Acetaminophen Poisoning

When pets are in pain, our first instinct is to relieve their suffering. Before administering any type of pain medication to your pet, it is advised that you consult your veterinarian. The pain medication may mask vital symptoms and the veterinarian will not be able to make a clear and informed assessment of the condition.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is widely used by humans to relieve pain and fever. However, it is not a drug to be used on our pets. Dogs have some tolerance for acetaminophen but an overdose can easily result in a severe, life threatening condition. Cats are extremely sensitive to the drug and even small doses result in poisoning.

Clinical signs of acetaminophen poisoning are cyanosis (blue colouring due to deficient oxygenation of the blood), facial edema, depression, hypothermia (cold temperature), anorexia (not eating), salivation, and vomiting.

Treatment, if seen within four hours of ingestion, will include: induction of vomiting, administration of activated charcoal to decrease the absorption of the drug, and supportive care (oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, etc.) There is an antidote to acetaminophen but not all pharmacies have it on hand.

If you know your animal has ingested acetaminophen, or any other poison, it is important to get veterinary assistance as soon as possible. Prognosis depends on the amount of poison ingested and how quickly the animal is seen by a veterinarian.

Dog Parks

Are you thinking of taking your pet to the dog park? The local dog park can be a venue for socialization and exercise of dogs and their owners. If you do plan on using the dog park, there are a few things you should consider:

Source: Knowing Your Dog, Park Etiquette. College of Veterinary Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, Pets Magazine Sept/Oct 2011

Dog Attack: The Aftermath 

(By Brad Henderson, Clinic Summer Student 2016)

A dog attack on your canine friend can be unexpected and frightening, and can result in a variety of medical complications. Upon entering the clinic, the victim of the dog attack must be assessed to determine the severity of the attack. If the dog is in shock, or has a high fever, the dog must be stabilized before assessing any further damage. The dog will be given intravenous fluids and monitored until it has returned to a steady state. The veterinarian will palpate the entire body to assess any damage from bites, making sure to palpate each leg for any signs of a fracture. If there is suspicion of a fracture or damage to an organ, the veterinarian will perform a radiograph (x-ray) and/or ultrasound. 

Another problem that can arise after a dog attack is the development of a hernia. Hernias occur when there is a tear in the abdominal wall of the animal, allowing abdominal contents to protrude from the abdominal cavity and into the subcutaneous space. Hernias range in severity depending on what is protruding from the tear. If the tissue entrapped in the hernia is limited to omentum and fat, the patient is usually asymptomatic and the hernia non-life-threatening. If the hernia includes major organs such as the uterus, bladder, or intestines, the pet may present with intense abdominal pain, vomiting, depression, and possibly inability to defecate. In these cases, the situation must be treated as dire and surgical intervention is necessary to ensure the safety of the pet. The diagnosis for a hernia begins with palpation of the swelling. If the veterinarian suspects that your pet may have a hernia, they can employ a few diagnostic techniques to confirm their diagnosis. A contrast radiograph can be taken to get a view of the digestive tract; the purpose of this is to see if any intestine has looped out of the abdominal cavity through the hernia and become entrapped. To perform a contrast radiograph, a radioactive dye is given orally or as an anal enema. This radioactive dye fills the intestines and/or colon, providing a contrast on the x-ray picture between the digestive tract and the rest of the body. Another diagnostic technique that can be helpful is performing an ultrasound. Ultrasounds generally give the clearest view of soft tissue injuries, and help to give a picture of any possible protrusions out of the abdominal cavity. Once it is determined that your pet does indeed have a hernia, a surgical procedure known as a herniorrhaphy is performed. The goal of is to return any herniated organ to its appropriate location inside the abdominal cavity and then to suture closed any tears in the muscle wall to prevent future herniation. A skin incision is made either laterally to the area of swelling or along the ventral mid line. Once through the skin layer, the abdominal area can be assessed and any herniated organs replaced into the abdomen. In some severe cases, when a loop of intestine has herniated and undergone necrosis (cell death), resection and anastomosis may have to be performed. This involves removal of the non-viable section of bowel, followed by the stitching together of the two ends of bowel in order to restore function of the intestine. After the hernia has been repaired, a standard three layer closure is performed to close the incision. 

