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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

Whether I have my "normal vet" hat on or my veterinary behaviour/ pain assessor hat on, pain in animals is something I deal with every single day.

Most animals are incredibly resilient- and when motivated to eat, drink, run and play, despite the fact they have underlying pain issues- they get on with it, regardless.

This doesn't mean the pain isn't there, it just means that it is at a manageable level rather than an overwhelming/ debilitating level, which stops other normal and necessary functions.

Unfortunately- pet owners are often shocked and surprised when they find out their pet is and probably, has been in pain for a long time- in some cases since puppy or kittenhood, if it is a hereditary or congenital defect they have been born with.

Equally- just because an animal allows a vet to manipulate their head/ neck/ back or limbs, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. X-rays give us a good idea what is going on under the skin's surface, but they don't tell us about the nerves, muscles, ligaments or tendons which surround the bones we can see on the x-ray. A clean or "normal" looking x-ray does not mean the animal isn't experiencing pain. It just means we can't point our finger, or a little digital arrow, on the place we want to call the "source or root" of the problem.

"Animal pain is an aversive, sensory experience representing awareness by the animal of damage or threat to the integrity of its tissues; (note that there might not be any damage).

It changes the animal’s physiology and behaviour to reduce or avoid the damage, to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence and to promote recovery.

Non-functional (non-useful) pain occurs when the intensity or duration of the experience is not appropriate for damage sustained (especially if none exists) and when physiological and behavioural responses are unsuccessful in alleviating it."

Sometimes, reluctance to go for a walk, jump into the car or on/ off furniture or window ledges (if we're talking about cats), play rough and tumble games or tolerate snuggling up on the couch- might mean they don't feel up to it or they would prefer peace and quiet instead.

Animals cannot articulate that they feel uncomfortable or would prefer not to be touched or lifted, so instead they communicate in the only ways they can, that they want space and ideally distance from the situation they are worried about. Sometimes that looks like fear, sometimes it looks like aggression, but it is coming from the same place- "I'm in pain right now or I was painful there before and I don't want to be painful again, so leave me alone!"

There are some fantastic resources available to help pet owners recognise pain in their companion animals and to help explain why it can be: unpredictable, variable, exaggerated or "temporarily forgotten" if the motivation to have fun or do something nice is strong enough.

You may find the following links helpful:

If you think, or if you've been told that your pet is in pain, do seek help from your veterinary surgeon right away- there are loads of things we can do to help. There are also qualified veterinary physiotherapists, hydrotherapists, rehabilitation practitioners and members of many other disciplines, relying on evidence- based medicine, licensed medications and recognised specialist techniques, to help support you and your pet to enjoy the best quality of life that we can give.

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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

There are numerous commonly found items which when consumed, can be extremely dangerous for your dog. Some of them you might find very surprising. There are too many to list here, so I have created a couple of lists of the most common ones I have seen as a vet.

If in doubt, always telephone your vet or their 24 hour emergency service, for advice.

Most veterinary practices will subscribe to a veterinary poisons helpline, so make sure you know what your dog ate accidentally, and if it is in a packet or bottle, have the ingredients list ready, so they can check if an antidote or particular treatment option is required. Never make your dog vomit without checking with your veterinary practice first (unless you know for definite that the substance is safe in their mouth)- some chemicals or substances can scald the digestive tract, and forcing the dog to vomit exposes the soft tissues in the oesophagus, mouth and tongue to be exposed twice.

In the lists below I have listed some of the common plants and foods which can cause toxicity in dogs. The list of potential foreign bodies (items unsafe for your dog to eat) is endless. Some foreign bodies are small enough and smooth surfaced enough, to pass through the dogs’ gastrointestinal tract without causing any physical or chemical harm. Others can cause damage by: physically damaging the surface, or even penetrating through, the soft gastrointestinal tract, or by leaking their contents into the tract, resulting in uptake into the bloodstream, causing generalised symptoms of poisoning. If in doubt, keep potential foreign bodies out of the reach of your dog and if accidentally ingested, telephone your veterinary clinic, or their 24 hour emergency line for advice immediately.

Dangerous Plants

1. Azalea: Ingestion of just a few azalea leaves can irritate your dog’s mouth and cause subsequent vomiting and diarrhoea. In severe cases, azaleas can cause a drop in blood pressure, coma and even death in dogs.

2. Chrysanthemum: Any plant in the chrysanthemum family is toxic for your dog. The plants contain many compounds that are particularly irritating and dangerous to dogs. Common symptoms of mum ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling and incoordination.

3. Foxglove: Every part of the foxglove plant is toxic to your dog, from the seeds to the leaves and the flowers. It is best to keep your dog well away from these plants because ingesting them can cause cardiac failure and even death.

