Your Dog Has Cancer! But What About You?

By Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte

It was a terrible, terrible shock.

You noticed something not quite right with your dog – maybe she was off color, or perhaps a bump or lump suddenly appeared and was growing. You took her off to your vet. You were worried sick about what it could be.

The vet examined your dog, talked to you about the awful possibilities and suggested diagnostics – perhaps a fine needle biopsy, some imaging with ultrasound or x-rays, bloods and lab work, or maybe even a larger biopsy under a general anesthetic. 

You waited for the results; anxious, on edge, emotional, stressed. Then came the call from your vet: “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but your dog has cancer.

Then your vet’s telling you that you need to come in so that they can explain the options, and you can hear them, but you’re in shock, going through the motions by rote. You book an appointment and then collapse into a flood of tears. 

You decide that you have to be strong for your dog, that you can’t feel this awful pain and shock, that you have to do everything you possibly can to help your dog.

You go to the vet with a brave face, and then the vet floods you with information – the type of cancer, grading, histology – and then there are so many options: surgery, differing chemotherapy schedules, palliative medicines; or, if you go to a more holistic vet maybe a focus more on diet, herbs, cannabis extracts and so on. 

You’re confused – should you do as the regular vet says and get the surgery or use the chemo drugs? Or should you go down a more natural route?

You love your dog so, so much and you’ll do anything for her, but there are so many options and you’re running on fumes, trying not to fall in a heap, suppressing how you’re feeling, wondering how you’ll possibly afford it all…

This is an all too familiar situation that I see when I have clients with a dog diagnosed with cancer come to me for a consult (usually because they don’t want to inflict the regular veterinary assault of surgery and toxic chemotherapy drugs on their dog, or because they want to integrate alternative treatments into a regular veterinary approach).

Overwhelmed

These clients are stressed and often overwhelmed by all the information and advice from their regular vet. Sometimes they have had significant pressure from their regular vet to do what the vet thinks is best. They’re an emotional mess.

They often feel guilty that it must have been something they did, or didn’t do, in caring for their dog.

Here’s the thing: caring for yourself is the most important thing you can do to support your dog through cancer.

It is an awful shock to have a dog diagnosed with cancer. You need to be aware of that. This diagnosis will bring up grief.

There’s no way around grief. Oh yes, you can try to stuff it down and suppress it, but that only means that it’ll get stronger until it bursts through.

Please, allow yourself to connect with how you’re feeling – this is the most important thing you can do for your dog. Your dog won’t mind if you’re crying, she will simply love you.

Grief Stations

Be aware of the stages of grieving…

There are five stages. This is a framework and it’s not necessarily a linear process. Some people may experience these feelings or stages in a different order, and some people may not experience some of the stages at all.

I think of them more as grief stations – so it’s like you’re on the grief train and it stops at these different places where you experience specific feelings for a time. You can’t get off the train, and you’re not in charge of where it stops, or for how long, either.

The grief stations are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

You may also have additional stations with other very strong feelings. Everyone is unique, and every situation is different. Hopefully this framework will be a useful tool in helping you to navigate your grief.

I’ve experienced deep grief in my life and the only way through it is one step at a time, with a lot of tender self-care. It’s painful, hard, and though it may seem like there’s no end when you’re in the middle of it, you will come out the other side in time.

