Beware of Cocoa Bean Mulch in Your Garden

Potential Danger: Sweet-smelling but potentially harmful cocoa bean mulch.

Cocoa mulch, made of cocoa bean shells, is a by-product of chocolate production. It is commonly used in landscaping, but pet parents would do best to use an alternative mulch; if eaten in large quantities, cocoa mulch can be toxic to pets.
“Dogs are attracted to the fertilizer’s sweet smell,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Animal Health Services, “but like chocolate, cocoa bean mulch can be too much for our canine companions.”
The ASPCA notes that, “Ingestion of large amounts of cocoa bean mulch, which contains residual amounts of theobromine—a methylxanthine found in chocolate and known to be toxic to dogs—may cause a variety of clinical signs. These typically start with vomiting, diarrhea and elevated heart rate, and if large amounts are consumed, they may progress to hyperactivity, muscle tremors and possibly other more serious neurological signs.”
“We advise pet parents not to use cocoa mulch in areas where dogs can be exposed unobserved, particularly dogs who have indiscriminate eating habits,” says Dr. Hansen. Use instead a nontoxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark.

Common California Plant Can Kill Your Pets

Oleander Plants are drought tolerant, easy to grow, make excellent hedges and  wind barriers and many of us have them in our front and back yards but they are  dangerous for our pets. 

I remember when I was a kid a woman in Palm Springs murdered her husband by making him oleander tea! She is probably still in prison!

Thank you to the Petco web site for the following information.
Toxicity Rating: High. Ingestion of even small amounts can kill.

Dangerous Parts: The entire plant is toxic. Consuming leaves, fresh or dried, will poison most dogs.

Symptoms: Gastrointestinal irritation, cardiac abnormalities and death, which may be sudden.

Plant Description: Oleander grows as an indoor plant in the northern United States and as an outdoor shrub in California, Florida and other warm regions. The leaves are lance-shaped, thick and leathery, and grow opposite each other. Sometimes leaves may grow in whorls. The leaves are 8 to 10 inches long, although smaller specimens will have shorter leaves. Flowers are showy, approximately 1 to 3 inches in diameter, and grow in large clusters at the ends of the branches. They can be white or any shade of pink or red.

Signs: Oleander contains the toxins oleandrin and nerioside, which are very similar to the toxins in foxglove (digitalis). Oleander is not palatable, but may still be eaten by hungry dogs. Dried or wilted leaves may be slightly more palatable than fresh leaves, but the leaves are toxic when wilted or dried. In one report, approximately pound of leaves (about 30 or 40 leaves) delivered a lethal dose to an adult horse.
Clinical signs may develop rapidly, and the dog may be found dead with no prior warning. In other cases, depression coupled with gastrointestinal distress is evident: vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), and abdominal pain. Irregularities in the heart rate and rhythm will occur: the heart may speed up or slow down and beat erratically. As the toxicosis progresses, the extremities may become cold, and the mucous membranes pale. Trembling and collapse can occur, followed by coma and death within a few hours.

First Aid: If dogs are observed eating oleander, contact a veterinarian immediately. The toxin acts quickly and is lethal in small amounts. Emergency measures may be used to empty the gastrointestinal tract of remaining plant matter, and medications may be administered to control the effects that the toxin has on the heart. Despite emergency care, the dog may still die, but the sooner treatment is begun, the better the chance for survival.

Prevention: Be able to identify oleander and exercise extreme caution when pets (and humans) are in the vicinity of these plants. Never place oleander where your dogs can have contact. Take extra care in cases where leaves can fall into a yard or a pen occupied by a bored or hungry dog. Animals and humans can also be hurt by oleander, even without touching the plant. Breathing the smoke or burning branches can cause poisoning, and merely smelling the flowers may be harmful.



Explanation by Dr. Becker 

Spring Time Toxins Newsletter

Tips from Pet Poison Helpline to Help Keep Your Pet Safe!

By Erica Cargill, CVT and Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC

Spring is just around the corner! Plant bulbs are just as excited to break through the ground to add some color to our yards, as we are to see some greenery! That said, we need to be aware of the potential dangers spring plants can be to our pets. Here is a list of some of the most common spring plants and their toxicities… so you know how to pet-proof your garden and keep your pet safe!