Another complication that can arise following a dog bite is the risk of infection and internal abscessing. Canine teeth can be very sharp, and upon puncturing the skin can create a “highway” for bacteria to travel into the body. In cases of serious infection, surgical intervention to remove infected tissue may be necessary. If, for example, a testicle on a male dog develops an abscess post-dog attack, that testicle should be removed and the abscess drained. A small tube can also be inserted into the skin during surgery to drain any remaining fluid from the abscess. After surgery, the dog will be sent home with antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection to other areas of the body.

Emergency Call

The clinic has received an emergency call and an animal is on its way. Suddenly the atmosphere of the clinic changes and the staff is in high alert. Be it the emergency traumatic in nature (eg. hit by car), a suspected poisoning, or a recumbent animal of unknown cause, preparations are being made even before the animal arrives. Staff members grab supplies, eg I.V. fluids, I.V. lines, catheters, tourniquets, and adhesive tape. Medications are pulled from the cupboards according to the type of emergency coming in. 

Even as the animal is carefully and quickly removed from the vehicle and transported into the clinic, an assessment of the animal’s condition is underway. Dr. Wright and the staff are observing respiratory rate, eye reflex, pupil dilation, mucosal colour, and the state of alertness of the patient. Once in the clinic, a staff member attempts to get as much history as possible on the patient from a frightened and stressed client. Meanwhile Dr. Wright and other staff members treat life threatening conditions (eg. excessive bleeding, blocked airway, etc.) and continue with the emergency assessment. The level of hydration is determined, heart rate is taken, eyes observed for reflex action, dilation, and nystagmus (twitching). As Dr. Wright proceeds to establish a venous access to administer I.V. fluids and emergency medications, the animal’s temperature is taken, capillary refill assessed, and any outward traumas noted. Time is crucial and all this assessment is done in a matter of several extremely intense minutes. 

The goal of the emergency assessment, and subsequent action taken by the staff, is to stabilize the patient. The assessment of all the vital signs, history presented by the owner, and presenting symptoms will aid the doctor in determining other emergency actions that need to be taken. 

In traumas, any excessive life-threatening bleeding needs to be stopped and the animal treated for shock. In poisonings, action has to be taken to counteract the poison. If warranted, an emetic needs to be administered to induce vomiting followed by the administration of toxin absorbing activated charcoal. If a caustic substance has been ingested, a mucosal protectant needs to be administered to protect the lining of the digestive tract. 

In emergencies where the immediate cause is unknown, blood work may be required in addition to initial assessment to determine organ function. The veterinarian will draw upon all his knowledge and experience to determine what action will be required to achieve stabilization. 

The length of time to stabilize a patient varies considerably. It is determined by the type of emergency presented, the severity of the patient’s condition upon arrival and the length of time the patient has been distressed. A dog or cat admitted for a broken leg with no other injuries could be stabilized within thirty minutes. A dog presented suffering from grand mal seizures, may take hours to stabilize. Once stabilization is achieved then it is time to consider further treatment, eg. x-rays, surgery and further diagnosis and treatment regimens will be instigated depending on the situation. The patient has to be stable before any extensive action can be taken without risk to the patient. 

During these periods of emergency the staff is focused, efficient, and professional in spite of the tension and pressure upon them. Once stabilization is achieved there is much elation and the staff can begin to relax. Unfortunately, there are times despite all their efforts, stabilization cannot be achieved and the animal dies or needs to be euthanized. This is devastating to our clients but also devastating to the staff. 

When emergencies arrive during scheduled appointment times, we ask clients to wait patiently. Dr. Wright will attend to your pet as soon as he is able. Depending upon the severity of the emergency, it may be necessary to re-schedule your routine appointment to a future date. We thank you for your understanding and patience during these situations. 

Everyone wishes for their pets to live long, happy and uneventful lives. However, the unexpected happens and you may have to visit the clinic for an emergency situation. Be assured that Dr. Wright and his dedicated staff will do the utmost to achieve a positive outcome for you and your pet. They are awesome.

