Do you know what to do if your pet has an emergency? I have a list of five topics I’d like to go through tonight, and the first one is really topical, and it’s such a dangerous problem, and that’s the problem of ‘ratsack’ or ‘coumarin’ or ‘rat/mice killer’.
We’ve had 18 cases now at HIGHlands in the last three weeks, and the first thing I want to talk to you about is, ‘How does it work’?
‘Coumarin’ Poisoning – How Does It Work?
All these products work in much the same way. All animals have what’s called a ‘Clotting Cascade’.
A cascade is a series of steps, and we’re all bleeding at a microscopic level, somewhere all the time. Whether it’s a paper cut or internally when you eat or inside your mouth when you eat or whatever. There’s a tiny bleed happening everywhere all the time, and once that happens, this clotting cascade starts to kick in.
One of the first steps of that clotting cascade uses Vitamin K to start that clotting process, and ratsack and all its equivalents to the body look like Vitamin K.
What happens, therefore, is that this clotting cascade starts, and as you now know, for it to occur, the body needs to incorporate Vitamin K in the cascade.
BUT – in the body, we now have this coumarin product, and it looks like Vitamin K. The body says, “Hah!” and goes and grabs it, puts it in the cascade, and the cascade fails, and therefore we bleed, or the dog bleeds.
That bleeding can be into the gut, and it can be into the subcutaneous tissues, it can be into the bowel.
We had a really interesting case last week, in which I knew the dog had ratsack poisoning because when it came in, its gums were white as a sheet, the dog was really cold etc. But I couldn’t see any bleeding anywhere, and the owner had said there was no vomiting blood, there’s no diarrhoea with blood, there was no blood in the urine. No obvious blood loss anywhere, and the chest and the abdomen didn’t have blood in them either.
But when we clipped the leg up, the leg was just bright red under the skin. In other words, there was all this massive subcutaneous bleeding – that’s where this dog had bled out.
We’ve managed to save every dog but one. That dog just came in through the door and literally bled from every orifice as it walked in the door and died on the spot.
It’s possible, therefore, that you don’t see any clinical signs or any clinical symptoms at all, except a dog that’s dull, flat, feels cold, is lethargic and unwell.
If you lift its gums up, you’ll see that the colour of the gums is quite pale or even white.
Depending on how much the dog has eaten, the dog can die, or the cat can die within a few hours, through to a few days.
If you’ve got a dog that’s not looking well, and even if it’s only for the last few hours, lift its gums up and have a look, and if they’re a bit paler than normal, then they really need to come in and see us – immediately.
The other thing is that this drug or this poison passes up the food chain, and I’ll be a little bit ridiculous, and I’ll say if the mouse eats the product, and as it’s dying, it’s eaten by the rat, and as the rat is dying from the product in the mouse, it’s eaten by the cat, and if the cat’s eaten by the dog and the dog’s eaten by the fox, well the fox is still going to die from ratsack poisoning.
This stuff doesn’t get degraded in the food chain, and it moves up the food chain. It’s a little bit like mercury and fish if you know that example.
There is a very effective antidote, which is Vitamin K, and we give it intravenously, and then the dog goes on, or the cat goes on a number of tablets to go home with.
If the pet is bad enough, then he/she may even need a blood transfusion to save his/her life!!
There’s also a blood test which we run in-house, and that takes 30 seconds, literally 30 seconds to run, and that tells us whether the dog or the cat has eaten the product.
It’s a really nasty poison at this period of time with all the rats and mice around.
There are supposed alternatives out there that the dog or the cat won’t eat and that aren’t as dangerous.
I’m yet to be convinced; I’ve seen dogs and cats poisoned by these products as well.
If you’ve got a rat problem, look, I have issues myself. We’ve got chooks and geese and all that sort of stuff. And I know that I’ve got ratsack type products and push them under the chook house, under the concrete slab and come back the next morning and they are sitting on the top of the slab, the mice and the and the rats have just pushed it out of their holes.
