By Dr Nina Gauthier, DVM
As the weather heats up, we’re enjoying the outdoors much more, with and without our pets. They may be left at home more often and get into things they shouldn’t… and I’m not just talking about your favourite pair of shoes! Many common household products can be toxic to our furry friends – batteries, rat poisons, mothballs, anti-freeze and bleach, to name a few. In addition to these, certain foods, medications, and plants can cause varying levels of toxicity in your dog or cat. You already do everything you can to avoid this problem, but what do you do when you suspect (or know!) that they ingested something toxic, despite your best efforts?
- Remain calm. Take a breath. You are of much better use to your animal and yourself by trying to keep a cool head.
- Information your vet will want to know:
- Cat, dog or other; breed, age, sex, and approximate weight
- Any medical conditions your pet has
- Any medications or supplements they may be taking
- Think about when the ingestion may have occurred if you did not see it yourself.
- Take a brief note of the signs your pet is showing – lethargy, vomiting, seizures, diarrhea, restlessness, weakness, disorientation, salivation, obvious burns along mouth or pawing at the face can all be signs that can help your veterinarian decide on the best course of action to decontaminate your pet. You know your pet best, so if they seem off to you, they probably are.
- Have the package of the offending item in hand if possible
- Call your veterinarian (or an emergency centre, or the pet poison helpline at 1-855-213-6680 where a fee generally applies) to seek advice. It’s not always the best idea to induce vomiting, as it may be worse on the way up.
Your veterinarian will pursue the best course for decontamination according to the information you give. Decontamination CAN include inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal as a meal, intravenous fluids to help dilute out the toxic substance, and control any other effects (like excessively high blood pressure, high or low heart rate, seizures, etc). Depending on what the suspected toxin is, initial and/or follow up bloodwork or other tests may be recommended. For example, the newer rodenticides work on a delayed basis and can cause an inability of blood to clot for several days after ingestion. Recently at our clinic, we had a case of a dog who ate 90 thyroid hormone pills. This can be toxic to the thyroid gland (an essential gland in the neck that regulates metabolism), but may not be noticed until later, so follow-up blood work for thyroid function is essential. Another patient ate some mothballs along the bikepath! These contained naphthalene (based on a test we performed in clinic) which can affect the red blood cells and result in anemia, so several follow-up blood tests were needed to make sure he was in the clear after he was treated.
What if you don’t know if something is toxic? There is a free app by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre (APCC). You can search ASPCA in your app store and APCC by ASPCA should come up. It allows you to quickly see if what your pet ate was toxic, and how quickly you need to seek veterinary care.
Websites with more info:
Dr. Nina Gauthier is a full time veterinarian at the Timberlea Veterinary Clininc in Kirkland. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband and 2 adorable Chihuahuas. She grew up in the West Island and currently lives in Montreal.