Fox Tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis)

During the spring of 2018, the media alerted the public to a new zoonotic threat to canine and human health in Southern Ontario, Echinococcus multilocularis, often referred to as the “Fox Tapeworm”. The media alert was alarming. However, the risk of humans contracting this tapeworm is low. One needs to be aware of its presence, be knowledgeable of its method of transmission and take measures to reduce the risk of infection to you and your pet.

Echinococcus multilocularis is called the Fox Tapeworm because wild canids (e.g., foxes and coyotes), act as definitive hosts. These animals harbor the adult parasites in the small intestine without apparent clinical disease. Mature adult parasites produce eggs, which are shed in the definitive host’s feces and released into the environment. Intermediate hosts (e.g., small rodents) acquire the larval stage by ingestion of the tapeworm eggs in the environment. The life cycle is completed when a definitive host consumes an intermediate host containing the larval stage.

When humans and dogs accidentally ingest the eggs of the Echinococcus multilocularis they develop a condition known as Alveolar echinococcosis (AE).The larval form of the Echinococcus multilocularis tapeworm migrates to the liver where they form hydatid cysts that are sometimes misdiagnosed as a tumour or tumours. The presence of this disease often goes undetected until the late phase of the infection when large portions of the liver are infiltrated by the parasite. Symptoms may include enlarged abdomen, weight loss, lethargy and vomiting. If left untreated the condition is fatal in both humans and dogs.

Southern Ontario had previously been considered free of Echinococcus multilocularis. However, since 2012, alveolar echinococcosis has been diagnosed in 6 animals in Ontario.(1) This prompted further study. Research conducted by the Ontario Veterinary College in 2015-2017 found 23% of the fecal samples from 460 wild canids (416 coyotes, 44 foxes) were positive for Echinococcus multilocularis.(2) The study also showed “there was higher incidence in the Golden Horseshoe and along the northern shores of Lake Erie”.(3)

As of January 1, 2018 Echinococcus multilocularis infection in animals and humans became a reportable disease. Veterinarians and human doctors are required to report any occurrence of this parasite to their local Public Health Units.

The best approach for pet owners is prevention. Preventative measures include:

Decreasing the risk of your pet acquiring this parasite is the best course of action to avoid infection.

References (accessed July 25, 2019): 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinococcus_multilocularis Echinococcus multilocularis


Potentially fatal fox tapeworm on the rise in Ontario


Potentially fatal tapeworm spread by foxes, coyotes discovered in Ontario


April 8, 2019 Potentially Fatal Fox Tapeworm on the Rise in Southern Ontario

(1) (3) www.emultiontario.com. Echinococcus multilocularis in Ontario, OVC’s Echinococcus multilocularis in Ontario page

(2) https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/2/18-0299_article Echinococcus multilocularis Infection, Southern Ontario, Canada

Green Algae Caution

Blue-green algae is not algae but a bacterium of the cyanobacteria group. It proliferates in puddles, lakes, ponds, and streams; creating blooms in hot weather, mid to late summer. You will recognize it by the green-blue or green pea colour of the water. It can appear as a scum on top of the water or a slime that accumulates on the bottom of the affected water body. Cyanobacteria can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, animals, and birds affecting their liver, skin, and neurological systems. Public Health organizations keep vigilance over public water bodies and when a toxic bloom appears, issue public advisories to warn about the potential risk of the affected areas.

People and animals can become contaminated by swimming and ingesting contaminated water. Animals also risk ingesting the toxin by licking contaminated fur when grooming.

Signs of toxicity range from vomiting, skin irritation, muscle tremors, respiratory failure, shock, and death, Avoidance is the best method of prevention. Follow all public health advisories and keep yourself and pets away from any contaminated water. Supervise your pet’s activities around all water sources.

Should your pet come into contact with potentially contaminated water, wash them clean as soon as possible with clean water. Avoid soaps and detergents. Do not allow them to ingest the toxins by grooming themselves. If your pet has ingested suspected blue-algae water seek medical advice. It may be necessary to treat your pet to prevent any adverse effects from the ingestion of blue-algae.