Self Care – What You Need to Do
  • Reach out to your support network – your friends and family. Ask them for help and support, then accept it with grace and kindness.
  • Eat well – healthy home cooked whole foods are best. Lots of fresh, preferably organic veggies. Don’t sink into the trap of eating rich, fatty, sweet, salty comfort foods that help you avoid feeling the uncomfortable feelings of grief, anger, sadness, fear and so on.
  • Exercise – this is so critical. You must maintain the things that support your wellbeing while you support your dog through cancer diagnosis and treatment. Yoga, tai chi, working out, and any aerobic exercise are all good. Do something every day.
  • If you’re confused about treatment options, seek a second and maybe even a third opinion from different vets. If you don’t have a holistic vet nearby, organize a phone or Skype consultation. They will help you understand all the options so you can then make an informed choice that you’re truly comfortable with.
  • If you need to, go to your doctor, and maybe have some therapy sessions with someone skilled who can help you make sense of and process how you’re feeling. Having relaxing massage or craniosacral sessions for yourself will help.
  • Make a structured time for relaxation for you and your family members, every day. This is very important! You’ll be in a fight or flight, stressed state and this is bad for your health. I recommend getting the whole family together just before the earliest bedtime. Put on some gentle, quiet, soothing music. Talk about how you feel, ask everyone to do the same and update everyone on what’s happening with your dog. Make it clear that everyone’s encouraged to express their feelings. Have a box of tissues handy. Be sure to have lots of gentle, loving touch shared between you all, hugs and cuddles with the humans and your dog (not forgetting the other pets in the family, who will also be picking up on your sadness). Then you all need to lie down on some mats or rugs, flat on your bags (with a billow if you need for comfort). Set a timer for at least 10 minutes up to 30 minutes (longer is better) and then lie flat and everyone simply breathes gently, relaxing tension out of their body with every out-breath.

If you care for you, you’ll be able to be so much more present for your dog. You’ll also be able to sleep better, be healthier, making you more able to think clearly and make the best decisions for your dog. It’s the most important thing you can do for your dog, truly.


Dr. Edward Bassingthwaighte is an author and veterinarian from Australia with a holistic/integrative medicine practice. To learn more, visit his website at www.thehealingvet.com.  

Transitioning Your Cat to Raw

Cats are obligate carnivores. This is a statement you may have heard once or twice at the Barkery. This means their diets should consist of almost entirely meat. In nature, cats don’t eat grains or carbs of any kind. Many grain-free foods are substituted with starches, which are just as bad but allow pet food companies to market as “grain-free.”

Our furry feline friends evolved from big desert cats which adjusted to staying hydrated from fresh meat of their prey rather than drinking water. Raw food is the best diet you can feed your cat, but many cat owners struggle to make the transition from dry food to raw.

Cats who have eaten nothing but dry foods are often a challenge to switch to fresh food. They are very opinionated and imprint on food at an early age. Cats who already eat other foods (real meat, fruits, vegetables, & cheese) will be much less of a project. It might take days, or even months, but it’s worth the effort! The most important thing to remember with cats is that you CANNOT use the tough love approach. Cats will starve themselves, and some severe conditions can occur if cats don’t eat for an extended period.

This article from Steve’s Real Food will explain best practices for transitioning your cat to raw.

The “Slow and Successful Method”

If you are feeding only dry kibble, introduce canned and reduce the dry. Have specific meal times rather than leaving the food out for them to eat whenever they want. If they are hungry, they are more willing to try something new.

Take some raw food and mix in the regular canned food you know your cat will eat. Test it on your kitty and increase the canned food until they are willing to eat it. Every time you feed, do this, and you will find you can gradually add more raw – though it may take several months. In the meantime offer bits of other kinds of fresh foods they like to eat – bacon, goat milk, salmon, etc. This slow method has proven to be the most successful for cats. However, if you have a cat that needs a little more work, consider the following tricks (in no particular order):

