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Harm’s Way

Millions of years ago until today the ‘alpha dog’s’ role was as guide and guardian of their pack. The responsibility to keep the members of their pack safe was solely theirs. Instinctively, they strayed from harm’s way. It is not the case that the ‘strong survive’ but more the case that the ‘most informed’ survived. The modern dog has not lost these basic instincts, but human nature has added new hazards to their environment and they no longer have the support of the pack as they use to. These new (natural and man made) environmental precautions are not part of their genetic instinction. Domestication has not changed the role but only shifted the responsibility to us as ‘alpha’, for guide and guardian. An effective ‘alpha’ must be an informed ‘alpha’. Do you know what might put our English Setters in harm’s way?

Poisonous Plants

There are at least 140 different species of plants that can be fatal, cause severe irritation to the mouth and throat or produce intestinal upset. This makes it almost impossible for us to learn by name and sight all the different species. We can check our yard and houseplants by using a guide to see if they fall into the category of poisonous plants. The ASPCA/NAPCC Publications has recently revised their companion animal oriented household and yard plant reference with the assistance of the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois has a Poisonous Plant Garden that conducts research and is a teaching site for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The publication is a 67 page and index that includes sections for toxic, potentially toxic and non-toxic plants.

The Household Plant Reference is available for $15, which includes postage and handling. It can be obtained by sending your name and address along with a check to: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1717 South
Philo Road, Suite #36 Urbana, IL 61802

There are some good Internet sites that give lists/descriptions/pictures of poisonous plants:


The three most fatal fruit groups of fungi are Amanitas, False Morels and (catch all) Little Brown Mushrooms.
The Amanitas account for about 90% of mushroom related deaths (people). Others that can cause distress-including vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and loss of coordination are the Jack-O`-Lantern and the green-spored Lepiota.

AMANITAS – A parasol-shaped cap with a saclike cup surrounding the base (may not be seen because it is just below the soil surface). They have a ring around the stem and white gills under the cap. They start as an egg-shaped button, which resembles a small white, yellow, red or brown puffball. We find them on the ground in wooded areas in enriched soils and lawns in the summer and fall.

FALSE MORELS – Wrinkled, irregular caps that look brainlike or saddle-shaped. They may be black, gray, white, brown or reddish (usually big red cap). More common names are elephant ears or brain mushrooms. The cap surface has lobes, folds, flaps and wrinkles but it does not have pits and ridges like a true morel. The cap bulges outward instead of being pitted inward. The bottom edge of the cap hangs free around the stem, like a skirt. (True morels edge is attached to the stem.) We find them in the spring, summer and fall on the ground in wooded areas.

LITTLE BROWN MUSHROOMS – This is a catchall category. They are small to medium size, hard-to-identify brownish mushrooms with spores of all colors. LBMS are found in the spring, summer and fall in all habitats. They may grow in soil or on wood and appear in lawns, pastures or forests.

JACK-O’-LANTERN – Bright orange, pumpkin-colored mushrooms found in the fall. You might find them glowing in the dark with a fruity fragrance that are sometimes mistaken for chanterelle. We find them during the summer and fall, in large clusters at the bases of trees and stumps in sizes from 3-10 inches tall and wide. They are not deadly but very upsetting.

GREEN-SPORED LEPIOTA – This is a very common mushroom found in fairy rings on lawns. They have a parasol-shaped, cream or tan and scaly cap. A large ring on the stem and cream colored gills that turn dingy green with age. We find them in the summer and fall on lawns, pastures and meadows.

For more information on mushrooms:


BE AWARE OF: ONIONS, onion powder, CHOCOLATE (baker’s semi-sweet, chocolate milk, dark chocolate, ALCOHOLIC beverages, YEAST dough, COFFEE (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans), TEA (caffeine), SALT (table, rock), MACADAMIA nuts, HOPS (used in home brewing), TOMATO leaves and stems (green parts), POTATO leaves and stems (green parts), RHUBARB leaves, AVOCADOS (also toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle and dairy goats), MOLDY foods.