References: https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entert ainmented/tips/AlgalBlooms.html


https://www.google.ca/search?tbm=isch&q=pictures+blue+green+algae&chips=q:pictures+blue+green+algae accessed March 17, 2018

Cooper, K., Pets Magazine. Backyard Hazard Series:Blue-Green Algae, July/August 2016.

Marijuana Toxicity

Marijuana or Cannabis sativa contains chemicals that when ingested or inhaled alter body function. Those chemicals do this by affecting receptors in the brain which in turn alter normal neurotransmitter function.

Toxicity in pets is not common but does occur. In the United States, marijuana has been legalized in several states and has resulted in an increase in accidental poisoning in pets. “While fatalities are rare, a pet poison helpline in the U.S. has seen a 330% rise in calls about stoned pets over the past five years”. (1)

Dogs and cats can be exposed by ingesting the leaves, buds or food laced with marijuana or by inhaling the second-hand smoke. They are affected by marijuana just as humans can be. They will show signs of depression or lethargy, encumbered locomotion, slow heart-rate, dilated pupils, and occasionally acute blindness. In cases of severe toxicity, seizures and vomiting are exhibited followed by coma and possibly death. The degree of toxicity will depend upon the size of your pet, the amount of marijuana ingested, the strength of the marijuana and the source of the marijuana (eg. ingesting dried leaves or cannabis oil versus food laced with marijuana).

Treatment is supportive being mainly stomach lavage, intravenous fluids and anti-nausea medication.

Keep marijuana and cannabis products out of reach of pets. If you know or suspect that your pet has accidentally ingested marijuana do not hesitate to call your veterinarian.


http://www.torontosun.com/2016/11/06/more-pets-accidentally-ingesting-marijuana (1) 




Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs, Pets Magazine, Sept/October 2016, pg 19.

Marijuana Toxicity (Part 2 - Spring 2019)

Dogs are proportionately more sensitive to tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) than people (1) Cats are less likely candidates for marijuana toxicity because they are more selective of what they eat. Pets may ingest the marijuana plant, cigarettes or edibles containing marijuana. They can also be affected by inhaling the smoke from marijuana cigarettes. Symptoms are varied and depend upon the size of animal, amount of toxin ingested or inhaled and the strength of the product ingested or inhaled. Symptoms range from difficulty walking, vomiting, vocalization, and agitation to lethargy, trouble regulating temperature, fast or slow heart rate, slow respiration, seizures and potentially coma.

Diagnosis is difficult because neurological and poisoning issues present with many of the same symptoms. In all incidences it is imperative to have a clear history from the owners. Treatment in the veterinary hospital focuses around supportive care (treating the apparent symptoms) and is based on the patient history and clinical signs presented. The pet will be treated with intra-venous fluids to prevent dehydration, support blood pressure and maintain organ function. Medications will be administrated to regulate heart rate and respiration. The pet will require hospitalization until all symptoms are resolved. In our experience the two dogs were under the influence of the marijuana for three days.

Owners should ensure that all medical or recreational marijuana is well out of reach of your pets. If marijuana is being smoked the pets should be kept in a separate area with good ventilation. If you notice abnormal behaviour in your pet or you suspect your pet has ingested or been affected by marijuana smoke take your pet immediately to your veterinarian for treatment.

References: accessed Mar 02, 2019






An opossum was helping itself to feed from the bird feeder the other afternoon. It sparked curiosity to find out more about these strange creatures.  Although there are many species of opossum around the world, the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the only species found in Canada and the United States. Opossums are a marsupial; the mother carries and nurtures its young in a belly pouch. They are a small mammal, not much bigger than a cat, with a long snout and hairless tail. Opossums are nocturnal animals (active at night) and omnivores (eat plant and animal matter). Opossums do not hibernate but are less active in the cold weather. They are found in many habitats from rural woodlands to sub-urban and urban areas. They lodge in old burrows, hollow logs or even under steps or in garages or sheds.

Depending upon who you talk to, opossums are cute, unusual creatures or they are a nuisance and an animal to be feared.