  • Expect it to take awhile. Fully transitioning a cat can take anywhere from a week to a year.
  • Stop leaving the kibble out to eat whenever they want. Have mealtimes, so they can start getting hungry enough to be willing to branch out.
  • Leave raw (or canned as a transition step) out for them all the time to try, but only offer kibble during their specified meal times. If they want a snack, they have to try the raw or canned.
  • Don’t just take away their kibble and play hardball, thinking that once they get hungry enough they will eat. Cats can starve themselves or go into shock that can turn fatal before they dare try something new, so this is not a good idea.
  • Have one meal available as kibble and one as raw, to see if they will be hungry enough without it getting dangerous.
  • Try different proteins to see if they like chicken over beef, etc.
  • Take freeze-dried raw food and hide it around the house, or put it in places the cat is not usually allowed. Cats like to feel that they have pulled one over on you, and they like to hunt.
  • Place the food in their usual feeding spot, or some other place they consider safe or theirs, like their bed or by their cat toys.
  • Take a stopper and (kindly) force a bit of raw meat into their mouth. Sometimes cats will try it once you have jolted their taste buds.
  • Tie a freeze-dried nugget to a cat toy and make them play with it. That gets them to put their mouth to it.
  • Mix in a tiny crumbly bit of freeze-dried product in with their regular kibble – not enough that they’ll notice, but enough that they can’t work around it. Once they have started eating it as a nuisance, slowly increase and make sure they are still eating their food.
  • Warm the food in a container with warm water. Cats like food to be at a warmer temperature, and it releases the smell.
  • Use a flat food dish, or a bowl that takes the span of whiskers into account. Cats don’t like their whiskers touching the side of their bowl.
  • Mix in raw freeze-dried with some goat milk and wet food, as little as the cat needs to still be interested in eating. Slowly decrease the amount of wet food. Often you can have a larger percentage of raw or freeze-dried if you place a small spoonful of unmixed wet food on the edge of the food, the cat will eat what they like and then just keep going in to the mixed food.
  • Offer other types of fresh food and meats to help them recognize they don’t have to eat just kibble. Let them eat other foods off of your plate such as salmon, bacon, chicken, or creamy milk products – you could even try putting a nugget of raw on your plate to trick them into thinking they have pulled one over on you by stealing it.
  • Re-hydrate the freeze-dried with something tasty like tuna juice, or beef or chicken broth.
  • Put some raw food onto their paws. They hate having dirty paws, and will try to lick them clean, and you have successfully gotten them to taste a little and realize it’s yummy!

You will begin to see improvements right away as your cat begins to receive digestive enzymes and a species appropriate diet. Be patient, your efforts will pay off as you extend the life and vitality of your feline companions!

May Special – Zignature & Fussie Cat!

We’ve got something for everyone this month at the Barkery. Zignature’s grain and potato free recipes and Fussie Cat’s kibble & cans are each on special this month. You won’t want to miss these deals!

Zignature:

  • $2 off Small Bags
  • $4 off Medium Bags
  • Buy a large bag, get a small bag FREE
  • Cans: Buy 3 get 1 FREE

Fussie Cat:

  • Buy a small bag, get 2 FREE cans
  • Buy a medium bag, get 3 FREE cans
  • Buy a large bag, get 5 FREE cans
  • Cans: Buy 4 get 1 FREE

Dog & Cat Titer Testing FAQs

Answering your questions about titer testing, a safe alternative to annual vaccines.

Vaccinations can be both helpful and harmful. It all depends on how they’re used. In young dogs and cats, vaccines help establish immunity from infections disease. But repeated and unnecessary vaccines can be harmful to the immune system. Titer testing is a safe way to avoid over-vaccination while ensuring your companion remains protected from disease. This article from Animal Wellness Magazine will answer some common questions about vaccine titers.

What exactly are titer tests?

Vaccine titer tests are simple blood tests that measure your animal’s antibodies to certain diseases. In most practices, these diseases include distemper, parvo, and hepatitis virus for dogs, and rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia virus for cats.

The titer is a number derived from testing your animal’s blood for antibodies against these diseases. A positive titer means your dog or cat has antibodies against a specific disease (the titer usually results from prior vaccination to the disease, or exposure to the disease). It indicates he is protected from the illness caused by that particular virus. For example, a positive titer to distemper virus indicates your dog is protected from distemper.

