Environment - Toxins

by Roy F. Dvorak


The environment can be many things to a dog - the back yard, the kennel, the basement, etc. Wherever a dog can go, curiosity follows it and calamity is real close behind. We live about 15 miles east of a nuclear processing factory called Rocky Flats. For that matter so do about 250,000 people and their pets. Rocky Flats had a notorious reputation for leaking radioactive dust into the environment (supposedly they have cleaned up their act). With all of the radioactive "stuff" in the air, everyone and their pets within eye sight of Rocky Flats could be showing the symptoms of some type of disease. We have lived in our home for over 21 years, as of 2004, with our Standard Schnauzers and only 1 in 8 ever had seizures. We can safely say, with 100% accuracy, that Korie’s seizures are not caused by Rocky Flats contaminants.

In our back yard we have Russian Olive trees, Cottenless Cottonwoods, pine trees, spreading junipers, apple trees and apples in the fall, plenty of grass, mushrooms when it is damp, many birds, garter snakes, and of course, the puppies favorite, squirrels. There is a garden area too, but that is fenced off. Puppies in the garden do not know the difference between a weed and a new growth of corn.

We do not use any type of insecticide around our house for obvious reasons. No matter how careful we may try to be, something could go wrong. To prevent anything from going awry with insecticides, they just are not used. All weeds are pulled by hand in the back yard and front yard. We normally put fertilizer on the grass in the spring. However, with Korie’s seizures in 1995 no fertilizers were used. After Korie’s neurologist said that the fertilizer that we used would not cause any central nervous system disorders, 2 applications of fertilizer were applied - in June 1996 and in September 1996. Even before we had Korie, we applied fertilizers on a regular basis and none of our other Standard Schnauzers ever showed any type of reaction to the fertilizers.

We have a basement where we keep paints, wood stains, cleaning fluids, etc. The puppies are in the basement only when we are down there. During the day, when we are not at home, they are in their crates in our bedroom. At night they sleep on the bed with us. The pups stay in the bedroom in their crates if we go away in the evening.

If there is anything in our environment that affects the central nervous system, then any dog that has ever stayed with us should have seizures. Schniken (13 years old on October 4th), Himel (8 years old on November 19th), Aaron (3 years old on December 20th), and YD (1 year old on December 20th) should have started seizing by now and they have not and they will not. On October 15, 1996, Schniken’s eyes were CERFed and she was 12 years old at the time. This is just another indication that all of our pups are in very good health and that we constantly maintain this high level of care.

In their Handbook of Veterinary Neurology on page 360, Table 16-21, Oliver and Lorenz have a list of toxins, their use around the house, the management of the toxin if ingested, and the prognosis for the affected dog. Of the 10 toxins that can cause seizures, the prognosis falls into 3 groups:

  • good if treated early
  • fair with treatment or treated early
  • poor

Korie and our other pups have never received any treatment for any type of toxic ingestion since they never ingested any toxins. Flea powder, sprays, collars, etc. are not required in the Denver area, since fleas are not a problem over 5000 feet elevation. The table below shows a list of toxins that were compiled from data from Oliver and Lorenz, Handbook of Veterinary Neurology and Carlson and Giffin, Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook:

Toxin Toxin Use Treatment of Toxin Chance of Recovery
Organochlorines flea powders, parasite control on dogs sedation with barbiturates poor
Pyrethrin external drug to control skin parasites sedation good if treated early
Bronethalin poisons activated charcoal fair
Sodium flouroacetate rat poison sedation poor
Styrchnine rat and or mouse poison induce vomiting, sedation good if treated early
Thallium poisons Dithion early poor
Lead insecticides and paint calcium EDTA good with treatment
metaldehyde rat poison, snail and or slug bait sedation fair
methylxanthines (caffeine) chocolate and chocolate products sedation, fluids fair with treatment
Zinc phosphide rat poison oral and IV bicarbonates poor

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