Opossums can be beneficial creatures in the garden. They are scavengers. They generally eat dead animals, rotting fruit and vegetation. They will also eat insects, mice, snakes, and rats. They have also been known to get into garbage and pet food left outdoors. One study claimed that opossums were voracious eaters of ticks; however, this study has been proven by several other researchers to be false.

Although beneficial in the garden, opossums are wild animals and like other wildlife they can be hazardous. They harbour some zoonotic diseases, meaning diseases that can be passed on to humans, their pets and/or other animals. Although not generally a vicious animal, an opossum can inflict serious injury with a scratch or bite if threatened. They also may be infected with fleas and ticks. The urine and feces of opossums harbour bacterial parasitic and protozoa diseases that can be easily transmitted to humans when handled. Examples are Leptospirosis (a bacterium that causes flu like symptoms but can also cause kidney and liver disease), and Samonella. Opossums “present substantial public health and [are of] veterinary importance, due to their capacity to cause disease in humans, domestic animals, and wildlife.” (1)  

Opossums are particularly feared by horse owners. Horses can contract a disease called equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) from eating feed, hay or grass contaminated by the feces of opossums. This dreaded disease attacks the neurological system of the horse.

If opossums are nocturnal, why was that particular specimen seen at the bird feeder mid-day? One source stated that in severe weather (heavy snow and cold temperatures); their food supply can be scarce. The opossum will venture out in the warmer part of the day to forage. Being the scavengers that they are, the bird feeder is a handy source of food.

If you are uncomfortable having an opossum(s) frequenting your property, you may want to contact your wildlife control officer to have it removed. If you find opossum feces contamination; use extreme caution when removing the feces (e.g. wear a mask, eye protection, gloves and protective clothing). Place the feces and contaminated material in a sealed plastic bag or sealed container and dispose in the garbage.

The opossum is an unusual animal and interesting to see. However, like other wildlife, the same precautions prevail. (see Rabies article below).


http://wildliferemovalusa.com/opossum-diseases.html accessed March 10/22

https://opossumsocietyus.org/faq-opossum/#If%20opossums%20are%20nocturnal accessed March 14/22

https://sciencebriefss.com/nature/the-risks-of-opossums/ accessed March 10/22

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/beneficial/benefits-of-opossums.htm/?print=1&loc=bot accessed March 10/22

(1)     https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33788021/ accessed march 10/22

Plastic Bottles

Some pet owners have discovered that their dogs like to chew on plastic bottles like those from beverages or water. The bottles cost nothing, are light, pliable and make great noises as the dog manipulates the bottle. Sounds like great entertainment for your pet.  Plastic bottles are a hazard to your pet’s health.

This hospital has had two incidents in the past year where the pet has picked up a plastic bottle to chew on that was not intended for them. The bottles contained Methalene gycol, an antifreeze compound. As the pet chewed, the bottle was punctured and the pet ingested an unknown amount of the toxic substance. Rather safe than sorry, the owners brought the pet to the clinic. The pet was treated for accidental poisoning.  Fortunately in both incidences the pet survived. This was a traumatic and costly lesson for the pet’s owners.

Unfortunately, our pets cannot distinguish the difference between a clean empty bottle that you have given them to chew and any other plastic bottle that is in your household. You may put down a household product while cleaning a bathroom, servicing your car, or any other of the myriad tasks about the home. What your pet sees is another toy to entertain them. Depending upon the chemical compound of the product in the container, the ingestion of those compounds can make your pet very ill or even cause death.

The other hazard of allowing your pet to chew on plastic is the ingestion of small pieces of plastic as the bottle disintegrates under your pet’s mauling. These pieces of plastic are sharp and cause irritation to the stomach and intestinal linings. The pieces also may cause an obstruction in the bowel.

No one likes to be faced with expensive veterinary costs especially if the reason could be prevented. Our caution to you is to make all containers off limits to your pet. Only allow them to play with proper toys designated for pets. And always supervise your pet when it is at play.

