Gum Can Kill Your Dog?

Gum Can Kill your Dog? GUM? Seriously?! Oh, and GRAPES, too? Great! Just great!

March 4, 2013 (published)

Photo by Phyllis DeGioia

Some days, it seems like the universe is just one big machine that wants to kill all of us in the most gruesome way possible. Beautiful seas are filled with Portuguese Man-O-War that sting (recently renamed People-O-War for political correctness), sharks that bite, little cone shells that shoot poison darts, and who knows what else. Zombies? Snooki? What happened to a relaxing day at the beach? Where can I relax?


Let’s try the forest – serene communion with nature, right? Nope. Bears can take a chunk out of your hide, trees can fall on your head, and if you nibble the wrong mushroom, you’ll be joining the choir invisible and pushing up the daisies no sooner than you can say “Norwegian Blue.”

We MUST be safe at home, mustn’t we? Home is a castle and all that. Sanity and justice demand it. But, alas and alack, home is full of hazards to life and limb for you AND your pet. Toxins – I am speaking of toxins, here, lurking under the sink, stashed in the garage, nestled in the medicine cabinet amongst the zit creams, cotton swabs, and cold medicines.

Most pet owners have a working knowledge of the big players when it comes to toxins and poisons – your antifreezes, your chocolates, your rat poisons (although I will never forget the one unfortunate dog who tried to bleed out, owned by the guy who didn’t think it was a problem that his dog ate rat poison because “he isn’t a rat”). But there are some new and unusual toxins that are out there that pet owners should be aware of, and some of these make chocolate look like, well, candy.

We’ll start with the oldest of the new. We have known about this one for about 10 years: raisins and grapes. I have always thought raisins were disgusting, little boogery things, suitable only for tricking you into thinking they are chocolate chips in cookies. It turns out that not only are they gross (to paraphrase Eddie Murphy, they are grapes with all the life sucked out of them) they and their non-dehydrated predecessor the grape are deadly. And unpredictably deadly, to boot! Dogs (cats are too smart and tend to avoid them) have eaten as few as 1 or 2 grapes and gone into kidney failure, while others can eat a whole cluster and emerge unscathed.

Grapes and raisins (and even dried currants) have an unknown toxin in them that is found in some, not in others, and damages the kidneys through a mysterious process. Deadly, unpredictable and mysterious, like asking Charlie Sheen to babysit. The bottom line here is stop tossing them to your dog as a treat (use carrots instead) and if your dog gets into any raisins or grapes, call your veterinarian or local emergency clinic for advice on what to do. This threat is very real; I once treated a healthy young lab brought down in his prime by a mere handful of grapes. Only an urgent trip to NYC for dialysis and a gargantuan pile of money and medical effort saved him (he made a full recovery).

Next up in our rogue’s gallery of pet poisons is…gum. Yeah, kind of a let-down, I know. Who dies from gum? But, as it turns out, in our ever-expanding quest to stay slim, humans have developed all sorts of low-calorie compounds that push that ‘sweet’ button on our tongues (you know – the one right next to that giant, inflamed taste bud).

These low calorie sweeteners are usually quite safe for humans (well, except for the cancer you get from saccharin – there is that…) but not so much for dogs. One of them, xylitol, causes dangerously low-blood sugar in dogs who ingest it, and can also damage the liver. I have treated several cases of xylitol toxicity where the dogs emptied purses and rifled through pants pockets (probably looking for grapes, no doubt) and chewed up a pack of gum. Next stop: ER!

The good news is that they have minty fresh breath; the bad news is that they have to stay in the hospital for two to three days while they are monitored and treated. All the cases that I have treated have made a complete recovery due to the fast-thinking and knowledgeable pet owners who brought them in. If your dog chews up your gum, check the ingredient list. If you see xylitol on the label, call your veterinarian or local veterinary ER right away. As little as one piece can contain enough xylitol to put a hurting on your hound.

With Easter just around the corner, this brings us to the last of our new and relatively unknown toxins – lilies. Easter lilies, day lilies, tiger lilies, and several other varieties can all pose a deadly risk to your cats (as far as we know, dogs are not at risk). Peace lilies are toxic but not enough to be life-threatening.  Lily-of-the-valley is toxic to cats and dogs but affects the heart, not the kidneys. All parts of the plant are toxic – I have seen cats go into kidney failure from one tiny nibble. Before we knew this plant was toxic, I can remember several cases of young, healthy indoor cats that went into acute kidney failure without any explanation. I now think those cases were lily intoxications, but we had no way to know that the plant was deadly back then. If you have lilies in your home make sure that your cats don’t have any access to them. If you do note that your cat has chewed on part of the plant, make sure to see your veterinarian right away. This can be treated successfully, but only if it is caught early. Here is a website about lilies with some more info.