When should titer testing be done?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Most holistic veterinarians do limited vaccinations for their puppy and kitten patients, using a series of immunizations to ensure adequate protective immunity without “overdoing it” like traditional doctors do. A limited booster series may be done one year following the final puppy or kitten vaccine visit, when the animals are approximately 18 months of age. Titer testing is then done the following year and continues annually for the life of the animal. Vaccines are given only when titer testing shows a need for them based on the dog or cat’s immunity.

Titer testing can also be done for stray or rescue/adopted animals with an unknown vaccination history. These animals can be immunized if needed, based upon their titer testing results.

Is it expensive?

It depends. Some veterinarians, especially those who don’t routinely do titer testing, charge a lot for it. Many vets will charge $200 to $400 just for distemper and parvo titer testing. But if you visit a veterinarian who routinely does titer testing, it’s very reasonably priced.

Dr. Dodson at Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center does titer tests for the same price as vaccines (around $50). Plus – if your titer comes back negative, Mariposa deducts the cost of the titer from the charge of the revaccination, so you have literally nothing to lose by titer testing first!

Additionally, Kansas State Diagnostics Lab administers titer tests for core vaccines (parvo, distemper, adenovirus, and rabies) for less than $60. By taking this information to your vet, your vet can then send in the blood tests to the lab for results that won’t cost you between $200-400.

If my animal has a positive titer, will additional vaccines be harmful?

Giving additional vaccinations to a dog or cat that has a positive titer for a particular disease will not offer more protection, is a waste of health care dollars, and could be harmful if he reacts adversely to the vaccine. Risks of over-vaccination include tumors, thyroid disease, allergies, arthritis, seizures, and weakened immune system.

Positive titers indicate your animal is protected and vaccines can be skipped that year.

Why does my vet say titer tests are useless?

We’re not sure why some doctors say this unless they are ignorant of basic immunology. Titer testing is used every day in veterinary practice to diagnose diseases such as heartworm and feline leukemia infection. And veterinarians who have themselves been vaccinated against rabies routinely have their titers tested to determine if and when they might need to be revaccinated.

Can I take my animal to a boarding kennel or groomer if I choose titer testing in place of vaccines?

Since kennels, grooming facilities, and doggie daycare businesses require proof of immunization, either recent vaccines or titer tests showing that the animal is protected should be acceptable. Keep in mind that grooming and boarding facilities associated with conventional veterinary clinics will usually not accept titer results, whereas those not associated with a veterinary clinic will usually accept either titers or vaccines. Check with the facility to be sure. We proudly accept titer test results in substitution for vaccination records, and suggest you support other businesses that do the same!

If I need to vaccinate based on testing results, when should the next test be done?

It would be done the following year at your dog or cat’s annual visit. The titer test should be normal at that time, indicating protective immunity without the need for further immunization – but we don’t know this for sure, so the testing should be done annually following any booster immunization.

Is there any downside to titer testing?

No! However, no test is perfect. Titer testing tells us a lot about the state of your dog or cat’s immune system and its ability to prevent specific diseases. There’s no guarantee that a titer will protect him – but there is no guarantee that a vaccine will protect him either.

If your groomer or boarding facility does not accept titer results, we recommend finding another facility that is more open-minded and concerned with his health (a much better choice)!

If using another facility isn’t an option and you still need proof of immunity, you can request a Certificate of Immunity from your veterinarian with a positive titer. If your veterinarian disagrees, Dr. John Robb with Protect the Pets is happy to do it for only $20!

It’s our job to make decisions that are in the best interest of the animal’s health, including prevention of over-vaccination. We encourage you to educate yourself on the dangers of over-vaccination so that you’re aware when it comes to making decisions for your pet. Here are some articles to get you started:

Dr. Karen Becker

Dr. Karen Becker & Dr. John Robb

Dogs Naturally Magazine

 

 

 

Leash Walking Basics

Is your dog an unruly leash-walker? Does he pull you off your feet every time something distracts him? These tips will help transform him into a polite walking partner.

