“I think my dog has gotten into something…”
Top E.R. Toxicities
By Jocelyn E. Richardson, MS, DVM
There are many things in and around our homes that can be harmful to our pets. Items ranging from medications, to foods and to household chemicals can be very harmful to our pets. This article focuses on a few or the most common toxicities that we see at Veterinary Regional Emergency Clinic. There are many other things that could be harmful to your animal, so please call the clinic if your pet has gotten into any of the items discussed here or any other human/pet medication, household plant or household chemicals. Remember it’s always better to be safe than sorry and there is no such thing as a stupid vet question.
1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Acetaminophen is a common and very safe over the counter pain medication for people. However, it is the 2nd most common cause of NSAID toxicity in dogs and cats. 50mg of Tylenol can be lethal to a 10-pound cat and 2-500mg tablets can be lethal to a 30-pound dog. The clinical signs of toxicity progress rapidly in both species. Signs of toxicity begin with nausea, vomiting and decreased appetite and progress to complete liver failure and coma within 72-96 hours (3-4days) after ingestion. It is important to seek medical care immediately if you think your pet may have ingested medication.
What to tell the receptionist: Please give our receptionist the time that you think your pet ate the drug, approximately how much you think they ate, and how they are behaving now.
What will happen at the hospital?? The first thing that we will do is try to remove the medication from the stomach by making your pet vomit. Next we will administer a substance to bind any remaining toxin in the GI tract. You pet will be administered antidote, fluids and other medications as needed based on the severity of signs.
What’s the outcome?? As with any emergency the prognosis is based on how much the pet consumed, how quickly treatment is started and how well the pet responds to treatment.
Chocolate goodies are wonderful around the holidays, birthdays and Valentine’s Day, but they are not so good around our pets. Chocolate contains several chemicals that are toxic to pets. These are also found in other food items including caffeinated sodas, alertness stimulating medications, coffee and tea. The strength of these toxins varies based on the type of chocolate ingested. The following list numbered from the most harmful to the least harmful. Please remember ALL chocolate is bad for animals.
- Cocoa powder
- Unsweetened baking chocolate
- Semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
Signs of toxicity usually begin to occur within the first 1-4 hours after ingestion. These signs include vomiting, restlessness, increased urination, “drunken walk”, muscle tremors, seizures and coma.
What to tell the receptionist?? Please tell the receptionist what time you think your pet ate the chocolate, how much you think your pet ingested, the size of your pet and how your pet is currently behaving. Please bring in the packaging for the candy if you have it available.
What will happen at the hospital?? At the hospital we will attempt to empty your pet’s stomach by making it vomit. We will then administer a compound to bind any remaining toxins in the GI tract. Depending on the severity of signs your pet may be hospitalized overnight to receive IV fluids and other medications.
What’s the outcome?? Most patients do well with early and aggressive treatment. However some cases can be fatal if there is a large amount eaten and already absorbed by the body.
Many of our pets have been diagnosed with Diabetes and are currently under the care of their regular veterinarians. However, even well managed Diabetic patients can run into trouble. The most common cause of Diabetic emergencies is related to insulin overdoses or a missed dose of insulin. Overdoses of insulin typically occur when there is more than one primary owner. Frequently, both owners are diligent in caring for the pet and will both give the pet medication resulting in an extra dose of insulin.
Signs of insulin overdose are weakness, drooling, abnormal behavior and drunken behavior. If these signs are noted please contact the emergency clinic.
What to tell the receptionist?? Please inform the receptionist that you believe your pet has had an insulin overdose. Please inform the receptionist of the times that the insulin was given, the amounts given each time and the type of insulin given.
You may then give your pet honey or syrup by mouth, or offer it some food. Then bring your pet along with its insulin to the emergency clinic.
What will happen at the hospital?? Once you have arrived at the emergency clinic, your pet’s blood sugar level will be taken. Based on the blood sugar levels and the condition of your pet, a treatment plan will be developed. This can range from monitoring of blood glucose over a 12 hour period or IV fluids with a sugar solution added.
What’s the outcome?? Most patients that have received an extra dose of insulin typically respond well to therapy. Overall outcome is based on the general health of your pet, the amount and type of insulin used, and the condition of your pet upon arrival to the emergency clinic.
4. Rat bait/Rat poison
Rat bait/rat poison is not only deadly to rats and mice but is also very dangerous to our pets. Unfortunately, these compounds are formulated to smell like food (cheese, meat, etc) to attract the mice and rats. Pets who consume these compounds are at risk for developing bleeding disorders and liver failure. Any amount of rat poison/rat bait is toxic to our pets. Based upon the amount ingested clinical signs can take anywhere from 1-7 days to be noticed. We typically see excessive bruising, blood in the eyes, vomiting blood or bloody urine. If your pet has ingested rodent bait please contact the emergency clinic immediately.
What to tell the receptionist?? Please inform the receptionist that your pet has ingested rodent bait. Please inform the receptionist what time your pet ate the bait, approximately how much you think your pet ate, where you are located and approximately how much your pet weighs.
Based on your location the receptionist may give you information on how to induce vomiting in your pet prior to arrival at the emergency clinic.
What will happen at the hospital?? At the hospital we will induce vomiting to get as much of the poison out as possible. We will then give a compound to help trap any remaining amount of poison from the stomach. We may perform blood work to determine if there is any evidence of toxin in your pets system. Based on results we will develop a treatment plan and long-term care.
What’s the outcome?? If your pet receives treatment within 1-2 hours of ingestion of rat poison, generally your pet will recover. Again this is based on the amount and type of poison eaten. However, many cases require intensive care including a blood transfusion. Some forms of rat poison remain in your pets system for up to 8 weeks and will require daily medication at home once your pet is released from the hospital.