National Poison Prevention Week runs March 20-26, 2016, and is a wonderful time to learn how to protect pets from household dangers. Most cases of pet poisoning are accidental, and preventing accidents and knowing pet poison first aid saves pet lives.
Dogs are particularly prone to poisoning because like human infants, they put everything in their mouths. Cats are more discriminating about what they eat, but contact poison can affect any pet if they walk through something toxic or it spills on fur and is licked off during grooming.
Symptoms vary depending on the poison, amount of exposure, and the individual animal. You may see anything from drunken staggers and collapse, to salivation, seizures, or hyperactivity.
7 TOP PET POISONS & FIRST AID HELP
- Poisonings from human medications (both over-the-counter and prescription meds) has become the most common pet poisoning over the last several years. Dogs either gulp down tasty candy-coated pills, or owners give them human drugs without realizing the risks. Cats may play with pills, and accidentally swallow them. Be aware that pets don’t metabolize Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen or neproxin (Aleve) the same way people do, and can die from taking them. A single extra-strength Tylenol can kill a cat. Keep meds out of reach in pet-proof cabinets.
- Chemical toxicity used to top the list but the safer flea and tick products have reduced the numbers of overdosing. Problems still happen when you misunderstand directions. What’s safe for a dog may be deadly for a cat! Wash your pet immediately if you suspect toxicity, and call the vet.
Plant poisonings are particularly dangerous to mouthy pets. Some varieties that can be harmful to pets include lilies, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. Dogs fall victim most often because of their urge for recreational chewing. But some cats nibble leaves or paw-play with plants and may be poisoned when they later lick their claws clean. Beware of Easter lilies this holiday–learn more here!
- Pest baits also tempt dogs and cats, and can poison pets that catch or scavenge poisoned rodents, roaches or snails. The same cereal grains often used in commercial pet foods also are used in rodent baits so dogs may willingly eat the poison. Anticoagulants like warfarin prevent blood from clotting, and cause uncontrolled and fatal bleeding from the rectum, nose, and even the skin. Pest poisons may take 24 to 72 hours to induce signs, but once the dog or cat shows distress, treatment may not be as effective and can be too late. Veterinarians have antidotes for some, and others require gastric lavage and supportive care. Pets may be poisoned by eating dead varmints that have succumbed to pest baits, too.
BEWARE THE DANGERS OF SWEET POISON!
5. Dogs love sweet flavors and often poison themselves by eating chocolate. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate contains higher concentrations of the caffeine-like substance, theobromine, but even eating too much of that candy Easter bunny can prompt a bout of diarrhea and vomiting. Find out more about chocolate toxicity here.
6. Both fresh and dried grapes (raisins) are quite toxic in dogs. The exact poisonous substance that causes reaction isn’t known, and sensitivity varies from dog to dog. No dog should eat any amount of this fruit because even a small dose can be fatally toxic for your dog. Be particularly aware of wild grapes in the yard or fields.
The most dramatic and serious problem caused by grape/raisin toxicity is sudden kidney failure with lack of urine production. For unknown reasons, kidney failure is not seen in all dogs after ingestion of grapes or raisins. Researchers continue to investigate why some dogs die and others are not affected by the poison.
The first signs of distress often include vomiting and/or diarrhea with only a few hours of ingestion. After about 24 hours, you may see grapes or raisin pieces in the feces or vomitus. Affected dogs lose their appetite, become lethargic and unusually quiet. They may suffer abdominal pain, and “hunch” their back from the discomfort. Dehydration develops from the diarrhea and vomiting, but they only pass small amounts of urine. Eventually they stop urinating at all when the kidneys ultimately shut down. Prognosis is guarded, even when treated, and most dogs die once the kidneys stop producing urine. Grape/raisin toxicity is an emergency that needs prompt veterinary intervention.
7. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol used for sweetening sugar-free products such chewing gum, candy, toothpaste and baked products. It also comes as a granulated powder. Both forms are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol ingestion causes a rapid release of insulin in the dog, which in turn results in a sudden decrease in blood glucose levels. Depending on the size of your dog, a single piece of sugar-free gum may cause symptoms that result in death. The ingested substance may cause vomiting, incoordination, seizures, or even liver failure. Bleeding may develop in the dog’s gastrointestinal track or abdomen, as well as dark red specks or splotches on his gums. Usually the symptoms happen quickly, within fifteen to thirty minutes of ingestion, but some kinds of sugar-free gum may not cause symptoms for up to twelve hours.
FIRST AID FOR PET POISONING
If you see or suspect your dog has eaten toxic foods or substances, induce vomiting immediately (but only if the dog remains conscious). Take a sample of the vomitus or feces if available to help the doctor be sure of the diagnosis. You’ll find more tips on how to make pets vomit at this post.
If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Details on specific signs and treatments of various poisons are also listed in “The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats.” For more information on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
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