Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
’Tis the season for charitable giving. What better way to honor our pets than to help other animals and the people who take care of them?
Local animal shelters and rescue groups can always use financial contributions. Money donated to national organizations may not find its way to local groups.
Consider making a donation in memory of a pet you’ve lost. Memorial donations can also be thoughtful gifts for other animal lovers. The choice of charity is personal (and if you’re making a donation on someone else’s behalf, it’s a good idea to send it to one of their favorite charities). You might want to donate to an organization that funds research on animal health, like the Morris Animal Foundation, the Winn Feline Foundation, or a veterinary school.
Do you have a friend or family member with a new dog or cat but not a lot of cash? The cost of vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and preventive medicine (like heartworm pills) adds up. They might appreciate a contribution to a health care fund for their new pet.
Donate Pet Food or Supplies
Our hungry neighbors need help feeding their pets too, and some food banks accept pet food donations. Mallard Creek Animal Hospital is holding a pet food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank through December 30, 2018. Drop off food or cash donations at the office. We (and the animals) are grateful for our clients’ generosity!
Shelters and rescue groups usually need pet food, towels, blankets, cleaning supplies, training toys, cat scratching pads, and other items. Check with the organization before donating supplies; many post wish lists on their websites.
Shelters and rescue groups depend on volunteers. Some volunteer positions require training and an ongoing time commitment. If you have only a few hours, consider hosting a pet food or supply drive or holding a fundraiser.
Need community service hours for school or an organization? Minor children usually can’t work directly with shelter animals, but children can set up donation drives or fundraisers like lemonade stands. Kids can also make pet items (like small blankets or catnip toys) at home and then deliver them to the shelter—but as always, check with the shelter first.
Foster a Rescue Animal
Do you have time, space in your home, and the right family (and pet) situation for a temporary house guest? Many rescue groups depend on fosters to house animals awaiting adoption. Animals in shelters also benefit from spending time in a foster home. Animals in foster care may have medical or behavioral issues that need to be addressed before they’re ready for adoption, so discuss the foster requirements with the rescue group.
Are you a cat person? Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control needs people to foster kittens at home or help out in the kitten nursery.
Adopt an Animal
Adopting is a great way to help—but never give an animal as a gift! The exception is adopting a pet into your own household (when you’re prepared to take lifelong care of it) as a “gift” for the family. If you want to give a pet to someone else, consider instead giving them money or a homemade gift certificate toward the adoption or purchase of a pet of their choice when they're ready.
Photo by uschi2807
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
On December 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned pet owners of potentially toxic vitamin D levels in some dog foods. The affected foods have been recalled. A list of recalled brands is posted on the FDA website: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/ucm627485.htm.
Vitamin D: both an essential nutrient and a poison
Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. This vitamin is necessary for bone health and for normal muscle and nerve function. Vitamin D is fat soluble, not water soluble, so the body stores extra vitamin D in the liver and fatty tissues instead of expelling it in the urine.
Excessive levels of cholecalciferol, the active form of vitamin D, lead to dangerously high levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Calcium deposits form in body tissues, especially tissues that have a large blood supply, like the kidneys. Mineral deposits in the kidneys cause kidney failure, which is the usual cause of death in animals with vitamin D poisoning.
Rodenticides (rat and mouse poisons) that contain cholecalciferol are typical sources of vitamin D poisoning in pets. Even small amounts of cholecalciferol-containing rodenticides can cause severe kidney damage in dogs and cats. Human vitamin supplements and contaminated pet foods can also cause cholecalciferol toxicosis in pets.
According to the FDA, some of the recalled dog foods contained 70 times the expected level of vitamin D.
Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning
Watch for these symptoms, especially if your dog has been eating one of the recalled foods:
Signs of poisoning usually appear within a day or two after an animal ingests a toxic level of vitamin D. By this time, the kidneys have already been affected. Blood tests show increased levels of calcium, phosphorus, and markers of kidney disease.
What you should do
If your dog has been eating one of the recalled diets, stop feeding the diet immediately. The FDA recommends disposing of the food in such a way that other animals (including wildlife) and children cannot reach it.
Seek veterinary care immediately if you think your pet might have vitamin D poisoning. The symptoms are not specific to vitamin D toxicosis (lots of things cause vomiting), so your veterinarian will perform bloodwork and possibly other diagnostic tests. Take either the bag of dog food or a photo of the label, including the lot number, to the clinic with you if your dog might have eaten a recalled food.
The sooner treatment starts, the better the chance of recovery. Treatment involves hospitalization for several days, intravenous fluids, medications to help flush calcium out of the body and support kidney function, and repeated blood tests to monitor kidney function and levels of calcium and phosphorus.
The FDA suggests that pet owners and veterinarians report possible cases of vitamin D poisoning through the online Safety Reporting Portal.
For more information
FDA Alerts Pet Owners about Potentially Toxic Levels of Vitamin D in Several Dry Pet Foods, FDA.gov website
Cholecalciferol, Pet Poison Helpline website
Cholecalciferol, Merck Veterinary Manual website
Photo by Ruby Schmank on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM