FARMING: How to deal with a case of animal poison
One of the emergencies small animal vets encounter are those associated with an animal ingesting a poisonous or toxic substance.
Whilst some poisons are quite obvious to owners- such as rat bait, and slug pellets, others may not be so clear.
Some substances which are perfectly fine for humans to consume, but can be toxic to our pets include chocolate, onions, raisins, grapes and ibuprofen medication.
Other ordinarily ‘safe ‘animal medication, may be accidentally overdosed, resulting in levels that could cause internal damage to your pet.
Poison cases encountered in the practice have included antifreeze- which has a sweet taste making it very palatable, but unfortunately damages kidney function. Similarly ingestion of Lily plants, particularly by cats, can also cause kidney damage. Should you suspect your pet has had access to a poisonous substance, the first step should be to
remove the substance carefully from their immediate environment. If your pet is covered in a potential toxic substance, and it is safe to do so, washing the substance from the coat/paws to prevent the pet licking further toxins is advisable. The next step should be to call your local veterinary surgery get further advice. The more information you can provide the vet with, the better we will be able to assist you. An idea of the quantity and name of the substance eaten is important, as is the suspected timeframe over which the product was consumed. An idea of your pet’s weight will help us work out whether the amount
of substance consumed is likely to be a problem. A description of symptoms that your pet is showing (if any) is also useful.
In some cases, we may recommend that your pet is brought to the surgery to be made to vomit. This will depend on how soon after the toxin ingestion the animal has been found. As a general rule of thumb, substances eaten more than four hours previously are unlikely to remain in the stomach, and have probably moved into the intestine, so vomiting is unlikely to be beneficial. Chocolate is absorbed much quicker than this, and inducing vomiting after two hours of consumption is generally not going to help. There are also some substances where vomiting could make the situation worse-
such as caustic substances (e.g- batteries) which could damage the oesophagus further on their return journey.
It may be that we will recommend further treatment for your pet. This could include intravenous fluids to dilute out toxins and support the kidneys. Particular antidotes may be appropriate, or meals containing a toxin binder may help to prevent further injury. Some animals may show seizures or fits, and may need medication to control these temporarily. Further monitoring of damage to the animals organs may be advised by assessment using blood tests.
We are very lucky to have membership to a brilliant service called the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS). They are available to the vets 24/7 to provide additional advice and guidance in tricky or unusual cases. VPIS also provide a chargeable helpline to owners called the Animal Poison Line.
If you have any doubt as to whether your pet may have consumed a poisonous substance, please call your local veterinary surgery, where we will be happy to help.