Tulips and Hyacinth
Tulips contain allergenic lactones while hyacinths contain similar alkaloids. The toxic principle of these plants is very concentrated in the bulbs (versus the leaf or flower), so make sure your dog is not digging up the bulbs in the garden. When the plant parts or bulbs are chewed or ingested, it can result in tissue irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed. There is no specific antidote, but with supportive care from the veterinarian (including rinsing the mouth, anti-vomiting medication, and possibly subcutaneous fluids), animals do quite well. With large ingestions of the bulb, more severe symptoms such as an increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can be seen, and should be treated by a veterinarian. These more severe signs are seen in cattle or our overzealous, chowhound Labradors.

These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (something that triggers vomiting). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. Crystals are found in the outer layer of the bulbs, similar to hyacinths, which cause severe tissue irritation and secondary drooling. Daffodil ingestions can result in more severe symptoms so if an exposure is witnessed or symptoms are seen, we recommend seeking veterinary care for further supportive care.


There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, and it is important to know the difference. Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs, such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – these result in minor drooling. The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies, and these include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as the pollen or 2-3 petals or leaves) can result in severe kidney failure. If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more effectively we can treat the poisoning. Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal) are imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function monitoring tests, and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis.

There are two Crocus plants: one that blooms in the spring (Crocus species) and the other in the autumn (Colchicum autumnale). The spring plants are more common and are part of the Iridaceae family. These ingestions can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea. These should not be | 3600 American Boulevard W., Suite 725 Bloomington, MN 55431 | @petpoisonhelp
mistaken for Autumn Crocus, part of the Liliaceae family, which contain colchicine. The Autumn Crocus, also known as Meadow Saffron, is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure. If you are not sure what plant it is, bring your pet to their veterinarian immediately for care. Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.

Lily of the Valley
The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides, which will cause symptoms similar to digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures. Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian and treated symptomatically.

Rattlesnake Season Is Upon US!

Make Certain You and Your Dogs Are Prepared to Stay Safe

Two ways to protect your dogs: 

Rattlesnake Avoidance Training: 
This training teaches dogs to recognize and fear rattlesnakes. A good trainer will teach dogs to sense danger using olfactory (smell), auditory (sound of the rattle) and visually recognition a dangerous snake. Warning, a shock collar is typically used in this training method.Local schedule:
Rattlesnake Vaccine: 
Vaccinating your pet gives you more time to get them into a vet ER for treatment, additionally it can save you a money as the anti venom may not need to be administered.
*Always consult with your regular veterinarian before you vaccinate your pets.

Case of Mistaken Identity; 

Know the difference between a rattlesnake and gopher snake:

We need all snakes for vermin (rat, mole & gopher) control, many harmless gopher snakes are killed each year as people mistake them for rattlesnakes: 

1. Both rattlesnakes and gopher snakes shake their tails as a warning:
The gopher snake tail is silent.
The rattlers tails make a sound that you will never forget. Youtube video:

2. Coloring and patterns are very similar but the shape of the head is the true give away.
The gopher snakes head is shaped like a shoe box.
The rattlesnakes head is flat and triangular or diamond shaped.

See video below:


1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
1 teaspoon liquid soap
(Dawn Dishwashing Detergent is often recommended, but any dish soap will work)
Rubber or latex gloves
Mix in an open container (bucket or bowl); it will be fizzy, a clue that you shouldn't try to mix it or store it in a bottle or other closed container.
Thoroughly wet your dog with warm water and then the solution while it is still bubbline. Knead it well into his coat, to chemically alter every bit of the thiols on his hair. Be careful to keep the formula out if the dog's eyes, nose and mouth; you can use a sponge to carefully wipe it onto his face. Let the solution stand for 10 minutes before rinsing. Follow the bath with a thorough rinse. Be sure to protect the eyes when rinsing the head. Chances are you will not get all of the smell off of the face and will have to live with that as it wears off. You can try Tricotine Liquid Douche Concentrate or any over-the-counter douche.
After bathing, check your dog's eyes. If they are red and watering, your dog may have taken a direct hit in the face. Skunk spray won't blind the dog, but it's very painful. Contact a vet.