These products are just too dangerous to use if you’ve got any pets at all, including chooks and geese and ducks as ‘pets’ as well.
I’ve gone to electronic traps, which for me have been working quite well. But there are a number of other options around if you have a look online.
The second thing I want to talk about is tick paralysis.
There are a number of ticks around in the Southern Highlands, and certainly, the bush tick, the brown dog tick, and a couple of other ticks are quite common, just not typically at this time of year.
But one tick that we do have is Ixodes Holocyclus, which is the paralysis tick, and it really likes certain conditions. Spring and autumn are the right time for them; if it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, this paralysis tick doesn’t like living here.
But if it’s about 18 to 25 degrees and a good degree of moisture and humidity, then it’s around.
We’ve we have found it commonly in Hilltop, Colo Vale, Burradoo, Mount Gibraltar and the Marulan area.
Very seasonal, if you go off the escarpment and go down on the coast, anywhere from Austinmer down South their horrendous tick paralysis most of the year.
Even if you go down for the weekend and you take your dog, or your cat- your dog or your cat needs to have some form of tick protection. Otherwise, you’re very likely to come back with it with a tick issue.
And the season down on the coast goes from virtually August to Easter, whereas in the Southern Highlands, it’s more concentrated at the right times of temperature and humidity.
Tick paralysis causes what’s called Ascending Paralysis.
In other words, the paralysis starts at the tail and works its way forward.
The first thing that you’ll see is hind end paralysis. The tail stops wagging, the dog or the cat has a little bit more of a crouched stance/gait and then next, you’ll have vocal cord paralysis.
The dog or the cat may husk rather than a cough. The meow or the bark will just be a little bit not quite right, and once you get to that stage, it’s fairly critical.
Then you’ll get front leg paralysis and laboured breathing. It’s EMERGENCY time!!
The treatment is purely and simply the antidote. Tick antivenin works very well, and we can save most pets if we get them in an early enough stage.
There are a lot of myths about removing the tick and how you should do that. Ideally, you should pull the head out.
There’s quite a lot of debate about if you just grab the tick and pull it out and does the dying tick inject a lot of venoms or not, and should you pour a little bit of metho onto the tick to make it back out.
Really that sort of stuff is still very vague and flexible, and people will argue about it.
In my opinion, if you use your fingernails and look, the best thing to use is a tick remover, but not many people going to have a tick remover sitting at home, on the windowsill to use, as it were and you certainly don’t want to spend the time going down to the local pet store or going online and buying a tick remover.
If you’ve got fingernails, then grab the tick as close to the skin as you can and pull it out.
If you want to sterilize the area with a bit of metho, go for it. But in my opinion, it’s not necessary and then comes in and see us, so that we can give the antidote.
The quicker that the antidote can be given, the better. For most pets, we can pull through quite effectively.
Let’s get back to square one; prevention is the key.
There are a lot of brilliant products out there that are useful for prevention; Bravecto, Nexgard, Kiltick collars, I’m not a collar fan, but Killtick collars work very well. Seresto collars are even better; if I remember correctly, they work it’s for six to seven months for ticks and eight to nine months for fleas.
Then there’s Advantix; if you’ve got a cat, you’ve got to be really careful because Advantix spot-on can kill cats, and I’ve had clients that have put Advantix on their cat, and we’ve managed to pull them through in most cases, but not all of them. You’ve just got to be careful with that.
There are a lot of good products out there.
Just one last thing on ticks, there is this new disease that’s cropped up in Northern Australia, and it’s a tick-borne disease, and it has been heading south; it’s not here yet; it’s probably about halfway down Australia.
It’s carried by ticks, and if the tick bites the dog, then the dog will most likely acquire this new disease; it’s called Ehrlichiosis.
It’s quite new, it’s never been here before, but it’s been here about 12 months now and becoming more and more a centre of attention.
If the tick bites the pet, then the Ehrlichia organism can go into the pet’s bloodstream. The death rates are really high, 80 to 90 percent.
If we get them early enough, we can save them, but it’s a matter of diagnosing the disease, which can be quite challenging.
