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Veterinary Q & A: Poisonings in Pets

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Help! My pet may have been poisoned.
Poisons can be eaten, absorbed through the skin, and inhaled. Poisonings can mimic many things. Some poisons act immediately, some take days to appear, potentially making diagnosis difficult.

What are some common signs seen with poisoning?

  1. Muscle tremors or seizures
  2. Vomiting and or diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  3. Excessive salivation - drooling or foaming
  4. Redness of skin, ears, eyes
  5. Mental depression or excitement (may be easily excitable
  6. Bleeding (as with rat poison ingestion
  7. Ulceration or blisters of the mouth or skin
  8. Excessive pawing at the mouth, excessive licking
  9. Swelling (i.e. of a limb or face, commonly seen with insect bites and stings
  10. Elevated or depressed body temperature (elevations usually due to increased muscle activity -- tremors, seizures)

What should I do if I suspect a poisoning?
Call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. Have the following information ready:

  1. Exact name of toxin ingested, inhaled, or absorbed.</
  2. Approximately how much of the toxin was ingested
  3. How long ago you suspect that your pet may have been poisoned
  4. Approximate weight of your pet
  5. What signs your pet is showing -- vomiting, tremors, salivation, etc., and general observations -- such as color of the gums (capillary refill time), respiratory rate, heart rate, and if possible, body temperature.

If the poison is known, take the box or package with you. Do NOT induce vomiting without consulting your veterinarian or Poison Control center first. Some toxins are caustic, and vomiting will only increase damage. Some toxins need to be neutralized with activated charcoal, others need to be expelled by vomiting, and still others have antidotes. Topical toxins need to be rinsed (skin, eye) with copious amounts of water. An excellent resource for emergency poison consultation (in addition to your veterinarian) is your local Poison Control, and the National Animal Poison Control Center.

What are some common household poisons that I should be aware of?
Here is a list of common household poisons, in no particular order:

  • Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol)
    Note: there is a non-toxic alternative available, Propylene Glycol
  • Slug/Snail bait
  • Prescription medications
  • Mouse and Rat poison
  • Some plants (indoor and outdoor), shrubs, and trees
    Check with your veterinarian for help in finding information on native plants in your area that are toxic to pets
  • Flea and Tick treatments
    Using more or not following product recommendations is NOT the way to kill more fleas and ticks!
  • Lawn fertilizers, weed killers
  • Household cleaners and chemicals

Any specific pet poison-proofing tips?
Some of the potential toxins above may seem obvious, but think again. Poisons such as rat, slug, snail, mice, and ant baits are baits; they are made to be attractive and tasty, even to the curious pet. Don't count on how well you hide these baits, either. Make sure that they are safely out of pet's reach (and that the pet isn't able to chew through something to get at them).

Medications made for humans may have coatings on them that are tasty to pets, enticing ingestion. Ethylene glycol antifreeze is known to be sweet-tasting, a danger to pets and children.

Unknowingly playing fetch or encouraging your dog to chew on plants or trees that are poisonous could have disastrous effects.

Dogs love to chew...that spray bottle, can, or other container may be viewed as a toy by a curious dog....until the container is punctured and contents leak out

Finally, please carefully read all directions for use of chemicals; those intended for pets and those intended for other purposes (yard, house) and follow directions carefully.

United States ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Hotline: 888-426-4435

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved

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