Walking your dog is excellent exercise for both of you. But if he doesn’t know how to walk well on a leash, and is constantly pulling or lunging, your outings can be anything but enjoyable. Here are some tried and true techniques from Animal Wellness Magazine for training your dog to be a good walking partner.

The Right Equipment

Before you can teach your dog how to walk well on a leash, it’s essential you have the right equipment.

  1. We prefer harnesses over collars for walking a dog. By using a proper harness you prevent any pressure or injury to your dog’s neck or spine. Be sure to buy a high quality product and measure your dog carefully to get the ideal fit. We recommend RuffWear for a quality, comfortable harness.
  2. Next, you need a good quality leash. Avoid extendable or retractable leashes – they not only teach a dog to pull, but can also be dangerous. A standard six foot leash gives your dog enough leash length to do his business during walks, yet keeps him close by and under your control.  You could also try a harness lead – these two in one harness leashes wrap around your dogs chest to prevent hard pulling, extend into a leash, and are easily adjustable to any dog size.
  3. Bring along some super delicious treats. They need to be valued highly enough that your dog will be more interested in them than the squirrel that just ran by. Once you discover the Barkery treat he loves most, reserve them for walks only, and keep the second best goodies for other uses. This will keep him highly motivated when you’re on walks.

Train Inside First

Start with a little foundation training inside the house, where there are few distractions. This will give you a chance to get comfortable with your training techniques, such as how you’re going to hold the leash. You’re going to get your dog’s attention, walk him around the house, feed him a treat, and repeat. This allows your dog to quickly learn this is an enjoyable game with lots of rewards.

The goal is to teach your dog that it’s fun to hang with you and walk wherever you go. Attach his leash to his harness, smile, and say “let’s go” as you take a few steps forward, encouraging him to walk with you. As he does so, tell him how good he is and give him a treat when you stop. Tell him once again how good he is. Repeat the smile, “let’s go,” walk and treat. At this point, you are only taking a few steps at a time before stopping and treating.

Practice this indoor walking technique in short bursts, as often as you and your dog are up for it. Keep the sessions short and enjoyable for your dog.

Trainer tip: If your dog pulls during indoor training sessions, stop walking. Try to get his attention again and reward him when he focuses on you. Your next session should be shorter before stopping and treating. Your goal is to have your dog win, yet never have a tight leash.

Outdoor Training

Once your dog has mastered his training indoors, you can move outside. Because there will be more distractions outdoors, start out by taking fewer steps before rewarding and stopping. When a situation is more challenging, training needs to become easier. Remember to reward your dog for being successful.

Don’t get into the mindset of thinking you have to walk on a straight boring sidewalk in a straight line. You can do this training in your yard, or at a park. By keeping your dog engaged and wondering what’s next, you’ll be more likely to keep his attention instead of ending up with a tight leash as his focus is drawn elsewhere.

If you do end up with a tight leash, just stop and plant your feet. Remember: a tight leash means no going forward. Make a playful smooching sound to engage your dog, and once he turns around to look at you, rub him, get silly, give him some treats, engage him however you see fit. What you’re doing is making the point that you are more fun and exciting than whatever he was distracted by.

3 Rules for Loose-Leash Walking

  1. Once your dog’s leash is attached to his harness, you must start practicing good walking and leash manner skills. There is no “off-time.” If you want your dog to understand that he is not to pull when his leash is on, you must practice each and every time he’s wearing it.
  2. If the leash gets tight, your dog isn’t allowed to go forward. This is the foundation of what you’ll be teaching him. Tight leash = no go. Loose leash = go.
  3. Have a set time for outdoor training sessions. When you first start teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash, telling yourself that you are going to go around the block right off the bat may not be the best goal. Instead, set up a specific training goal, such as 15 minutes or “x” amount of treats. When you are halfway through your time or treats, turn back to come home.

A Good Mood = A Good Walk

You need to be in a good frame of mind when you take your dog for a walk, especially if you’re still working on his leash skills. Getting grouchy with your dog is not going to yield the best experience for either of you. If you’re feeling down or irritable, do something else until you feel lighter.