In the situation with Ehrlichiosis, you need to have a product on your pet that’s going to kill the tick before the tick bites the dog, and so that’s the issue.
You don’t want to have a product on the dog that the tick needs to bite, to suck it up to die because then it’s too late.
The third thing I want to talk about tonight, and we’ve got so much to go through, and only a limited amount of time, is a snake bite.
We have quite a few poisonous snakes in the Highlands, the main ones being the Red Belly, the Brown Snake, the Southern Highlands Copperhead; they’re the main ones; we don’t have too many tiger stakes here.
Where do they occur?
Essentially anywhere you’ve got bushland or shrubbery. Hill Top and Colo Vale are really common areas; Mount Gibraltar is really common, and then certainly in my area Exeter, I’ve had two dogs bitten by snakes in the last 15-16 years. So all around the Southern Highlands and also further South. Again, a very seasonal problem.
Let’s talk about the clinical symptoms and then treatment.
Red Bellies are quite shy snakes, and they will- if they’re threatened, they’ll ‘run away’ or skedaddle, whereas Brown Snakes are exactly the opposite; when threatened, they will actually attack.
One of the worst things you can do if you come home or walk out of your backyard and see your dog or your cat is playing with a snake…
What most people inadvertently do is call their pet. The pet gets distracted, and whack gets whacked by the snake in most cases.
Most normal adult dogs or cats are actually faster than the snake.
If they’re a little bit older, if they have arthritis or something like that, then the snake may be faster than they are.
But typically, most healthy adult pets will beat the snake rather than vice versa.
If you distract them, they’ll get bitten; if you don’t distract them, then they’ll typically be okay.
Well, I’ll go for the Brown Snake first because that’s the simplest.
The Brown Snake typically causes respiratory paralysis, so it causes all the respiratory muscles to shut down, and you’ve got maybe 20 minutes to get in to see us get the antidote. Most of the vets in the area will have an antidote in stock, and there’s a number of different antidotes available as well.
We can use Brown Snake specific, we can use Red Belly specific, or we can use Tiger Snake, which is also protective, or we can use multivalent.
Most owners do not- cannot recognize what snake it is, and let’s be honest, most vets can’t recognize which snake it is, that includes me.
If a client comes in with a dog that’s been bitten, I typically am not going to spend the time trying to work out what snake it is and get the specific antivenin for that snake.
I’m going to use a multivalent antidote, and that’s obviously the most expensive, but then it also has the greatest chance of fixing the problem when you don’t know what snake it is.
A with a brown, you’ve got maybe 20 minutes, 15 to 30 minutes to get to the vet and get the antidote in. Otherwise, your pet is not going to make it.
And I’m always going to suggest that you ring the practice, whether it’s in hours or out of hours, whatever practice you use, whether it’s us or another practice- that you ring on your way in, so they can get things organized. So that when you walk in the door, they can give the anti-venom iv, rather than you walking in the door and they don’t know what’s going on and that’s another five or ten minutes before they can get antivenin out of the fridge and warmed up etc. etc.
It just helps everyone if you do that.
Red Belly snake bite is really interesting.
Red Belly Black snake bites are really interesting because let’s talk about a cat, for example…
Typically with a Red Belly Black snake with a cat, we’ll see what’s called a ‘flat cat’ – no specific clinical signs.
We’ll get a cat in, and there’ll be no specific signs; it’ll just be flat.
If we run blood tests, we can diagnose quite easily because there are classic changes that occur in our blood tests. But if we don’t do a blood test, you’ll just have a flat cat, and interestingly enough, a lot of cats will get better without antivenin.
In fact, a lot of dogs will get better without the antivenin if he or she’s been bitten by a Red Belly.
Now I would always suggest we give the antivenin, but antivenin is expensive, and some people can’t afford it.
Rather than euthanizing the pet, in many cases, it’s better to say, “Okay, let’s put the pet on IV fluids, give it supportive care and not give it the antivenin if we can’t afford it.” and probably 80 to 90 percent of those patients will survive.
