Multiple household items and plants can represent a danger to pets if they are ingested. By recognizing the dangers in our everyday environment, we can limit the exposure our pets have to these toxins. For many of these toxins, early diagnosis and treatment can be a life saver. Often if the toxin has been recently ingested, a veterinarian can induce vomiting, administer activated charcoal (a substance that decreases the toxin’s absorption in the intestines), and potentially administer an antidote if one is available.
Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If you believe that your pet is poisoned or may be poisoned, call Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from another serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified hospital.
A few of the most common poisons found in most homes:
Anticoagulant Rodent Poisons
Anticoagulant toxicosis ranks among the most commonly reported toxicoses in dogs. In pets, the toxicosis is most frequently from ingestion of baits and rarely is from ingestion of poisoned rodents. The most common type of rodenticides are the anticoagulants, which work by preventing the blood from clotting. Within 48-72 hours pets often have become weak or have difficulty breathing due to bleeding into the chest or abdominal cavities. In some cases, pets may also evidence of bleeding such as bruising to the skin or blood in the stool. Treatment involves stabilization with blood transfusions and administering the antidote, Vitamin K1. Bleeding from ingestion of these products does not usually start until at least 48 hours after ingestion, so if you know your dog has ingested one of these products, they should see a veterinarian immediately. Often we can induce vomiting to remove the toxin and administer the antidote before any signs of bleeding occur and avoid some of the life-threatening complications. Treatment involves 4-6 weeks of the antidote, Vitamin K1.
Chocolate toxicity is common and is most often seen in dogs. Not surprisingly, the incidence increases around Halloween, Christmas and Easter when there is a lot of chocolate around the house. Dogs frequently will experience vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. These symptoms are caused by substances known as methylxanthines found in chocolate. They are theobromine caffeine, which are both stimulants so many intoxicated dogs look like they are over-caffeinated. Treatment involves controlling the stimulatory effects, IV fluids and monitoring the heart rate and rhythm usually over a 24-hour hospital stay. As with many toxins, if you know that your dog has ingested chocolate in the last 1-2 hours, vomiting can often be induced to prevent many of the more serious clinical signs from occurring. Chocolate can form a bezoar in the stomach so if a patient is asymptomatic, inducing emesis even 4 – 6 hours later may be effective. Chocolate toxicosis generally carries a good prognosis with treatment.