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News: Guest Posts
Jury Rules Against Hartz
Beloved bulldog died 35 hours after flea drops were applied

[Editor’s note: We’ve blogged a bit about adverse reactions in dogs due to spot-on pesticide treatments and flea collars (see links below). Yesterday, Bark contributor Lisa Wade McCormick reported for ConsumerAffairs.com on what may be the first successful small claims case involving topical flea treatments. A portion of her story is reprinted here.]

A 72-year-old dog owner has won what may be a landmark decision against the country’s leading maker of pet care products and fueled the ongoing debate over the safety of topical flea and tick treatments.

A Texas jury awarded Frank Bowers $4,440.75 in the small claims court action he filed against Hartz Mountain Corporation. In this David-versus-Goliath court battle—believed to be the first small claims court action of its kind—Bowers alleged that Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops caused the death of his beloved Olde English Bulldog, Diesel.

The six-member jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before reaching a unanimous decision in favor of Bowers, who was widely considered the underdog in the case.

“When the bailiff walked in the courtroom and said we have a unanimous decision, I nearly passed out,” said Bowers, who represented himself in the court action. “The jury said ‘we find Mr. Bowers’ integrity outweighed what was presented by (Hartz) attorney. He lost an animal of value and all costs he’s out are awarded to him.’”

“I just literally went numb,” Bowers added. “I caught up with three jurors in the hallway after the hearing. All I said to them was: ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And they just said: ‘we did our job.’”

Hartz told ConsumerAffairs.com that it believed the case was “without merit,” but did not appeal because of the time and cost involved.

Sense of justice

For Bowers, the jury’s decision brings closure and a sense of justice to an emotional issue that started at 8:30 p.m. on August 7, 2008. On that warm summer night in Texas, Bowers applied Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops to the 14-month-old, 68-pound, Diesel.

“I nipped off the top of the tube and put it on his back,” Bowers recalled. “I precisely used it as directed – nothing more, nothing less than directed.” By early the next morning Diesel had become gravelly ill.

“I went to my garage to work and I smelled this odor from excretion,” Bowers said. “Diesel was laying on the floor. He was shaking and having spasms of some kind. And he was passing a horrible odor of diarrhea.” Bowers called his daughter, who told him to immediately take the ailing dog to the vet.

Diesel’s health continued its rapid decline during the ride to his vet’s office, Bowers said.

“He continued to have bowel movements on the way. When we got to the vet’s office, he couldn’t walk. They got one of those stainless steel tables and took him back to an exam room.”

The veterinarian asked Bowers a battery of questions about Diesel, including one that caught him off guard.

“The vet asked me if I’d put any flea treatment on him,” Bowers said. “And I said: ‘yes, last night.’ I told him what it was and went back to the store to get a tube to show him.”

The vet, he said, took one look at the Hartz Ultra Guard Pro Flea and Tick Drops and shook his head. “He said: ‘Oh, my God. He’s going to have kidney failure.’”

By 4 o’clock the next morning, Diesel’s kidneys had shut down.

“He was in total renal failure,” Bowers said. “The vet wanted permission to euthanize him. I said you know what’s best and I don’t want any animal to suffer. “I picked Diesel up around 7 a.m. and took him out in the country and buried him on my daughter’s 10 acres.”

This painful chapter in Bowers’ life happened in less than 35 hours—from the night he applied the flea and tick drops to the morning of Diesel’s death.

Read Lisa Wade McCormick’s complete report.

News: Guest Posts
Xylitol Alert
Artificial sweetner is dangerous to dogs

March 14 is the start of Poison Prevention Week, so here at The Bark we’ve been getting alerts about which household products are toxic to pets. The poisons lists feature pretty much the usual suspects, including, but not limited to, Ibuprofen (such as Advil), Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), antidepressants, chocolate, certain fertilizers, pest control products, and a special Easter-season warning about certain types lilies that are especially toxic for cats. But the folks at the Pet Poison Helpline surprised us with xylitol.

Many sugarless gums, including some Trident, Orbit, and Ice Breaker brands as well as candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. Desserts and baked goods can also be made with xylitol. Even small amounts when ingested can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, or with large amounts of ingestion, liver failure. Signs of low blood sugar include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, tremors, and seizures. Treatment includes decontamination, checking a blood glucose/sugar level, treating with IV fluids and glucose, liver monitoring tests, and drugs to protect the liver.