Once again – I would ALWAYS recommend anti-venom be given.
Red Bellies are typically very good prognosis.
How long does it take for clinical science to occur?
Anywhere from 20 minutes. An early clinical sign and one that we had in, one of my dogs who was bitten was vomiting, and that’s a classic sign. Vomiting and basically collapse. You’ve got anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to maybe 12 to 24 hours before those clinical signs occur.
In cats, it’s the ‘flat cat’; in dogs, it’s more vomiting, collapse, pale gums.
If your dog just looks flat for some reason, and it’s spring when the snakes are around or autumn when the snakes are around, then it’s really worthwhile thinking of a possible snake bite.
There’s obviously not much you can do for prevention except making sure that the area’s clean and there’s no place for snakes to hide.
I’m obviously not into killing snakes. If you have a snake, if there’s a snake in your area, call a snake catcher and get that snake relocated. It’s not fair to kill them. They’re not trying to do us a disservice; they’re simply being moved out of the area that they would like to live in by all the ‘development’ going on.
The other thing to be aware of is dry bites.
The studies show that at least 50% of the bites are dry.
A dog or a cat will get bitten, and there’ll be no clinical signs.
If your pet’s been bitten, I’m going to suggest that you bring your pet in to see us, and if the pet’s not showing any clinical signs, then we’ll observe that pet for up to 24 hours and possibly run some blood tests in case it’s a ‘real’ bite = but a dry bite is common if you figure 50% is common.
Hit By Car
The next topic is hit by a car.
The first thing I want to say is when an animal’s been hit by a car, no matter how well you know that animal and how trustworthy that pet is with you under normal circumstances, in this situation, you need to protect yourself from the pet and possibly being bitten.
If you are in a situation where there are still cars going around you and the pet, protect yourself from traffic.
Any pet that’s been injured in any way, shape or form can and often will bite and even bite its owners. Protect yourself from your pet at all times, and I mean that in the nicest way, not in a nasty way.
The next thing is the legalities. If you’ve hit a pet, then legally, you are responsible for stopping, rendering first aid to that pet or taking that pet to the local vet and informing the authorities; that’s just that’s the law in New South Wales.
I know a lot of people don’t do that, but that is the law. Even if it’s a cow in the middle of the road, it’s that again; it is the law now.
If it’s a dog or a cow in the middle of the road, then it’s the dog or cow owner who is responsible for paying for the damage to your car just as it is the dog owner who is responsible for paying the damage to your car, if that dog is on the side of the road.
But it’s still your legal responsibility to stop and render first aid to that pet.
As always, it’s the ABC, Airway, Breathing. They’re the sorts of things that we need to look at.
Ensure that you protect yourself. The best way to protect yourself is to put a muzzle around the dog’s nose, and that could be a stocking; stockings make really great muzzles or the sleeve of a shirt just gently around the dog’s mouth, so the dog can’t bite.
When you’ve got an animal that’s injured, always think of the possibility of spinal injury. Rather than picking the pet up and moving it, you’re best off putting the pet on a board or another solid surface.
If you watch football or any form of sport, you know they always bring out these spinal boards; it’s exactly the same way with a pet; put the pot on a solid board.
If you don’t have a solid board in the car, which most of us don’t, obviously, then a long blanket or long towel. In this way, you can at least support the pet reasonably level.
Then take it to the nearest vet, obviously ring up before you come, especially if it’s after hours, of course.
If you’ve got an artery that’s spurting blood, yes, a tourniquet is a really good thing. Tourniquets should not stay on any longer than an hour or so.
If there’s a limb that’s broken, then place a support bandage on that leg, because if you’ve got a leg that’s broken or an arm that’s broken and you allowed that limb to bend and the bone comes out through the skin and then it turns into an open fracture, that’s even worse—common sense support of any injured areas.
I’ll just go back to snakes for a sec now, I’ve just had a thought, and it’s the issue of placing a tourniquet on doa g’s leg with a snake bite to prevent the toxins from getting absorbed up the system.