The Pawsitive Side of Digging

The Instincts of Digging!

Most of us who share our lives with dogs, at one time or another have return home from a long day at work to find the backyard looking like is was bombarded by asteroids!

Digging is inherent to your dog, no training needed. Before dogs were domesticated they dug for many reasons, to hide food, to make a den for sleep and whelping, protection from the elements and to chase a meal.

Despite our disdain for our favorite dogs re-landscaping techniques we can also think about how the digging instinct benefits our dog. 
The pawistives:
* A great workout
* Great for front leg and shoulder muscle strength
* Great for bone strength
* Great to keep joints lubricated
* It's intellectually stimulating
* It's fun; your dog has been assigned a work project
* It might deter gophers or moles from nesting and having babies in your yard
* Elevates boredom

If you are a beach goer you have probably seen a dog energetically digging in the sand, they seem to just love to dig. 
I read an interesting article written by a man that had Siberian Huskies, he had a large yard and he designated an area in his dogs to dig. He would burry something and then encourage the dogs to find it, once the hole was rather large he would cover it up and then start in another spot.

So, digging is good for our dogs albeit not our yards, I think it would be great if dog parks would add a sand box area so that dogs could dig, perhaps if was all made that suggestion to our local city dog park managers we may get them to try adding one as an experiment.

Help! My On-Leash Dog Barks and Lunges at Other Dogs! by Kim Moeller

 We are very lucky to have author and highly respected professional dog trainer 

Kim Moeller in our area. I have taken this post from her site:  

Watch Kim's video tip to distract a leash reactive dog:

A Simple Guide to Understanding Your Dog in Canine Social Situations, by Kim Moeller

A high percentage of dogs tend to bark and/or lunge at other dogs while they are on leash. This is common for most dogs because they are very social animals and they want to approach and investigate other dogs. However, on a leash, they often do not have the freedom to approach and sniff. This can result in ON-LEASH FRUSTRATION, also known as BARRIER FRUSTRATION. Barrier frustration leads to excitement and agitation, which is displayed by barking, lunging, or growling.
Barking, Lunging, or  growling is the canine equivalent of shouting, “AHHH! THIS LEASH IS SO TIGHT AND MY OWNER WON’T LET ME GO SEE MY DOGGY BUDDY!” Unfortunately, this reaction from a dog usually alarms his or her human companion, who may not let the dogs meet, and may become tense and angry at the dog. Dogs are very sensitive to their owner’s tension, frustration, and especially to any punishment they might receive from their owner. The dog then starts associating even the sight of other dogs with their human companion’s negative reactions, and eventually views other dogs as evil beings.
On-leash dogs may also bark at other dogs because they are under-socialized and therefore afraid of other dogs. To make matters worse, oftentimes when a dog barks at another dog, the other dog’s owner will lead his or her dog away, thereby reinforcing that if the dog barks, the other dog will go away.
In either case, barking, growling and lunging is not acceptable to the owner, or to the other dog’s owner. The following suggestions will help your on-leash dog be less frustrated:
Remain Calm and remember to use a happy tone when approaching other on-leash dogs even though you are on guard and aware. Be prepared to move away, even across the street, form the other dog. Keep the leash loose. If you seem tense or uneasy and yank on the leash, the dog will usually respond by barking.
Use a human training collar. A head collar like the “Gentle Leader” or “Halti” makes on-leash management much easier on the dog and human companion. Choke collars, pinch collars, and shock collars are designed to stop dogs from barking by causing pain. The dog might stop barking because it hurts, but this won’t decrease the dog’s frustration. In fact, the association with pain can cause the dog to DISLIKE other dogs and ultimately behave AGGRESSIVELY toward other dogs.
Play the “FIND IT!” game. Have a handful of yummy treats, tell your dog “Find it!” and throw a treat in front of the dog. Continue to say, “Find it!” and throw treats until you are safely past the other dog. This exercise distracts your dog from the other dogs by keeping him focused on treats. Instead of staring at the other dog, your dog’s eyes will be searching for treats. Eventually your dog will associate the sight of other dogs with yummy treats!
Make mealtime at night, after you and your dog retire for the evening. If you don’t feed your dog before leash walks, you’ll have a hungry dog who will be much more motivated to focus on you and the goodies in your treat bag!
Remember: Daily off-leash play helps reduce on-leash frustration (if your dog is friendly/social off-leash).
Find a class or private trainer that uses Positive Reward Based Training to work with your dog. The San Francisco SPCA offers a range of classes and offers a special "Growly Dog" class seriesfor dogs that are reactive on-leash. To find a trainer in your area check out the SF/SPCA referral list.
Kim Moeller is a trainer at the San Francisco SPCA. A recognized expert in dog reactivity and aggression, she has lectured and published various articles on dog training and behavior.