4. Holly: A shrub with dog poisonous berries that cause intense vomiting, diarrhea, depression.

5. Iris: If your dog eats irises, they may salivate, vomit, drool, have diarrhoea or lose energy. This is because the iris contains several compounds that are toxic to dogs. Irises can also cause skin irritation.

6. Ivy: Hedera Helix, more commonly known as English ivy, contains both a naturally occurring steroid known as sapogenin as well as polyacetylene compounds. Both of these naturally occurring chemicals can be irritating to the skin and mucus membranes if chewed or swallowed. All parts of the ivy plant contain the toxins, but they are most concentrated in the leaves.

7. Lillies: While not all types of lilies are highly toxic to dogs, the majority of lilies can cause an upset tummy or other uncomfortable reactions.

8. Poinsetta: Typical symptoms of this dog Christmas plant, if ingested, includes stomach irritation, skin irritation, plus mouth and eye irritation. Other signs include head-shaking, salivation or drooling, or trying to rub the mouth or eyes with the paws.

9. Tulips: The tulip bulb itself is a dog poisonous plant. Symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, drooling, appetite loss, nervous system problems, depression, diarrhoea, appetite loss and convulsions.

10. Yew: This is a highly toxic dog poison plant that can cause death in dogs. The toxin taxine is in Yew, which causes problems such as heart problems, weakness, trembling, a lack of coordination and respiratory problems.

Common Foods which are dangerous for dogs to ingest (some of these might surprise you!):

1. Alcohol: Alcohol has the same effect on a dog’s liver and brain that it has on people, but it takes a lot less to hurt your dog. Just a little beer, spirit, wine, or food with alcohol in it can be bad. It can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, coordination problems, breathing problems, coma, even death. The smaller your dog, the worse it can be.

2. Avocado: The leaves, seed and bark of the plant contain persin which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. If consumed whole, the seed can become stuck in the intestines or stomach, and obstruction could be fatal.

3. Bones: Although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, they can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and block or penetrate the soft gastrointestinal tract, causing serious damage, infection and in severe cases death.

4. Caffeine: Keep your dog away from cocoa, chocolate, colas, and energy drinks. Caffeine is also in some cold medicines and pain killers. Caffeine can cause problems with both the heart and the neurological system so if in doubt, get your dog to the vet.

5. Chocolate: The dangerous ingredient in chocolate is theobromine. It's in all kinds of chocolate, even white chocolate. The most dangerous types are dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate. Chocolate can cause a dog to vomit and have diarrhoea. It can also cause heart problems, tremors, seizures, and death.

6. Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs. Even a small amount can make a dog sick. Vomiting, lethargy and weakness are some of the initial signs but the kidney damage occurs quickly but is much slower to repair.

7. Onions and Garlic: all types of onion and garlic, whether dried, raw or powdered, should be kept away from your dog. They damage red blood cells, causing anaemia, weakness, vomiting, and breathing problems.

8. Peaches & Plums: The seeds from these fruits can cause a blockage or obstruction in the gut. They also contain cyanide, which is poisonous to people and dogs. People know not to eat them. Dogs don't.

9. Raw eggs, meat or fish: Raw eggs, meat and fish can have bacteria that causes food poisoning e.g., E-Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter etc. Raw pork, beef, and lamb can contain worms or worm eggs, which are normally killed during the cooking process. Feeding your dog raw meat products puts them at substantial risk of consuming dangerous parasites which can cause severe symptoms. Some fish such as salmon, trout, shad, or sturgeon can also have a parasite that causes "fish disease" or "salmon poisoning disease." The first signs are vomiting, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes. Fully cook eggs/ meat/ fish to kill any bacteria, protozoa or worms that may be present.

10. Xylitol: Sweeties (some brands), chewing- gum, toothpaste, baked goods, and some diet foods are sweetened with xylitol. It can cause your dog's blood sugar to drop and can also cause liver failure. Early symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and coordination problems. Eventually, your dog may have seizures. Liver failure can happen within just a few days.

Human Medicines or Supplements:

In the same way as we are all aware about keeping medicines and supplements out of the reach of children, it is important that we are ensure they are kept out of the reach of our pets too. There are a variety of symptoms we can expect when a dog accidentally consumes a human medicine, and it will be dependent upon the effect the drug has been designed to induce in people, for example increasing or decreasing blood pressure, increasing or decreasing blood sugars or insulin. It is important to never give your dog any over-the-counter medicine unless your vet tells you to. Ingredients such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are common in pain relievers and cold medicine, but they can cause serious illness in dogs.

The take home message is be aware (know the common poisons for pets), be careful where you leave or store these items and if your dog accidentally eats any of them, get veterinary advice asap!

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