That’s all been disproven now.
Yes, make sure the dog doesn’t run around like crazy, and whatever, but certainly tourniquets and you know x marks the spot and cutting into the limb and sucking out the poison and all that sort of stuff, that’s all long gone now. There’s no need for all that sort of stuff.
That’s the basic stuff about being hit by cars with dogs. I’ll transition now to injuries which sort of ties in with car accidents as well.
Suppose your pet has an injury, whether it’s an open fracture. Let’s assume that the dog’s been hit by a car or kicked by a horse; if there’s a piece of bone sticking out through the leg or there’s a laceration to the face, what should you do?
My simple advice is, if you wouldn’t put it in your own eye, don’t put it on that wound.
If you wouldn’t put it in your own eye, don’t put it in that wound.
Peroxide; we see so many animals coming in, and the owners have washed the wound in peroxide. That damages the wound hugely.
Or we hear, “I’ve washed it in alcohol.”
I know they’re trying to do the right thing, but it’s the wrong thing.
If you wouldn’t put it in your own eye, don’t put it on an open wound.
If you know Hibitane or Chlorhexidine…
If you go to a hospital or visit someone there, you will see the handwashing stations which have this pink stuff in them, that’s Chlorhexidine with soap.
You wouldn’t use that, but you can get straight Chlorhexidine from a chemist; a lot of people have Chlorhexidine solution in a cupboard somewhere at home, that’s fine.
Betadine solution; you’ve got solution and scrub. The solution is the clear stuff; scrub’s got the soapy stuff in it. You need the ‘clear’ stuff.
When I wash my hands before surgery, I wash with a Chlorhexidine scrub or an iodine scrub or a betadine scrub.
I wouldn’t put that in my eye, but I would put them straight solution in my eye.
The solution can go on an open wound; the scrub can’t!!!
Dettol – I wouldn’t. It’s a bit rough.
A ‘hangover’ from last century is purple spray and all these sorts of sprays. NO!! Not on wounds, no.
You’re better off doing nothing than squirting stuff in it that’s inappropriate because you’re going to damage the tissues, and then it’s going to be much more difficult for those tissues to heal.
That’s the general sort of first aid treatment for wounds.
The second thing is that wounds have what’s called a Golden Period.
A golden period is the first 24 hours. In the first 24 hours, a wound will be contaminated but not infected.
What that means is there’ll be bacteria in there, but they haven’t had time to multiply, and that means that we can still suture or stitch that wound.
If a pet comes in with a wound that’s under 12 hours old, we can suture it, and we can get what’s called primary closure; in other words, it’ll heal up really quickly.
If it’s over 24 hours, we’re out of that golden period, and the wound will be contaminated, and now it’ll be infected, and we have to clean that wound first before we can suture it.
How we clean depends specifically on that wound. It may mean that we clean it with physical cleaning; it may mean physical cleaning and antibiotics.
There is a whole heap of different ways, so I won’t go into that situation at this stage.
Let’s talk about if there’s an object in the wound.
Whether it’s in a chest or in a mouth or whatever it is, what do I do if my pet comes home and there’s an object in the wound?
The answer is to leave it alone and come in to see us as quickly as possible.
Do not pull it out!!!
You might put a wrap around it or some type so that it doesn’t go in any further or come out.
But aside from that, leave it alone and come in to see us, don’t attempt to pull it out. That’s quite dangerous.
If I’ve got a pet that’s been injured, what sort of pain relief can I give?
Well, a lot of pets at home will have carprofen or carprieve or previcox or gabapentin or symmetral or lyrica; they’ll have pain relief at home for their arthritis or one of their other issues or something like that.
If you’ve got that at home, by all means, you can, in most cases,s throw in an extra dose, and it’s going to be okay.
HOWEVER – before you do that, I’d strongly suggest you ring us, but in all likelihood, it’s going to be okay.