Hope Hospice & Valley Humane Society help those mourning from pet loss grief

Hope Hospice and Valley Humane Society expand partnership to support pet lovers.

From the Pleasanton Patch:
Recognizing the sound of your car as it enters the driveway, your dog heads straight to the front door to greet you with tail wagging and body wiggling as soon as you open the door.  Or maybe you’re a cat person.  After you’ve finished a challenging day at work, your cat lovingly rubs against your leg, and automatically, almost magically, your stress level decreases.
Pets provide unconditional love and are often viewed as part of the family.  But what happens when a beloved pet dies and there is no longer a four-legged creature to greet you at the door?  Many people report feeling a deep sadness and emptiness akin to loss of a human family member.  Those who mourn the loss of a cherished pet may benefit from a new service being offered by Hope Hospice in Dublin and the Valley Humane Society.

The grief that people experience following the loss of a pet can be devastating and just as painful as the grief they experience following the death of a human loved one.  Grieving is a difficult, natural process and a vital part of healing. Because each person handles grief differently, each grief journey is unique.  Some people benefit from extra support during this journey.  Hope Hospice and the Valley Humane Society have expanded their partnership to support people who may benefit from special care following the death of a favorite companion animal.

A new Pet Loss Support Group meets twice a month at the Grief Support Center at Hope Hospice in Dublin.  The group creates a safe place for people to describe the events that led to their pets’ death, to share memories, to ask questions about the grieving process and to learn ideas for memorializing their pet.  Attending the group can be a useful step in the grief process by helping people to openly experience the pain of loss and to memorialize pets in appropriate ways.  The goal of the group is to help individuals learn how to live with their loss and move forward, not to “get over” the loss or forget about their special family member.

Michele Shimamura, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Hope Hospice, has provided grief support for individuals and groups for 11 years and facilitates the bimonthly Pet Loss Support Group.  Shimamura says that she has enjoyed the unconditional love of her own pets for more than 60 years. With every pet’s death, she admits that she has mourned in different ways, learning and growing from each experience.

Valley Humane Society and Hope Hospice understand and value the important role that pets play in people’s lives. For the past five years, the two Tri-Valley non-profit organizations have worked in partnership to offer pet services to hospice families: walking and feeding patients’ pets, placing beloved pets in new homes following the death of patients, and bringing pet therapy dogs to visit patients.  The new Pet Loss Support Group is an extension of this successful partnership to support pet lovers.
The Pet Loss Support Group meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month from 7:00 – 8:30 PM at Hope Hospice, 6377 Clark Avenue, Suite 100, Dublin.

The group is open to the community, and there is no fee to attend; however, attendees should call Hope Hospice at (925) 829-8770 or (510) 439-4917 to participate in a phone interview prior to attending.

What is Bloat and Why Does it Kill Dogs So Quickly

Bloat in layman’s terms = the stomach has flipped:
Bloat in dogs is likely caused by a multitude of factors, but in all cases the immediate prerequisite is a dysfunction of the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach and an obstruction of outflow through the pylorus, or a clog.

Once you recognize the problem know that you have an urgent medical emergency and you do not have much time to get your pet to veterinary care, surgical intervention is the only solution.

Symptoms of Bloat 
In the early stages, a dog that is “bloating” will be uncomfortable and edgy for no apparent reason.  A dog might stand uncomfortably and seem to be in extreme discomfort for no apparent reason.