Training your dog to become a good walking partner doesn’t happen overnight. It takes lots of patience and practice – but its so worth the effort.

If you’re looking for professional help with your dog’s behavior, check out our list of Barkery-Approved Trainers.

 

6 Ways to Improve Your Pet’s Health Naturally

If you’re a frequent Barkery shopper, you’re probably doing just about everything you can to keep your pet happy and healthy. Here are a few tips from holistic veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan to improve your pet’s health naturally.

1. Minimize Vaccinations

The core vaccines for dogs and cats, including Distemper virus, Parvo virus, Adeno virus (Hepatitis) and Panleukopenia, may provide protection against disease for many years, or even a lifetime. Most vaccine companies guarantee effectiveness of their vaccines for a minimum of 3-5 years. There is no need to have your pet jabbed every year, causing stress to the immune system, which can lead to chronic disease, cancers, endocrine problems, and allergies.

Vaccination for Leptospirosis and Lyme disease may be unnecessary, depending on your pet’s exposure. Currently, it is unclear how long the Lyme vaccine lasts or whether it contributes to a worsening of disease after exposure.

Vaccinating for kennel cough may cause your pet to have symptoms of the illness and allow shedding the virus to other pets. This is not a life-threatening disease and timing of vaccination is important, if it is going to be given at all.

Canine Influenza vaccine may not be necessary, or even helpful, as the influenza virus can mutate just like human influenza.

Feline Leukemia is spread by direct cat-to-cat contact with an infected cat. Indoor cats have no exposure to this disease and should not be vaccinated. Test any new cats prior to introduction to the cats you already own.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus vaccine is problematic and should not be given.

Tumors at injection sites are occurring with higher frequency, and fewer injections means less potential for tumor reactions. Multiple vaccinations should never be given at one visit. Pets that are sick or undergoing surgical procedures should not be vaccinated until healed.

More complete information regarding vaccines may be found here. Don’t forget, you should always titer test before revaccinating.

2. Minimize Chemical Exposure

Dr. Morgan recommends checking stool samples for parasites, rather than deworming on a set routine basis, and using heartworm preventative only during the seasons when exposure can occur, which depends on geographic location.

Chemical heartworm preventatives work by attacking different migrating larval stages of the heartworm. Some medications have longer duration than stated on the label, while others are given in dosages higher than necessary to prevent heartworm.

Injectable heartworm preventative chemicals have proven to be highly toxic. This product should not be used in cats. Cats with a strong immune system will generally not develop adult infestations.

Highest incidence of adult heartworm infestation in the US occurs in the southeast, Texas, and Mississippi River Valley Region. The American Heartworm Society posts annual maps showing heartworm cases per state in the US.

3. Minimize Flea & Tick Prevention Chemicals

Fleas and ticks are not active in all parts of the world on a year-round basis. While fleas and ticks should be prevented in our area, using a harmful pesticide chemical can have deadly consequences. We recommend using a nontoxic flea and tick preventative, such as Seresto or Wondercide, rather than a topical or oral chemical flea preventative.

4. Feed a High Quality, Species-Appropriate Diet

As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat,” and this is equally true for our pets. Their lifespan is shorter than ours, meaning they age more quickly. By feeding a healthy diet, your pet can live a longer, healthier, more vibrant life.

Not all pets are created equal and there is not one diet that fits the needs of all dogs or cats. In general, dry kibble and processed canned foods are of lower quality than frozen or freeze-dried foods. Our nutrition specialists are happy to help you find the best diet for your pet to fit your budget, lifestyle, and individual needs.

5. Provide Daily Mental Stimulation and Physical Activity

Most pets enjoy interaction with their humans and other animals in their pack. Even solitary cats, although aloof, enjoy playing with their humans.