Learn more at the Pet Poison Helpline including the tip sheet: Poison proof your home.
 

News: Guest Posts
We Love Word Play
Low-cost spay/neuter effort in Michigan

Just when you think you’ve read or heard every possible dog pun, rhyme or wordplay (in my line of work, I’d begun to think so), some creative minds come along and cast the familiar in a shiny new way. In this case, I’m sending a word -play shout-out to a cooperative effort in Michigan. Nooters Club (how come this is the first time I’ve heard that?) and All About Animals Rescue are teaming up with Pet Supplies Plus of Bloomfield Hills for their, wait for it, “Prevent Littering” campaign in honor of Earth Day on April 22. Clever words for a good cause.
 
The details: From March 1 through April 16, pet owners who pre-pay can get their pet spayed or neutered on April 17 for only $50 for dogs and $30 for cats.

News: Guest Posts
Food Safety Watch
How to report problems to the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on a public outreach tear these days. A few days after announcing a Twitter feed, with regular updates on food and drug safety issues (pet food recalls among them), it has released a video primer on how to report concerns about and adverse reactions to food and drugs for people and/or animals. Hopefully, this campaign on the consumer side is matched by aggressive inspection and enforcement efforts to ensure products are safe before they come to market.

News: Guest Posts
FDA Now Tweeting
Stay on top of food safety news

Receive alerts about pet food recalls, medication updates and animal safety tips via tweet: The Food and Drug Adminisration's Center for Veterinary Medicine is now on Twitter. If you're wondering if you need the information, consider this: There were two food-safety tweets in the first two weeks.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs With No Bark
Why people pursue the controversial surgery

Another interesting read out of New York—this time a story about “debarking,” cutting a dog’s vocal chords, on the front page of today’s New York Times. It’s always seemed cruel to me to put a dog through surgery—never without risks—to address a behavioral issue (like de-clawing cats). Aside from health risks, I wonder how my barker would feel if he emitted only a rasp or a whisper with the UPS man on our stoop. It feels like a matter of convenience and lifestyle taking precedence for the owners. Still, the article raises the specter of animals being surrendered because of excessive barking. That’s a stickier wicket—I can’t imagine a dog is better off keeping his or her vocal chords intact but ending up in a shelter.

News: Guest Posts
ER X-Ray: Finding a Rubber Ducky Inside a Dog's Stomach
In the ER: Veterinarians are sleuths

Are you sure Dozer did not swallow any dog toys or clothing?” I asked.

 

“No, we keep the yard cleaned up so there is nothing for the dogs to get into,” Dozer’s owners replied. Thus began the search for the cause of vomiting in an 8-year-old Alaskan Malamute.

 

There are at least 63 causes of vomiting in dogs, which is probably why we see so many cases at our emergency hospital. If the cause is not apparent after a thorough physical exam and history-taking, sometimes we perform diagnostic tests, such as X-Rays and blood tests to narrowing down the possibilities. A few dogs need an even more sophisticated level of diagnostic workup, such as an adrenal gland function test or abdominal ultrasound.

 

At eight, it seemed unlikely that “dietary indiscretion” would cause of Dozer’s gastrointestinal problems. Much higher on the list were conditions, such as cancer, immune-system disease, pancreatitis, liver failure or kidney failure.

 

Dozer seemed uncomfortable and somewhat tense when I palpated his abdomen, but did not appear overtly pained. “Let’s do some radiographs to see what things look like,” I suggested. (My X-Ray vision was not up to par that day.)

 

When the digital images appeared on the screen, the nurses could tell something was abnormal. We all gathered around to throw our two cents in. Dozer’s intestines were very distended with gas in certain areas. There was a strange density in the cranial (toward the head) part of his abdomen. We kept looking.

 

In one of my finest moments of X-Ray reading history, I suddenly saw it: “It’s a rubber ducky!” I almost hollered. Squinting at the images and moving closer, we asked each other, “How (and why) does a dog swallow a rubber ducky whole?”

 

Two hours of surgery later, the naughty duck sat like a proud trophy outside Dozer’s run. It was somewhat blackened after the journey through his intestines, but probably still quite capable of floating, if required. The owners explained, “It used to be Dozer’s favorite toy. He probably buried it months or years ago. He may have been mad at us for leaving him behind for a few days when we went out of town last week, and decided to dig it up and swallow it to get back at us.” 

 

Would a dog do that?