It will deteriorate rapidly. In no particular order, without treatment an affected dog will become increasingly restless, painful, weak and depressed. Its abdomen typically will become swollen, firm and excruciatingly painful. It may retch and try to vomit, but those attempts will be largely non-productive. Its breathing will become rapid, shallow and difficult. Its gums and other mucous membranes will become pale to blue, and it will salivate profusely. Its pulse will weaken while its heart rate races. Ultimately, without surgical intervention, the dog will collapse and die within a matter of a few hours. The most obvious physical signs of bloat are firm distension of the abdomen (a very hard, swollen belly, tight like a drum), together with obvious abdominal discomfort. Non-productive retching and attempts to vomit are also common. Key clinical signs may include:
Firm, distended abdomen
Non-productive attempts to vomit
Abdominal pain (looking at the belly, biting at it, whimpering, etc)
Lack of appetite
Rapid shallow breathing (tachypnea); difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
Profuse salivation (“frothing at the mouth”; normally indicates severe pain)
Pale mucous membranes (gums, others)
Weak pulse
Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
Cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
What Causes Bloat & What You Can Do To Avoid It
Some of the more widely acknowledged factors for developing bloat include increased age, breed, having a deep and narrow chest, stress, eating foods such as kibble that expand in the stomach, overfeeding, too much water consumption in a small period of time; gulping air with water intake before or after exercise.  Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease may be at an increased risk for bloat.

Breed susceptibility
Even medium size dogs get bloat but as a general rule, bloat is of greatest risk to deep-chested dogs. The five breeds at greatest risk are Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Gordon Setters, and Irish Setters. In fact, the lifetime risk for a Great Dane to develop bloat has been estimated to be close to 37 percent. Standard Poodles are also at risk for this health problem, as are Irish Wolfhound, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointer, German Shepherd Dogs and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Basset Hounds have the greatest risk for dogs less than 23 kg/50 lbs.

There is a fairly new preventative surgery and the cost is around $750 to $1000. Some breed specific rescue organizations will not allow adoption until this surgery has been performed.

Wiki Information

Rat Poison is Deadly to Pets

Signs Your Pet May Have Ingested Rat Poison

If your dog has eaten rodent bait or eaten a rat that may have been baited you need to have a veterinarian administer the antidote ASAP.  
  • Remember that it can take days or weeks before symptoms show up in your pet.
  • Sometimes but not always you will see bright green feces
  • Coughing or belching
  • Bleeding from gums, nose, rectum or blood in urine.
  • Lethargy, fatigue, weakness
  • Pale gums, no color.
  • Drinking an unusual amount of water
  • Drooling, slobbering
  • Dog feels cold, may have the shivers
  • Muscle tremors, uncontrollable gait

It is important for human health that we keep vermin out of our homes and garages but we are accidentally killing our pets, our neighbor’s pets and wildlife by using poisoned bait.

Even if you feel you have put bait in a safe spot where your pets have no access you need to consider that rats and mice in wanting to take their loot back to their nests, often move the bait. Additionally if you dog or cat eats a rat that has ingested poison it then becomes a secondary poisoning and just as serious. Secondary poisoning is also responsible for the deaths of many hawks, owls and other birds of prey.

Ever wonder how professional pest control bait boxes work: The poison bait has a groove drilled thru the center for the purpose of dropping them onto spools inside the box, its a good plan except that rats often pull large chunks of poison off the spools. If they get waylaid along the route to their nests and drop the bait, your dog or cat can find the poison.

The LA Zoo had professional pest control bait boxes installed as they felt this would be safest way to control rodent populations in the park. An Orangutan noticed a rat run thru its cage, it just left a bait box outside the ape cage and was carrying a large chunk of poison. The orangutan caught the rat, killed it and ate the poison.

My own experience was that I was walking my dog and noticed she had picked up something from the ground that was blue/green and looked like detergent. I pulled it from her mouth and could see the spool groove down the center; it was half of an entire chunk of bait.  I noticed a black bait box in my neighbors yard about twenty feet away.

It is my opinion that snaps traps (placed out of reach of kids & pets) are the safest and most humane ways to kill rodents.