There are veterinary hospitals, veterinary ERs and veterinary poison  control centers standing by to help your pet in case of poisoning, but prevention is the key to lots of toxins. Knowing what to avoid can be just as important as knowing what to treat, and your pets are counting on you to keep them safe.

So, let’s see – ocean…no. Forest…no. Home…no. Guess I’ll just have to stay at work! It’s not so bad though – someone brought chocolate chip cookies!

Written by Tony Johnson, DVM, DACVECC  for VetzInsight  and the Veterinary Information Network

Pet First Aid Kit

Written by Jessica

Consider your pet's needs when making a pet first aid kit. Will you dog be hiking alongside you?

Consider your pet’s needs when making a pet first aid kit. Will your dog be hiking alongside you?

At Community Pet Hospital prevention of emergencies is key, with the right supplies and treatment a dangerous scenario can become less traumatic for you and your pet. However, first aid treatment is not a substitute for veterinary care. Please treat a pet if in an emergency to prevent excessive damage (ie in instances of bleeding) and to assist in transporting, but seek out the nearest veterinarian, emergency veterinarian, or contact poison control so that your pet will receive the treatment .

When it comes to constructing your own first aid kit, there are many available for purchase, but everyones’ pet has different needs. Consider these needs if you want to construct your own. Does you dog hike? Will he be exposed to plant and environmental allergens (poison oak, pollen, dust) that could affect him/her? Are there snakes or spiders that could induce bites? Your pet first aid kit may be very different than another persons.

For these suggested items we referred to The Humane Society of the United States website:

  • Pet first aid book
  • Phone numbers: veterinarian, nearest emergency veterinary clinic (and know how to get there!), poison-control center or hotline (such as ASPCA poison control center at 1-800-426-4435 (a fee may apply))
  • Paperwork (in a waterproof container or bag): proof of rabies vaccination status, copies of other important medical records, current photo of your pet in case he gets lost
  • Nylon leash
  • Self-cling bandage (Stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur—available at pet stores and through pet supply catalogs)
  • Muzzle or strips of cloth to prevent biting (as long as pet is not vomiting, choking, coughing, or otherwise having difficulty breathing)
  • Basic First Aid supplies

    First aid kit

    Organize your first aid kit, for your needs.

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray
  • Blanket (foil emergency blanket)
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Gauze rolls
  • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting when directed by a veterinarian or poison control)
  • Ice pack
  • Non-latex disposable gloves
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate thermometer)
  • Rectal thermometer (your pet’s temperature should not rise above 103°F or fall below 100°F)
  • Scissors (with blunt ends)
  • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages
  • Sterile saline solution (sold at pharmacies)
  • Tweezers
  • A pillowcase to confine your cat for treatment
  • A pet carrier

Additional useful items

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) if approved by a veterinarian for allergic reactions. Vet must specify correct dosage for your pet’s size.

Ear-cleaning solution

Expired credit card or sample credit card (from direct mail credit card offers) to scrape away insect stingers

Glucose paste or corn syrup (for diabetic dogs or those with low blood sugar)

Nail clippers

Over-the-counter antibiotic ointment

Penlight or flashlight

Plastic eyedropper or syringe

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to clean thermometer

Splints and tongue depressors

Styptic powder or pencil (sold at veterinary hospitals and pet supply stores and your local pharmacy)

Temporary identification tag (to put your local contact information on your dog’s collar when you travel)


Needle-nosed pliers

First Aid Courses Available redcross-logo

There are courses offered by the American Red Cross where you can learn various first aid techniques for your pet. From their website, “Learn how to respond to health emergencies and provide basic first aid for the four-legged members of your family. Practice and preparation will help you be calm and effective in an emergency, protecting you and your animal from further injury or suffering. Choose from: Dog First Aid, Cat First Aid, and Cat and Dog First Aid.” (Course length: 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours)

 With the Amercian Red Cross Pet First Aid course the subjects are:

-Understanding basic pet owner responsibilities

-Administering medicine

-Managing breathing and cardiac emergencies

-Managing urgent care situation
photo credit: aye_shamus via photopin cc
photo credit: Newbirth35 via photopin cc

Summer Risks: How to Prevent Pet Problems During the Summer III

Written by Jessica

As we venture out this summer, it can become apparent quickly that our activities center around staying cool.  While we are frolicking in our swimming pools, lakes, and oceans our dog friends are either keen to join, or reluctant. Learning the proper techniques to teach swimming and preventing pool related injury will make your water recreation an exciting and amazing experience.


