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Veterinary Q & A: Poisonings in Pets

Know what to look for and keep your pet safe


Please see the archive for more Q & A topics.

    Each year during the month of March is National Poison Control Week. National Poison Control Week is a great time for veterinary and animal care professionals to create awareness about common household toxins and seasonal dangers such as antifreeze leakage or spills (i.e. when doing the spring car tune up!).

    Also, flea and tick products can pose health risks if used improperly. Please read all labels carefully prior to purchasing to make sure that it is the right product for your pet. Follow directions thoroughly when using on your pet, and to know the proper way to store the chemicals.

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.

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