfortunately, the dog I mentioned above did not make it – which is not uncommon. If a pet can survive the initial phase of clinical signs, they often die from secondary effects on the bone marrow.
To protect your pet from 5-FU and other hazardous medications, please keep them in a secure location. Although it is tempting to leave the 5-FU cream on the counter, put it in your medicine cabinet. Don’t let your pet fall victim to this common toxin.
5-FU is sold under the following trade names: Efudex, Carac, Adrucil and Fluoroplex.
-Lee, Justine. ‘Top Ten Small Animal Toxins: Recognition, Diagnosis, Treatment’, ACVIM2010 Proceedings, VIN.com library.
I am privileged to work alongside two terrific young women who deeply love animals. They are also outstanding medical professionals. So during this National Veterinary Technician Week (October 11th-17th) I thank and celebrate Abbey Santos, CVT and Michelle Thomson for the gift they are to animals and to me. Thanks as well to all who serve animals as Veterinary Technicians and your commitment to the best of our profession.
Last week, I wrote about a dog named Molly suffering from Mast Cell cancer. The cancer spread all over her body making surgical removal impossible. She had large tumors in her chest that made it difficult for her to breathe. The cancer spread to multiple locations on her skin including one large tumor under her right eye. I started treating her with a drug called masitinib mesylate (Kinavet-CA1) and asked everyone to send good wishes to Molly.
I am happy to report that it is working! The tumor under her eye has shrunk dramatically. Here are the before and after pictures. The image on the left was taken on the first day of treatment. The image on the right was taken on the 17th day of treatment.
Molly is also breathing better. Other than the masitinib mesylate, she hasn’t needed any treatments for fluid accumulation in her chest for four days. Molly has been enjoying life, without any unwanted side effects. Here’s another picture of her eye that shows how much the tumor has shrunk.
While we can’t know what the future holds, it is encouraging that she has responded to treatment so well.
A year ago today, I purchased Arizona Skies Animal Hospital located in Cave Creek, Arizona. I remember walking into the clinic on the first day wondering what the future would hold? It has been an outstanding year filled with great animals and clients. With tremendous hard work by Abbey Santos and Michelle Thomson, the clinic has become a lively full-service hospital providing care for dogs and cats.
Thank you to all the people who have made this clinic a success. Thank you Chris and Byron for showering our clinic animals with affection. Thank you Abbey and Michelle for your tender and professional care of our patients. Thank you Fr. Geoffrey for blessing the clinic. Thank you Bill and Mary Ann for the anniversary gifts. Thank you Denise from Boehringer Ingelheim for the cake. Thank you to my hubby for taking on another clinic and all the animals we have welcomed into our lives. But most of all, thank you to all the people who have brought their pets to Arizona Skies Animal Hospital. It is a privilege and honor to work with you and your animals. Thank you!