All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Raisins and Dogs - A deadly Combination

My good friend, Judy, who is also an active Labrador retriever rescuer, lives with Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck: four big Labs who, on most days, are trustworthy, well-behaved dogs.  The problem is Buck, the oldest of the pack at eight years, is very food motivated.  Even after he has had a hearty dog-meal (which is always specially prepared from healthy, fresh ingredients), his nose is constantly searching for an additional treat.  Last week, his remarkable sense of smell led him and his “siblings” to a deadly delicacy.

While his “pet parents” were out, Buck discovered a stash of raisins in the pantry and let his buddies know about his delicious find.  In very short order, at least a dozen boxes were chewed open and their contents ingested.  When Judy returned home, she saw the “evidence” of what had transpired and was wise enough to take immediate action.  Her regular veterinarian was already closed for the night, but she was familiar with an emergency veterinary hospital just three blocks from her house.  (I highly recommend keeping the phone numbers of a local emergency veterinarian AND the veterinary poison control hotline handy—either programmed into your phone, or physically posted on your refrigerator or another obvious location. Time is critical when emergencies occur and hunting for a number uses up valuable minutes.) 

All four dogs were rushed in for treatment.  To Judy’s horror, she was advised that the dogs had a 50/50 chance of having permanent kidney damage due to raisins being nearly as toxic as rat poison to pets.   Judy worried whether her four-legged “kids” would all survive and dwelled upon how awful it would be if she lost them all.  It would not be known if they would pull through for 48 more hours.

Regrettably, there is no known antidote for raisin and grape poisoning.  In fact, veterinary researchers are not even able to determine what it is in these fruits that cause the kidneys of companion animals to shut down.  Consequently, all that could be done for Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck was supportive care. The four dogs were given drugs to induce vomiting as well as charcoal to help soak up toxins.  They were placed on IV Fluid therapy, and kept calm and quiet. 

The hours ticked by slowly. Compounding the worry was the fact that Judy did not know when the dogs actually consumed the raisins, which was a critical piece of information.  The sooner treatment can begin post ingestion, the better the chances are for survival.  Judy could only hope that treatment was begun in enough time.

Blood samples were drawn at specified time intervals to monitor kidney function.  When it was considered safe, the dogs were allowed to be moved to their regular veterinarian’s office for further tests and IV fluids.

Finally, on the third day, blood tests revealed that Murphy, Cosmo, Addie, and Buck were going to be OK.  Judy’s prompt response and her veterinarian’s knowledge about raisin toxicity saved these dogs’ lives.  It was a happy (and very expensive) ending.    

I asked Judy what she would recommend to other pet parents out there so that they won’t ever have to go through such an ordeal.  She said, “Make sure to keep raisins, chocolate, onions, and anything else that is toxic to pets completely out of reach.  Do a thorough search of your home to make sure things are high up enough so they can’t get a hold of it.”  And to that, I would only add this – think of your pets as “toddlers.”  Baby-proof cabinets and doors so that they cannot be opened and don’t leave food on tables or counters.  If you have visitors, be extra vigilant because outside family members and friends may not know all the safety rules.

I know Judy is feeling very lucky knowing that her beloved dogs are around to share the days with her.  She knows all too well that this story could have ended tragically and it is Judy’s hope that readers will share her experience with others to keep pets safe and healthy.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pets and Pools

Dear Marie,
My mother-in-law has a pool in her back yard and there is no safety fence around it.  She recently adopted a small terrier mix (Sam) from the animal shelter and frequently leaves him unattended in the back yard.  She seems to think that this is fine because the dog doesn’t go into the pool and shows no interest in going into the pool.  But the way I see it is that her dog is potentially in danger back there and can end up drowning. 

I know my mother-in-law really loves this dog a lot and would never intentionally allow it to be in a life-threatening situation, but I don’t think she realizes the potential for a problem.  I’ve said just about all I can say to her on the subject without crossing the daughter-in-law/mother-in-law line.  I know she reads your column and thinks a lot of your opinion.  Maybe you can settle this for us.

Anne, Garden Grove

Dear Anne,
Your concern is justified.  Even though most dogs can swim, not many can get out of pools once they have fallen in.  Eventually, the very best dog swimmers will become exhausted and drown because they have no way of exiting the water.  Animal control agencies routinely respond to calls from pet owners whose animals have accidentally drowned under these exact circumstances.

Most cities require safety fencing around pools.  This is a good idea even if your mother-in-law is exempt from this type of regulation because you can never be too safe when it comes to swimming pools.  I would strongly urge her to consider this option.

Second to installing safety fencing, she should show her little terrier how to successfully get in and out of the pool without assistance.  Have her take him in the water and then lead him over to the steps repeatedly so that he can become familiar with their location and how to use them.  It is extremely important that she practice this training on a daily basis so that finding the steps becomes second nature to her dog.  This will also help your mother-in-law determine how well Sam can swim.  There are a few dogs who cannot swim for various reasons.  She should find out if he falls into this category.

Some dogs cannot manage using pool steps.  If this is the case with Sam, you should suggest adding a ramp to the step area.  Ramps are easy to make, but are also available through pet supply companies for those individuals who are a little less handy with tools and such.

I have seen some water safety alarms on the market that use sensors which are attached to a dog’s collar.  If a dog falls into a pool, a corresponding receiver will sound a loud alarm in the house.  However, these devices seem to break easily during normal dog activities and haven’t received high marks in consumer reports.  Further, if you are not home to hear the alarm go off, there’s not much of a benefit. 

Essentially, the best advice is this – if you can’t be outside with the dog in a backyard that has an accessible pool, then the dog needs to be indoors.  Pets are like children and all the same common sense safety rules that apply for kids should be applied for animals as well.

Finally, if after implementing a pool safety regimen at you in-law’s home you discover that Sam truly loves water, remember that he will need a little extra care for his ears and skin.  Lots of dogs develop ear infections after swimming.  The simplest method for combating these problems is to clean out your dog’s ears after every swimming session.  An inexpensive ear wash can be made at home using a solution of 50% water and 50% vinegar.  Also, be sure to dry his ears thoroughly following this treatment. With regards to skin – remember, dogs can get sunburn just like people.  Apply sunscreen to your dog’s nose, especially in areas that have no pigment and appear pink.

By following these simple water safety rules, your mother-in-law will be ensuring that Sam has a safe and fun home in which to live the rest of his life.