“Curiosity killed the cat” is an adage for a reason; never more so than in cases of eating poisonous substances.
In most emergency situations, pets are obviously ill – bleeding, limping, acting strange – and seeking medical attention is the obvious answer. Poisonings are usually very different.
Pets may eat something toxic and seem completely normal for several hours, or even days! Immediate symptoms are the exception rather than the rule
This means you—the pet parent—play a pivotal role in your pet’s outcome, by sounding the emergency alarm, even without any outward sign that something is wrong yet. Otherwise, the delayed effects of toxins can be devastating, even fatal.
Dr. Adam has three steps you can take in a poisoning emergency:
1. Find out if your pet is in danger
Was what your pet actually toxic? Remember that high doses of normal medications can be as dangerous as outright toxins, and that many foods and medications that are safe for people are deadly to cats and dogs.
We’ve listed some of the most common items we encounter here and you can find comprehensive lists of plants, medications, and household items at the ASPCA’s Poison Control website.
If you are in ANY doubt, call us or Animal Poison Control immediately. Poison Control is available 24/7 and can tell you if the item is dangerous and whether your pet can be treated at home or needs to go to the hospital.
As a bonus, after you’ve called, Poison Control’s specialist toxicologists will continue to consult with your veterinarian about your pet’s progress and assist if any unusual reactions occur later on!
2. Get medical attention
If we or the Poison Control veterinarians recommend medical treatment, get it right away. Time is of the essence in poisoning cases – if we can prevent your pet’s digestive tract from absorbing the toxin, we may be able to avoid long term damage entirely.
Bring any remaining packaging materials from the substance in question with you – even different brands of similar products can have dramatically different effects, and knowing what we are dealing with is half the battle in toxicity cases.
If the emergency happens after hours, go to the emergency hospital immediately – don’t wait for us to be open in the morning!
Remember: many toxins don’t show any signs for days after they’re eaten, and often by the time symptoms develop, it’s too late to save your pet.
3. Follow up
Even with prompt treatment, there is a small risk of long term effects from many poisons. In particular, toxins that damage the kidneys or blood clotting may cause problems for weeks after ingestion, or even the rest of your pet’s life.
After initial treatment, we’ll create a long-term monitoring plan for your pet, based on her existing health concerns and the toxin in question. This may include monitoring at home or rechecking organ function tests a few weeks down the road.
We see all sorts of toxin exposures. From prescription medications to antifreeze, recreational drugs to sugar-free gum, it's unlikely your pet could eat something we haven't seen before.
We’ve even had our own pets eat toxic items and require treatment. Our concern is your pet’s well-being, so never hesitate to call in an emergency!