If your pets are left alone for long periods of time, they most likely show excitement when you enter your home. Make sure you take time to pet, play, and engage your pet. If the weather is bad, try hiding treats around the house or using interactive games to stimulate your pet’s thinking. Keeping your pet active and stimulated will decrease unwanted behaviors and separation anxiety.

6. Have Your Pet Examined by Your Veterinarian 1-2 Times a Year

Depending on your pet’s overall health, we recommend having your pet examined at least once a year, if not twice. While many vets have stressed “shots” as the reason to bring your pet in, this is really the least important part of the visit. The full physical exam is the most important part of the visit. By having your pet examined by a qualified veterinarian at 1-2 times per year, you may be able to find early warming signs of disease. Small lumps and bumps can be detected before they have a chance to grow and cause problems.

A stool sample, urinalysis, and blood testing should be performed at these visits to detect any early signs of disease or failure. By being proactive, you may save your pet’s life. Interested in finding a holistic veterinarian? Check www.AHVMA.org. 

Introducing GivePet Treats

 

 

GivePet is a local company that sells super premium treats for dogs. There are four different grain-free formulas, and they’re the only biscuit-style treat we sell in bulk. For each bag that’s sold, 10 shelter dogs receive treats. Healthy treats are a true need at animal shelters, and are often used for training to ensure they will do well in their new homes. This short video of our Lee’s Summit store manager, Annette, shows that your dog will love the treats as much as we do.

GivePet treat are available at Brookside & Lee’s Summit locations. GivePet’s goal is to give millions of shelter dogs a little lovin’, and it all starts with you.

April Sale!

We’re super excited about bringing some RAWsome savings to our Pack Members this month! OC Raw and Rad Cat are both on special this month, which means you can feed your pet the most wholesome, nutritious, and biologically appropriate diet and save a few bucks.

Rad Cat: 20% off all Rad Cat products

OC Raw:

Spring Time Toxins

Spring has sprung, which means sunshine, colorful plants and more outdoor time with your four-legged friends. But there are some plants and other hazards to be aware of that could cause danger to your cat or dog.

Before you head off to the garden center to pick out your seasonal blooms, check out Dr. Becker’s list of plants that present a deadly hazard for your pets:

1. Tulips and Hyacinths

Tulips contain allergenic lactones. Lactones are derived from chemical compounds and taste a bit like whiskey. Hyacinths contain similar compounds. It’s the bulbs, not the leaves or flowers, of these two plants, which are toxic.

Symptoms of poisoning by one of these plants can include mouth and esophageal irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, increase in heart rate, or changes in breathing. There’s no antidote if your pup is poisoned by eating these bulbs, and severe symptoms need immediate treatment by your veterinarian.

2. Daffodils

If your pet licks or eats any part of a daffodil, she will ingest an alkaloid called lycorine which can irritate the tissues of her mouth and throat and cause excessive drooling.

Lycorine can also trigger a gastrointestinal response like vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea. In more serious cases, heart and respiratory problems can occur. Severe symptoms such as these require immediate attention by a veterinarian.

3. Lilies

The variety of lily determines whether it is a relatively harmless or potentially deadly plant. Nontoxic varieties include the Calla, Peace and Peruvian. If your pet samples one of these plants, his upper digestive tract may become irritated and he may drool.

Types of poisonous lilies include Tiger, Asiatic, Stargazer, Casablanca, Rubrum, Day, Japanese Show, and Easter lily. These toxic lilies can prove deadly for your cat by causing kidney failure, even in tiny amounts. If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a lily, you should get both your pet and the plant to a veterinary clinic right away.

4. Crocuses

The variety of crocus plants that blooms in the spring is a member of the Irdaceae family. Spring crocuses can cause GI upset, typically vomiting and diarrhea.

The crocus that blooms in in autumn is known as the Meadow Saffron, and this plant is highly poisonous to companion animals. Symptoms of toxicity include severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure, and can appear immediately upon ingestion up to several days later.