Summer Risks Number 3. Water


dog swimming

Teaching your dog to swim is important for the safety of your pet.

While all dogs are not fond of water, it is advisable to know how they react immersed in water.  Dogs are likely to panic if not previously associated with water, and applying safety measures can be the difference between life and death. Their first encounter with the water should be positive experience, with a slow introduction and plenty of praise. Some dogs have no difficulty paddling with their front paws, but struggle with using their back paws.  Just supporting their back legs while they paddle can assist in the learning process. Be observant on how your pet feels in the water. Including dogs that have water experience can help your dog associate better with the water.

Perhaps the most important part is showing them the way out of the water. In swimming pools, make sure to have a ramp or steps that are clearly marked for an emergency exit. A large potted plant can make the exit clearly visible. When introducing dogs to a swimming pool, lead them to the steps their first time so in an emergency they can find their way. For some additional teaching tips visit:


dog swimming 2Products are available online and in many pet supply stores to make your water recreation safer for your canine.  Ramps and steps provide a great safety measure for pools and for boating, giving your dog an escape in case they fall in the water or are no longer able to swim.  Life Jackets help keep dogs heads afloat so they can maneuver. Many alarms are on the market, including a product called Safety Turtle, that emits a piercing alarm when pets and people fall into an unmonitored pool. Safety covers, especially covers that can support a person’s weight, are likely to support a large dog, so research available covers to see what would best fit your needs.


Poison Risk of Pool Chemicals 

While swimming is an important training activity, it is equally important to know the hazards of swimming pools. Poisoning can be a risk given how many chemicals are used. The cleaning chemicals contain a variety of acids including phosphoric acid, nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid can cause ulcers if ingested in mucosal linings of the body. Chlorine can be an irritant to skin in both humans and pets. Rinsing a dog after a swim is very important to prevent this chlorine irritation. Chemicals can be especially dangerous if they are kept within your pet’s reach, so be sure to store all pool chemicals properly in spill proof containers and in locations children and pets cannot access. Some pet-healthy chemical alternatives are available at some pool supply stores.

Implemmenting safety means more fun for the entire family!

May you and your pets stay cool this summer!
photo credit: mtsofan via photopin cc
photo credit: furry-photos via photopin cc
photo credit: AMagill via photopin cc


Summer Risks: How to Prevent Pet Problems During the Summer II

Written by Jessicakitten and puppy

We have discussed some of the issues involved with summer heat. Our next topic is about toxins, more specifically, toxins that become apparent in the warmer months. Continue to take heed this summer when traveling. Never leave a dog off leash in a new locations where plants and wildlife differ from the norm.

Summer Risks Number 2. Toxins

Blue Algae Blooms

Upper Klamath River Blue Green Algae bloom Source:



Here in Oregon, during the hotter months, our lakes, ocean, and reservoirs become prime growers for cyanobacteria and blue-green algae blooms. Waters that have a thick coat of  blue/green, white, or brown scum should be considered risky for recreation as it could contain toxic blooms.  The Oregon Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance program does survey many areas, but not all.


To see a map and current blue/green algae alerts in Oregon visit: .

Dogs develop problems when ingesting water containing the algae.  Symptoms of algae poisoning include:

-Weakness and/or lethargy

-Pale mucous membranes

-Bloody diarrhea

-Mental instability

-Muscle tremors


-Labored breathing

-Difficulty moving

-Eventual death

Please look up advisories for the trips you have planned and avoid areas that look suspicious. To read more about the treatment and long term effects of blue green algae poisoning visit:


Poison oak, poison ivy and sumac contain urushiol which causes an allergic reaction after skin-to-plant-contact.  Itchy skin, a rash, or blisters may form between 8-48 hours after contact. If ingested these plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy.  To rid a pet of urushiol irritant on the skin rinse with warm water and a degreasing soap (like Dawn) that strips oils off the skin and hair. Be sure to wear gloves when cleaning your pet so that you are not exposed to the same oils.

Refer to our plants blog posting for additional toxic plants of concern.

Salmon Poisoning is a result of feeding canines raw fish. Source:

Salmon poisoning  

Neorickettsia helminthoeca is a microorganism found in the parasite Nanophyetus salmincola (fluke).

This fluke is found in salmon, trout and many other fish that breed upstream in rivers.  When canines ingest raw fish, the microorganism poisons the dog and the fluke is parasitic. Clinical symptoms of Salmon poisoning occur after 6 days and include:

 -vomiting     -fever     -diarrhea     -weakness

  -swollen lymph nodes

                                                                -lack of appetite     -dehydration

 If these symptoms occur after ingestion take your pet immediately to your veterinarian. According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association there is a 90% mortality rate in dogs left untreated.

Visit for further information.