“I weigh 200 lbs. and my bitch is 55 lbs., so if I cut my antibiotic into fourths.” WRONG! DO NOT give your medications to your dog. DO NOT give your dog’s medication to your cat. DO NOT give your cat’s medication to your ferret. WHY? Body Chemistry. Our body chemistry is different from our dog’s, as a dog’s body chemistry is different from a cat’s body chemistry.

Dog proof your storage area for your medications. Keep them in high places. The tops might be child proof but pill containers themselves are NOT dog proof. Be careful, where you take your medications. It is a ‘pill’ when we ‘drop it’ and ‘can’t find it’ but that ‘nose, knows’ were that pill is. Medications in tubes, prescribed or over the counter, that are harmless as topical applications could cause serious problems ingested, especially those with zinc. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills can be lethal to animals, even in small doses.


Household chemicals, rodent poisons, automobile care supplies and lawn care supplies are hazardous if consumed or absorbed through the pads of our dogs. Store these products in rooms where our English S etters DO NOT go. Chemicals have a habit of leaking or leaching out of the containers they are in. Some will react to the humidity in the air and fumes will escape.

Special care should be taken when using many of these chemicals. Keeping them out of reach when using them. Our English Setters are naturally curious with that nose of theirs. An awful lot of chemicals come in concentration and react with water that gives off fumes. The fumes might not seem toxic to us, but remember that a dog’s nose is at least 200 times more sensitive to smells than ours. Since English Setters work with their nose, I would imagine that their nose is 3 or 4 hundred times more sensitive than ours. It is always a good practice to consult the manufacture before applications of chemicals to areas that our English Setters will be walking/running over, especially lawn applications. The chemical might be mild to our skin but could be a source of irritation to our English Setters; i.e. dishwashing detergent can produce burns in their mouths.

Other common chemicals that can be distressful if not lethal are mothballs, potpourri oils, coffee grounds, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergents, batteries, cigarettes, fertilizers, pesticides, antifreeze and washer fluid. Not so common but warrants a warning is radon and carbon monoxide. Their living conditions should be monitored for these silent killers as our living quarters are. We need to keep our English Setters from fresh paint or other finishes until they have completely dried. If they happen to get into paint, DO NOT use paint thinners or paint removers to clean them up. Soap and water or wear should have to do.

A penny for your thoughts, ZINC ALERT. Pennies minted after 1982 contain zinc and if swallowed, zinc will leech out and be absorbed by the lining of the stomach. Zinc toxicosis will develop and this needs to be attended to by a veterinarian immediately. The popular Wiggly Giggly pet products made before 8/2001 should be monitored closely. If they come apart/break the internal components, zinc weights, which are about the size and weight of three pennies are harmful. Watch out for zinc nuts and bolts.

Icebreakers should wake you up. Products used to melt ice and snow contain harmful ingredients. Ingestion and absorption through the pads can cause mild complications to more serious problems.

Good ‘rules of thumb’ are:


If you think that your English Setter has been exposed to toxic substances, it is important to:

Then call: 1-888-4-ANI-HELP (1-888-426-4435) ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center

When you call the Center, be ready to provide the following:

Your name, address and telephone number

Note: When using the 888 (toll-free) number you will need to provide (VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express) as a means of payment for a fee charge of $45. You may use the 900 number 1-900-680-0000 and the fee is charged to your phone.

The ASPCA established in 1978 the National Animal Poison Control Center. NAPCC is the first and the only animal-oriented poison emergency information center in North America. The Center is operational 24 hours, seven days a week. Veterinary health professionals trained to respond to toxins with effective treatment protocols staff it. The Center maintains a wide collection of information specific to animal poisoning, including an extensive database of over 350,000 cases.

ASPCA, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Stay tuned next month; I will be coming to you LIVE from The Birddog Hall of Fame Museum.

Public Education,
Edward M. Johnson