Porcupine Quills

Porcupine quills are barbed (much like a fish hook) with several barbs along the shaft. This makes them very difficult to pull out. Instead, the barbs enable the quills to work their way inward. The quills can also vary greatly in size from long, thick quills to very thin quills less than half an inch long. If not removed, the quills can migrate deeper into tissue and even into internal organs where they can cause infection and abscesses. If quills puncture an eye, the dog could lose the eye.     If your dog should encounter a porcupine:

 DO NOT....

Reprinted in part from “The Pawsitive Express”, Vol 1, Spring 2012.

Quarantining A New Pet

We understand the excitement and enthusiasm that comes with welcoming a new pet to the household. And the family is anxious to see how the new pet will be received by the current resident pet(s). However, problems can arise if precautions are not taken when this new animal is introduced into the household.

We always recommend to clients that a period of quarantine is required when they are bringing a new pet into a household where another pet or pets reside(s). Although we make this recommendation compliance is extremely poor.

Your new family member may harbor fleas, intestinal worms, viruses or fungal infections (ringworm). Introducing the new pet into the family immediately may allow these problems to spread to the other pet(s) or family members. It is advised that the new pet be kept apart from the other household pets for a minimum period of three weeks.

Quarantine can be accomplished by setting up the new pet in a laundry room or other room in the house that has low traffic flow. A three week quarantine period should be sufficient time for any existing problems to surface and have them treated before introducing the new pet to others. It also allows the family time to take the new pet to a veterinarian for a thorough exam and initial vaccinations for its protection as well. Although it is our recommendation to quarantine a new pet it is the most difficult recommendation for our clients to follow.


An article that appeared in the Farmers Forum magazine in February 2022 reported the incidence of animal rabies in Ontario is in decline. Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs website confirmed that; in 2017 there were 149 cases of rabies in Ontario. The incidence declined to only 42 cases confirmed in 2021.

Humans and pets contract the rabies virus through exposure to wildlife. The animals that have most often transmitted rabies in Ontario are bats, foxes, skunks and raccoons. The decline in rabies cases can be attributed to:  1) conscientious pet owners regularly ensuring their pets are vaccinated for rabies, and 2) the Rabies Management Program by the Province of Ontario.

The Rabies Management Program is a joint effort of several government agencies to vaccinate wildlife by the distribution of vaccine blister packs in wildlife areas. This program has been successful in decreasing the prevalence of disease in the fox, skunk and raccoon populations of the province. However, as bats main diet is insects, there is no method to vaccinate this mammal. Today, bats are the main vector in the transmission of rabies in Ontario.

Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of warm blooded mammals including humans. Once the symptoms appear there is no cure. The disease is fatal in animals and humans. Rabies can manifest itself in two forms, dumb rabies and the more familiar manifestation, furious rabies. A major sign of rabies is abnormal behaviour e.g., a nocturnal animal seen during daylight hours or a fox or skunk appearing to have no fear of humans. Other signs are excessive drooling, depression, ataxia (lack of coordination) and paralysis in dumb rabid animals. Animals with the furious form of rabies will exhibit aggressive or excitable behaviour, e.g. attack other animals for no apparent reason or chew or gnaw at themselves e.g. fox with porcupine quills. An infected animal may alternate between periods of depression with periods of rage (excitability or aggression).

The rabies virus is conveyed through the saliva of infected animals. Rabies can be transmitted to humans and other animals from an infected animal by way of:  a bite;  saliva entering an open wound or sore; saliva entering the mucosa of the eyes, nose or mouth by aerosolization (e.g. spitting, sneezing or coughing).

Prevention is the best course of action.  The Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs offers the following tips to prevent the spread of rabies.


·        Vaccinate your pets. In Ontario, citizens are required by law to maintain an up to date rabies vaccination status of their     pets, this includes indoor cats.

·        Keep garbage in secure containers to avoid attracting wildlife.

·        If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control officer or the police.

·        Teach your children about rabies. The Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health has resources to assist in teaching         your children about wildlife safety. You can access this on line at



·        feed wildlife.

·        approach wildlife or strange dogs and cats.

·        allow your pet to roam free particularly at night.