Animal Poison Control Center
If the worst does happen and your pet ingests something that may be toxic, consult your vet immediately, or contact the APCC at (888) 426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied.

We will continue our Summer Risks postings next week. With your help, your pets can stay safe!
photo credit: cuatrok77 via photopin cc

Toxic plant consumption


While shopping for new plants for my home I stood blankly staring at the array of beautiful greens and started questioning myself, “If my silly cat was to munch on one of these, would he be OK”?  Then I started thinking how many of the plants and flowers already in my home may be toxic!

Unfortunately, most house plants are not safe for consumption by a human, or a pet.  However, there are many ways to safely display these plants or flowers in your home.  I personally have gone through my house and all plants on the floor I put on stands and some are hanging from the ceiling.

A poisonous plant is one that contains a chemical substance which produces a harmful reaction in the body of animals when ingested. Reactions could range anywhere from an allergic reaction to poisoning. Signs that you should watch out for are; vomiting, lethargy, skin discoloration, constipation or diarrhea.

The following plants are non-toxic to both cats and dogs:

1. Blue Echeveria
2. Bamboo
3. Areca or Golden Palm
4. Burro’s Tail or Lamb’s Tail
5. Christmas Cactus
6. Cliff Brake or Button Fern
7. Hens and Chickens
8. Pearl Plant
9. Pony Tail Palm
10. Spice Orchid

The following is a list of plants considered toxic. Remember that plants may contain a variety of poisons. They may cause symptoms ranging from a mild stomach ache to serious heart and kidney problems.

Common Name                                                                                          Latin Name

Amaryllis                                                                                                  Hippeastrum spp.

Anthurium                                                                                                 Anthurium spp.

Apricot kernels                                                                                         Prunus armeniaca

Azaleas                                                                                                     Rhododendron spp

Caladium                                                                                                   Caladium bicolor

Calla Lily                                                                                                    Calla palustrus

Chinese Evergreen                                                                                     Aglaonema spp.

Colchicum                                                                                             Colcicum autumnale

Daffodil                                                                                                        Narcissus spp.

Dumb Cane                                                                                               Dieffenbachia spp.

Elephant’s Ear                                                                                         Colocasia antiquorum

English Ivy                                                                                                    Hedera helix

Fishtail Palm                                                                                                  Caryota spp.

Holly Berries                                                                                                     Ilex spp.

Hyacinth                                                                                                 Hyacinthus orientalis

Jerusalem Cherry                                                                                Solanum pseudocapsicum

Lantana                                                                                                          Lantana camara

Mistletoe                                                                                          Phoradendron villosum

Mountain laurel (holiday greens)                                                               Kalmia spp.

Oleander                                                                                                Nerium oleander

Philodendron                                                                                          Philodendron spp.

Ranunculus                                                                                               Ranunculus spp.

Rosary Pea                                                                                             Abrus precatorius

Schefflera                                                                                           Schefflera actinophylla

Spathiphyllum                                                                                       Spathiphyllum spp.

Yew (holiday greens)                                                                                   Taxus spp.



If your pet ingests a plant or flower that you are unsure about, please contact us immediately at (503) 670-9707 or the National Poison Center at (800) 222-1222

Written By: Sarah

Moth Ball Toxicosis in pets


Mothballs have many uses, most popularly as a pest repellent. Beware that moth balls are toxic to both dogs and cats.  They can be enclosed with storage items to keep away moths and other insects, or scattered around a yard to repel snakes, mice, and other unwanted critters.  They consist essentially of deodorant and pesticide.  The pesticide sublimates into a vapor, producing the characteristic sickly-sweet smell of mothballs.

This smell can entice pets to give a little taste.  The taste is sweet, so consumption of large quantities is likely.  Unfortunately, the pesticide is a neurotoxin!  Both napthalene (contained in older types of mothballs) and PDB (less toxic, contained in the more modern mothballs) can cause moderate to severe symptoms in your pet, possibly leading to death.


  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Walking “drunk”
  • Inappetance
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Liver damage/failure
  • Kidney damage/failure
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

While these symptoms are most commonly produced with the ingestion of mothballs in your pets, inhalation or skin contact can also cause symptoms.  (A side note:  Similar symptoms can happen in people, too, particularly children!)  If you suspect your pet has been exposed to mothballs or if they are showing any symptoms, rush them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  The sooner they can be treated, the more likely any damage can be reduced.  If possible, bring the box or write down the name of the brand of the mothballs to better help your veterinarian with poison treatment for your pet.

Further information:

Pet Poison Helpline – Mothballs

ASPCA brief on mothball toxicosis (PDF download)

National Pesticide Information Center – Health Effects of Mothballs