5. Lily of the Valley

Signs your dog or cat has eaten a lily of the valley plant can include vomiting, diarrhea, drop in heart rate, or seizures. The substance of lilies of the valley that is toxic to your pet is called cardiac glycosides. If you think your pet has ingested a lily of the valley, you should get him to your vet for evaluation.

Fertilizers

It’s also worth noting that fertilizer you use on your plants can be just as dangerous, or more so, than the plants themselves.  If you fertilize your lawn and garden in the spring, you should be aware of which types of fertilizer compounds are potentially fatal if swallowed by pets.

Most fertilizers cause only mild gastrointestinal symptoms if eaten, but there are a few watch-outs, including:

Blood meal contains nitrogen which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even serious inflammation of your dog’s or cat’s pancreas. Some blood meal has added iron which can also be toxic to your pet.

Bone meal contains animal bones ground down to powder. This powder is very attractive to many dogs. If your pup ingests a large quantity of bone meal, it can form a very big, hard mass in her stomach, causing an obstruction in the digestive tract and requires surgery.

Rose and plant fertilizers can contain disulfoton or another type of organophosphate. It takes the ingestion of just a tiny amount of disulfoton to kill a good sized dog.

Other types of organophosphates, which are also sometimes found in pesticides and insecticides, can cause a range of symptoms from mild to fatal. Signs of organophosphate poisoning include salivation, tearing of the eyes, loss of bladder and bowel control, seizures, respiratory problems, and hypothermia.

Iron is commonly added to fertilizers. Elemental iron can cause toxicity if ingested by your pet. Signs of iron toxicity include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and heart and liver problems.

Flea & tick preventatives are also a necessity this time of year. To see a list of our nontoxic, chemical-free flea & tick preventatives, click here.

Dr. Becker’s Detox Bites

If your pet ingests any type of poison, cleansing and detoxifying may be a good idea to maintain vital organ health. Dr. Becker’s Bites has incorporated three key nutricuticals with human-grade beef liver to add potent natural detoxifiers to the new Detox Bites.  These treats contain Chlorella (helps reduce pesticides and heavy metals), Milk Thistle (helps protect against chemicals from heart worm preventatives to shampoo to flea/tick collars or sprays), and Dandelion (a powerful herb used for cleansing the blood).

Taking a few simple precautions to avoid any plants and fertilizers known to be deadly to pets can prevent potential tragedies involving your pet. Visit the Pet Poison Helpline for more information. You can also visit this online resource which contains a comprehensive list with photos of plants which are poisonous to companion animals, and which are safe to have around the home.

Champion Pet Foods Responds to Class Action Lawsuit

Champion Pet Foods, makers of Orijen and Acana dog and cat foods, recently had a lawsuit filed against them for “false advertising” among other charges. The Class Action lawsuit with consumers in Minnesota, California, and Florida, claims that Acana and Orijen have levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and Bisphenol A (BPA) that were undisclosed to consumers.

This lawsuit is based on findings from the Clean Label Project, a group that uses “bad science” (Forbes, 2017) to award star ratings to foods based on testing done in an independent lab, but does not release or publish its data unless you purchase it and sign a nondisclosure agreement (RawFeedingCommunity, 2017). On the Clean Label Project’s website, you will find brands like Purina, Freshpet, Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, and Pedigree with 5-star ratings, and 1-star ratings for brands like Nulo, Lotus, Fromm, Petcurean Now, Petcurean Go, Orijen, Acana, Earthborn, and Nature’s Logic.

The Clean Label Project uses fear, uncertainty and doubt as a “disinformation strategy,” according to Forbes, and continues to gain traction among recent “clean” trends in both human and pet food industries.

Champion Pet Foods shared its response on March 19, assuring consumers that they are confident in the safety and quality of their products, and that the so-called “heavy metals” are naturally occurring elements which can be found in miniscule amounts in both human and animal diets.

We will continue to monitor the situation and promptly share any developments that occur.

To read the full lawsuit, click here. To see Champion’s response, click here.