Let’s assume you’ve got nothing like that at home, you’ve got a pet, its five-year-old, it’s come home and there’s a stake sticking out of its chest or something like that but the dog’s bright and happy, and you know you need to go in to see us, but you want to do something there and then and it’s going to be an hour’s drive to the vet or whatever, what pain relief can I give?
There is a very safe form of pain relief, and it’s something that a lot of people will have at home called Panadol.
It has to be straight, paracetamol with nothing else in it.
Interestingly enough, Panadol for dogs registered in the UK as a pain reliever just 12 months ago.
It’s quite good, but it’s not something we should use for more than two or three days, three or four days.
It’s not a particularly strong pain reliever, but it’s relatively okay.
If you have some Panadol at home, if you give me a ring or give me a local practice ring, they can give you the appropriate dose rate.
It’s quite interesting that the recommended dose rate and I’ll be a little bit technical here.
In the UK, the registered dose rate for this product is 30 milligrams per kilogram, whereas the recommended dose rate in Australia is only 10 milligrams per kilogram.
The recommended dose rate that we use in Australia is one-third of the dose rate that was registered in the UK.
It’s quite a variable dose rate, which means we need to be a little bit careful with how we use it.
One MIG word of warning, if you haven’t noted anything else I’ve said all night tonight- PANADOL KILLS CATS. Please do not give Panadol to cats ever; it is totally fatal; they’ll wipe your cat out totally.
But it’s a good pain reliever for dogs on a short-term basis, especially when you’ve got nothing else at home to give.
One of the things that we see commonly in dogs is bones in the roof of the mouth.
Dogs can’t digest cooked bones; dogs can only digest raw bones. We see a lot of situations in which dogs are given cooked bones, whether that’s a cooked shank bone or brisket, and the butt will get caught across the roof of the mouth.
We probably see a case of that once every two to three weeks, and it’s simply a matter of putting a little lever in there, wedge it, pull it out, and it’s all done.
That’s a very common laceration that we see in the roof of the mouth.
A couple of things I just want to finish up with this, and then I’ll get to the questions.
We are going to run a first aid course at HIGHlands, and we’ll be running it on a Saturday afternoon in the near future.
Maybe in late August/September, we’ll run a first aid course which will be on a number of Saturday afternoons one after the other.
It is a one to one and a half-hour session, and there will be either two or three sessions.
If you’re interested in that, keep your eyes open, we’ll let you know when it’s on, and obviously, we’ll have to wait till Covid settles down and all those sorts of silly things. Keep that on your radar.
It’ll be a live event, and we’ll have some practical exercises and all sorts of things like that.
The second thing is, should I have a first aid kit at home and the answer to that is yes, and what should I have in that first aid kit?
We don’t have enough time to go into that tonight, but I’m happy to make a post about that if there are enough questions about it, and certainly, that’s something we’ll talk about at that first aid course.
The last thing I want to talk about is our next Facebook live next month
It’s all about – arthritis – those CREAKY bones and how you can significantly improve your pets mobility and well-being.
Now, let me get to some of the questions
Kate’s question is, and let me interpret it as I think Kate’s saying with this goes back to snakebite. I
f I’ve got a two and a half kilo dog versus a 60-kilo dog is there, and I said, you know you’ve got 20 minutes with a Brown Snake. Is there a difference between the two and a half kilo dog or the 60-kilo dog?
Realistically, no. But there are a lot of technicalities to that.
A small Brown Snake versus a six-foot brown snake, for example. Yes, the six-foot Brown Snake is going to inject a lot more poison, and if it’s a two and a half kilo dog versus a 60-kilo dog, yes, there is going to be a difference.
But realistically, most dogs will get roughly the same amount of poison in and will last roughly the same amount of time. Say 20 minutes, and interestingly enough as well, I find that the October long weekend is a good gauge for when the snakes start to come out. That’s when I start to watch for them, and that’s the weekend on which I start to expect getting calls about snake bites.
So that’s the only question I’ve seen unless I’m missing some. I can’t see any others.
Thank you, everyone, for coming along tonight, and I look forward to seeing you again in a month when we talk about arthritis and your pets.