 

News: Guest Posts
More Salmonella Contamination Feared
FDA issues a “health alert” for Merrick Beef Filet Squares Dog Treats

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers not to use Merrick Beef Filet Squares for dogs distributed by Merrick Pet Care with a package date of “Best By 111911” because the product may be contaminated with Salmonella. This is not the same as a recall. The report says: “Although no illnesses associated with these products have been reported, the FDA is advising consumers in possession of these products not to handle or feed them to their pets.” Read the complete advisory for additional information on Salmonella infection.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
What’s Next?
FDA takes months to notify vets about drug recall

Pet food recalls have been all too common in recent years, causing controversy with bad communication and lack of precedent. Unfortunately, this danger isn’t limited to the food industry.

Last July, the FDA shut down Teva Animal Health’s operations, the largest American producer of generic veterinary medications, after inspections found several manufacturing violations between 2007 and 2009. On September 4, two of Teva’s products were recalled, ketamine hydrochloride (an anesthetic agent used in spay/neuters, teeth clearning, and other everyday procedures) and butorphanol (a pain reducer).

These drugs are given to hundreds of animals each day, making the recall a potentially catastrophic situation. However, the recall notice was sent only to distributors and stated that there was no obligation to notify their customers (veterinarians) about the recall. 

Most veterinarians didn’t find out about the ketamine recall until the end of December, but by then it was too late. On December 21, the FDA finally issued a public recall notice following the questionable deaths of five cats while under undergoing anesthesia with ketamine. 

As if matters weren’t bad enough, a week later the FDA issued a second notice extending the recall to ketamine manufactured by Teva but sold under seven brand names. An article for SF Gate reports that “drugs made by Company A and sold under the label of Company B can legally bear the label ‘Manufactured for Company B,’” making it difficult for veterinarians to know whether a drug was made by Teva.

It’s alarming that it took almost four months to notify veterinarians about the drug recall, not to mention that there still has been no public notice sent about the second drug, butorphanol. There was also no information on the FDA’s Pet Health and Safety Widget. After this recall, how can veterinarians trust the medications that they prescribe? And how can we trust that our veterinarians have the right information? 

Hopefully this situation will prompt action to change the protocol for recalled veterinary drugs, but it only adds to a growing list of potential problems. Tainted pet food, toxic dog toys, unsafe medicine, what’s next?

News: Guest Posts
In the ER: What Happens When a Dog Eats Coffee
Tales from a Colorado ER

We used to have sign in our lobby that said “Any unsupervised children will get a cup of espresso and a free puppy.” We took it down after one of the clients asked what kind of puppy. We now have self-serve coffee in the lobby, and it’s not uncommon to see a kid trying to short-circuit the coffee maker.

Which brings us to the case of Tonsi, a seven-year-old, hyperactive Australian Shepherd who tore into the 50-pound sack of coffee beans his mom brought back from Nicaragua. Fortunately, he was discovered before he devoured the entire sack (which certainly would have resulted in his demise), but he did manage to scarf down several pounds.

Our staff has the routine down for toxin-ingestion cases: an injection of apomorphine to cause vomiting (it always works), followed by some charcoal to absorb any toxin from the intestines, then possibly IV fluids for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the ingested substance. To be honest, these indiscriminate dogs seem to keep our ER in business. Tonsi vomited up a large amount of undigested coffee beans soon after getting his apomorphine, but apparently there was a lot more caffeine on board, as we were soon to find out.

Tonsi’s heart continued to race at 180 to 200 beats per minute (normal should be around 80 to 90.) He was amped up and wired to the gills, jumping straight up in superman-like attempts to leap over the eight-foot tall run walls in a single bound. He gave all of us the jitters; it was almost as if Starbucks had spiked our water. I have to admit, equally enthused and irritated by Tonsi, I had been imbibing more than my share of coffee during the shift.

One of our nurses suggested giving Tonsi a beta blocker, which would help slow down his heart, but we did not have any stocked on the shelves. At this opportune time, enter (stage left) Corky, a six-year-old Cockapoo, who had just ingested his owner’s vial of medication, which included (guess what?) a beta blocker.

One more dose of apomorphine, and I found myself sifting through more vomitus. I spotted a small red tablet, perhaps the ingested beta blocker? Tonsi continued to wildly leap in his run, barking crazily. As I slid the red tablet out of the bilious slime with a tongue depressor, an idea crept into my over-caffeinated, somewhat deranged mind: Do I dare?

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