The decrease in the prevalence of rabies in the province is good news but it is not a reason to become complacent. Rabies is endemic in our wildlife population and therefore we must continue to be vigilant. Stop the spread of rabies by; educating yourself of the potential risk of rabies transmission and ensuring your pet’s rabies vaccine status is up to date.




McKelvey, D., The Safety Handbook for Veterinary Hospitals, Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, 1997


Fall 2015 - Rabies is a virus that affects all mammal species including humans. It is a fatal disease. The virus attacks the nervous system and salivary glands. Consequently, the saliva carries large amounts of the virus and is the major means of transmission usually with a bite from an infected animal. Occasionally, but rarely, rabies can also be transmitted by aerosolization (eg. spit, sneeze or cough). 

All mammals can harbour the rabies virus. However, foxes and skunks were the traditional sources for rabies outbreaks in the past. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources distributes oral vaccine bait packages throughout Southern Ontario in late summer/early fall each year. This program started 25 years ago and resulted in the number of fox and skunk cases in the province decreasing dramatically. Until the recent outbreak of raccoon rabies, brown bats had been the most likely source of rabies. As brown bats eat only insects, the Ministry of Natural Resources has not been able to stem the spread of the virus by baiting bats. Vaccination and preventing contact with an infected animal is paramount as there is no cure for rabies.

Vaccination is the first line of defense. All pets in Ontario are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies even inside cats. It is possible for an indoor cat to escape to the outdoors or to have nose to nose contact with an infected animal through a screen door.

An infected animal can harbour the virus for a prolonged period of time in their saliva before clinical signs of disease are apparent. Therefore, we should avoid any contact with any wildlife or strange pets and ensure that our pets avoid contact as well.

When spring arrives, there is a greater chance of contact with wildlife. “Immediately notify local public health authorities when an animal bite to human has occurred or whenever there is the possibility of contact with a rabid animal.” (2)

For more information on rabies go to the following links:


(1) Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, https://www.wdgpublichealth.ca/?q=hpprabies accessed March 30, 2015

(2) Birchard, Sherding, Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice, W. B.Saunders Company, Pennsylvania, 1994, page 170.

McCurnin, Bassert Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians, 5th Ed., Saunders, Philadelphia, 2002.

OVMA Focus March/April 2016, Vol. 35, No.2.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candy, breath fresheners, mouthwashes, toothpastes and some medications. It is used as a sweetener because it is sweet like sugar but does not stimulate the release of insulin like sugar. It has minimal effects on insulin levels in humans. Products containing xylitol are very popular with people who are diabetic or on low carbohydrate diets.

Although it is not absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of humans, it is readily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract of animals other than primates. Dogs and cats are susceptible to xylitol poisoning. Dogs picking up chewing gum off the sidewalk are at risk. Once absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, xylitol triggers a massive release of insulin into the bloodstream. This causes the blood glucose level to drop severely causing low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). The animal becomes ataxic (walking unsteadily), weak, and depressed. Seizures and death can follow. Toxicity to xylitol can develop within 30 minutes after ingestion. The exact level of toxicity is unknown but appears to depend upon the size of your pet and how much xylitol it ingests. Early diagnosis and intervention is critical.

Treatment will be based upon the clinical signs presented. Diagnostic blood work will show a low blood sugar level. Xylitol can suppress blood sugar levels for 48 to 72 hours after ingestion. Therefore it is necessary for the animal to be hospitalized. The treatment regimens will involve dextrose administration, intravenous fluids, blood sugar monitoring, and possibly the administration of liver protectants. Prognosis is good if the poisoning is identified early. Once coma has set in prognosis is grave.

Xylitol has become a popular artificial sweetener and therefore is being used more often. You should become aware of what products use this sweetener and prevent exposure to your pet. Once again prevention is the key. "If you personally use products containing xylitol, make sure they are stored safely, out of reach of your pets." (1)


Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs, Veterinary Newsletter of Commissioners Pharmacy

Grognet, Dr.Jeff, Xylitol, Dogs in Canada, Apriil 2007 

(1) http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/xylitol-toxicity-in-dogs/4340 accessed March 29, 2016.