False Internet Claims; Unhealthy Holiday Scraps

The Internet is a powerful tool that allows us all to
communicate with potentially millions of people. Unfortunately,
some users believe everything they read on the net without
questioning its authenticity. And some information put out there
can be both inaccurate and unfair.
The Internet is a powerful tool that allows us all to communicate with potentially millions of people. Unfortunately, some users believe everything they read on the net without questioning its authenticity. And some information put out there can be both inaccurate and unfair.

Recently, a widely spread e-mail has claimed that an ingredient in a cleaning product called the Swiffer Wet Jet is toxic to dogs. The anonymous author states that the Swiffer product contains a harmful substance very similar to ethylene glycol, a toxic active ingredient in antifreeze. Reportedly, this harmful ingredient causes liver failure in dogs.

I’ve received lots of questions about this product just in the past few days. And for the record, I can tell you that the ingredients in the Swiffer product are not at all dangerous to pets when used properly.

The “harmful” ingredient referenced in the e-mail is propylene glycol, and even though it’s somewhat similar in chemical makeup to ethylene glycol, it’s not the least bit dangerous to dogs or cats unless ingested in large quantities.

Ethylene glycol is, indeed, deadly toxic when swallowed even in small amounts. It can cause acute kidney failure. Propylene glycol has a slightly different molecular structure, but this is enough to make it a completely different substance with totally unrelated effects.

Incidentally, propylene glycol is a widely used chemical found in everything from skin products such as makeup, shampoos and antiperspirants to moist towelettes used for baby wipes. It’s only dangerous if ingested in large amounts, which can’t happen when it’s used in a household cleaner like the Swiffer. Interestingly enough, it’s found in a lot of other household cleaners as well.

The claims that this product is hazardous are unfounded and have been refuted by several different investigating groups, including the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. You can find out more about all this by checking their Web sites or looking at the urban legend Web site www.urbanlegends.about.com. Meanwhile, remember that not everything you read is always scientifically accurate.

Q: We were sitting in our kitchen this morning when a bird flew right into our window. Another bird did the same a few minutes later. We have a pyracantha bush in our front yard and the birds are eating the berries. Is there something in pyracanthas that makes birds act as though they are drunk? The way they hit the window, I’m afraid one of them will be hurt.

A: Some people think that pyracantha berries are intoxicating to birds, and in fact, it’s possible they could ferment after falling to the ground. Fermented berries could have some alcohol content that might be intoxicating if eaten. But it’s more likely that these birds are victims of plain old overindulgence.

Pyracantha berries are a real treat to birds, and they often eat them until they literally can’t eat any more (this puts a little different meaning to the phrase “eats like a bird”). You might say that these birds make pigs of themselves.

Pyracantha berries have a considerable amount of water weight in them. And if a bird eats too much of this beautiful red fruit, he may have lots of extra weight to carry in flight. This can make navigation and sharp turns rather difficult. Avian experts tell me that oftentimes the reason birds crash after eating these berries is because they have a tough time flying with an overly full tummy. They just can’t make those quick adjustments in flight after such a good meal.

You know, it’s almost like what occurs at our home when some of us get up to leave the dinner table after the Thanksgiving night feast. Those first few steps can be pretty difficult on an overly stuffed stomach.

Q: Is it OK to give our dog and cat some turkey? Some of our friends say this is good for them (because it’s just like the chicken that’s used in their kibble). But I have heard that it can be unhealthy. What’s the scoop?

A: Speaking of Thanksgiving and turkey – this is one of my favorite times of the year. Lots of family and lots of food. What could be better?

But this is also the time that veterinarians remind everyone of the dangers of feeding some of that Thanksgiving feast to animals. Lean turkey meat, the so-called “white meat” of the bird, is safe to feed to most healthy dogs and cats. Any other part of the bird is not a good idea. Even the dark meat contains too much fat to be safe for your pets’ diet.

Dogs and cats can become very ill if they ingest too much fat in their diets. And holiday meals are loaded with this.

Every year, veterinarians treat thousands of pets for pancreatitis, a painful and potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. And the usual cause for their illness is simple….these dogs and cats ate some of the family’s holiday dinner.

All that good food is too rich for your dog or cat, the stuffing and the gravy, the potatoes and the butter. All of it tastes so good, but that kind of food is very, very unhealthy for pets. And pancreatitis is a difficult and very expensive problem to treat. Typically, dog and cats with this disease are hospitalized for several days and require intravenous fluids and aggressive, costly treatment.

So, don’t give those table scraps to your pets. Plan ahead. Stop at the pet store and get a few treats made just for dogs and cats. They’re healthy and a lot safer.

Pete Keesling is a veterinarian at San Martin Veterinary Hospital and co-hosts “Petpourri,” a weekly show about pet health on KTEH in San Jose and a bi-weekly column for South Valley Newspapers. If you have any questions about pet care, please mail them to Vets, 30 E. Third St., Morgan Hill, Calif. 95037.

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