If you have children, you know that it is important to lock up all the poisonous things like medicines and cleaning fluids so the kids can’t get into them. Our pets, like our children, don’t understand that eating certain things can hurt them. It is particularly important to realize that some things that are perfectly safe for us can be harmful or even fatal to our four-footed family members.
Some things are obviously toxic. Rat and mouse poisons are at the top of the list. These are very commonly ingested by dogs and occasionally cats. The good news is that if caught early (when the pet eats it), they can usually be treated with Vitamin K and will be fine. The ant and roach traps and baits are not toxic to pets, although the actual trap itself if eaten can cause problems as it passes through the system. Antifreeze is another common toxin, especially this time of year. Only a small amount is very poisonous and animals tend to lick it because it tastes sweet. Antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol, which causes kidney failure. Exposure can be deadly. Treatment involves intensive care, IV fluids and close monitoring. There is an antidote which if administered early, can help. It is very expensive and unfortunately cannot be used in cats.
There are numerous plants which are toxic, but luckily, most have to be ingested in fairly large quantities so are more of an issue with farm animals. However, a common exception to this is the lily. All parts of the plant are toxic, even the pollen, and it causes kidney failure. This is especially an issue with cats. Intensive IV fluid treatment soon after exposure can prevent the damage.
Many human medications can be toxic as well. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can cause kidney failure and severe stomach ulcers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) causes problems with the red blood cells that inhibit their ability to carry oxygen. Naproxen (Aleve) causes severe stomach ulcers. Even the old stand-by, aspirin, can cause ulcers. All of these drugs are particularly toxic to cats. Treatment requires immediate intensive care, fluids and monitoring. In the case of acetaminophen, an antidote called mucomist can help. For the others, using medications to control the ulcers is the main-stay of therapy along with the fluids.
Now for some things that may surprise you as being toxic. Like sharing your grapes and raisins with your pet? Best not to. Eating them can actually cause kidney failure and we have seen a number of cases over the past year. Raisins, being dried are worse than grapes. It takes more than one or two, but even one of those small snack-sized boxes of raisins can hurt a smaller pet. Onions and garlic are also toxic. Again, not just a bite, and most pets will not eat enough to cause harm, but we occasionally see a pet that has a real taste for them. In cats, especially, they can be poisonous. They both cause problems with the red blood cells.
Sugarless gum is another major problem. Many of the sugarless candies and snacks for human diabetics as well as gum contain a compound called xylitol. In pets, it can cause dangerously low blood sugar. A single piece of Trident can be poisonous to a small dog.
Love chocolate? Most of us do, and probably so does your dog, but it can be toxic as well. It contains theobromine and caffeine. Both of these cause heart irregularities and in extreme cases can be fatal. The most toxic form is baking chocolate, next is dark, then milk, then white. Mild cases just show vomiting and diarrhea, but in severe cases it can cause seizures and death. By using the pet’s body weight and how much chocolate he ate, we can compute the severity of the toxicity and treat appropriately.
If your pet ever eats anything unusual, please contact us and we can determine if your pet needs to be seen. Our waiting room display this month is all about common toxins, so if you want to know more, feel free to stop by.