Valentine’s Day is a time for cupid, chocolates, roses and candlelight dinners with your sweetheart. The heart-filled celebration may also bring hazards to our canine companions. Remember to keep your dogs safe by following these Valentine safety tips:
1. Keep Valentine chocolates out of your dog’s reach as chocolate contains theobromine, which if ingested
may cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, hyperactivity, tremors or even death. The darker the chocolate the higher the concentration of theobromine and higher the risk; a ¼ ounce of baker’s chocolate or 20 ounces of milk chocolate can cause serious problems for a 10 pound dog. White chocolate does not contain theobromine but still contains a lot of sugar and fat which may cause stomach upset if ingested.
2. Unsweetened Valentine candies may contain xylitol which may cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in vomiting, weakness, depression, loss of coordination and seizures if ingested by dogs. If candy wrappers are also ingested, intestinal blockages may occur.
3. Roses are not toxic themselves, but the thorns may cause cuts and scrapes to a dogs’ nose, paws and mouth if your dog gets too close and best to keep out of your dog’s reach.
4. Do not allow your dog to accidentally drink wine and other alcoholic drinks during your intimate dinner as this may cause weakness, vomiting and if ingested in abundance, even coma and death.
5. Lingerie gifts including lacy underwear, under wire bras and robes with ribbons can be enticing for your dog if found around the house and may cause intestinal blockages if chewed and swallowed; keep out of your dog’s reach.
6. Keep liquid scented potpourri out of your dog’s reach as may be potentially toxic if ingested and can cause skin & eye irritation.
7. Candles create romantic settings but may cause intestinal blockages if ingested and burn the dog’s nose, hair and paws if they get too close while exploring – and watch that wagging tail so it doesn’t knock over a burning candle and put everybody at risk.
No doubt about it, sharing your life with a pet is expensive. Food, supplies and veterinary costs can add up to an average of $560 per year, according to Statistics Canada (2005). A pet survey conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association showed 19% of pet owners spent more than $1000 annually.
Veterinarians are an indispensable part of your dog’s health routine and I would not skip the preventative annual check-up. But if you are knowledgeable in canine first aid, you will know that you do not have to go to the clinic for every minor paw wound or if your 100 pound retriever eats a couple of Smarties. Consider these cost-saving tips:
1. Feed your dog high quality food. While the costs are higher up front, you’ll be investing in your dog’s health and saving on vet costs in the long term. Also, know what foods are toxic to dogs, such as grapes and raisins, and avoid emergency veterinary costs.
2. Keep your dog fit and lean. An overweight dog increases your food costs as well as increases the dog’s risk of diabetes, heart and respiratory problems, arthritis and other health problems. Provide adequate exercise for healthy cardiovascular and respiratory systems. In the event your dog does become ill or injured, a healthy body will generally shorten recovery time, further reducing hospital costs and possible follow up visits.
3. Conduct weekly head-to-tail assessments so you know what is normal for your dog. Smell your dog’s ears, paws, skin, breath and yes, their feces and urine. Listen to your dog’s breathing and vocalizations such as whining, yelping or wheezing. Feel for lumps, ticks and foreign objects stuck in the coat, in the ears or between the toes. Feel for warmer or cooler than normal areas that may signal inflammation or lack of circulation. Look into your dog’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth and observe his gait to see whether he favors any particular body part. Any small changes your dog’s normal state may signal an illness or injury allowing you to take immediate action when it may be less costly to address.
4. Learn canine first aid. While first aid skills do not replace follow up veterinary care, you will learn how to assess your dog to determine whether you need immediate emergency veterinary care (very costly) or whether you can monitor your dog until regular vet during business hours. You will also learn how to take care of common injuries, like paw wounds, and save yourself a vet visit. Learning proper techniques for stabilization and transportation would reduce the risk of further injuries requiring more veterinary treatment and therefore higher fees.
5. Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your dog’s teeth. Brush daily to prevent plaque and tartar build-up, gingivitis (inflamed gums) and infections. Dental disease can even lead to liver, kidney and heart damage, all of which would be extremely costly to treat.
6. Spay and neuter to prevent some cancers, not to mention the significant veterinary costs required to raise a litter of puppies.
7. Consider vet insurance to dramatically reduce veterinary costs. Shop around and read the fine print as premiums, limits and exemptions can vary greatly. If you cannot find suitable coverage for your dog, be prepared for unexpected veterinary bills by opening up a separate bank account and save a set amount from each paycheque. If you started to save just $25 when your dog was a puppy, you’d have $3000 by the time your dog is five years of age.
8. Schedule annual veterinary check-ups, especially as your dog ages. A thorough physical exam, including routine blood tests, may detect illnesses early and reduce treatment costs.
9. Get a second opinion if your vet recommends costly treatments as there may be an alternative treatment. If the second veterinarian gives the same treatment recommendation, while costs of the veterinary services will vary widely, do not skimp in this area if your original veterinary clinic has offered exceptional service and is the most comfortable place for you and your dog. You cannot put a price on peace of mind.
10. Shop online for prescription medications and preventative medications such as flea and tick products. Name brand medicines are going to be the same no matter where they are purchased so you might as well save some money or see if your vet will match prices.
© 2010 Michelle Sevigny. www.dogsafe.ca. Reprint permission granted with full copyright intact.
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All articles and photographs by Dogsafe Canine First Aid founder, Michelle Sevigny, former police officer and dog trainer.
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