When it comes to poisoned animals or animal poisoning, there are many signs that may show that an animal is poisoned. These signs depend on the type of poison and the extend of poisoning. In severe cases, the animal may just die suddenly without any previous sign.
At other times in animal poisoning, the animal may how in like vomiting, diarrhea, and may foam before eventually death if left unattended to.
How to Handle a Poisoned Animals
This depends on the nearness of your consultant. If he/she is very near, you can call on the person for an appropriate attention. However, some first aids can be administered before the arrival of your Vet. Doctor.
You should give the poisoned animals plenty of water to drink to neutralize the effect of the poison and after this then quickly call your Vet. Doctor for further treatment.
General Treatment of Poisoning
Immediate, life-saving measures may be needed initially. Beyond this, treatment consists of preventing further absorption of the poison, providing supportive treatment, and administering specific antidotes, if available.
Thorough washing with soap and water can usually prevent further absorption of poisons on the skin. If the animal has a long or dense coat, the hair may need to be clipped. For some poisons that have been ingested, vomiting may be induced in dogs and cats.
However, vomiting is not recommended if the suspected poison could damage the stomach or esophagus on its way up, if more than a few hours have passed, if the swallowing reflex is absent, if the poisoned animals is convulsing, or if there is a risk of aspiration pneumonia (vomited material being inhaled into the lungs).
If the poisoned animals is unconscious, the stomach may be flushed with a stomach tube, or surgery on the stomach may be needed. Laxatives and medications used to empty the bowels may be recommended in some instances to help remove the poison from the gastrointestinal tract.
If the poison cannot be physically removed, sometimes activated charcoal can be administered by mouth to prevent further absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.
Supportive treatment is often necessary until the poison can be metabolized and eliminated. The type of support required depends on the animal’s condition and may include controlling seizures, maintaining breathing, treating shock, controlling heart problems (for example, irregular heart beats), and treating pain.
In some cases, there is a known antidote for a specific poison which can be used for the poisoned animals.
How do you treat poisoned animals?
There is a plethora of poisons that can harm our pets, mostly when eaten, but occasionally by touch. Dogs are famously indiscriminate about what they eat, while cats are (usually!) more discerning.
Although we see more toxicities in dogs, in cats they can be more serious, as contact or ingestion is often not witnessed, delaying treatment.
Many toxins, such as antifreeze, affect all species including humans. Others are more species specific, such as paracetamol in cats, or chocolate in dogs. Treatment varies hugely, depending upon the toxin.
I think my pet has been exposed to a toxin, what do I do?
The time frame is vitally important. Don’t wait for your pet to become unwell before calling for advice. By the time signs are evident it may be too late. To decide if, and how urgently, your pet needs treatment, we may ask:
- What poison you think your pet has been exposed to (i.e. chocolate, ibuprofen, etc.), including product names, or lists of ingredients.
- How much they may have been exposed to (100mg, 100ml, one tablet, etc.) and the weight of your pet. This information can help us work out if your pet has had a toxic dose.
- When your pet was exposed to the poison (10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 days ago).
- Is your pet showing any signs? Signs (symptoms) can help us to decide how to treat your pet.
- Take along any relevant packaging, or a sample.
Is there anything I can do at home to treat the poisoned animals?
A surface toxin, such as a toxic flea preparation or oil, can be washed off using regular hand-soap or washing up liquid. Always call the practice to see if further treatment is needed.
For lilies, remove any pollen from your cat, before contacting us.
Depending on the toxin and the time frame we may want to try and make your pet vomit. It is NOT advisable to try this at home using salt water, soda crystals etc. This can make your pet dangerously ill (and is often ineffective). We have safer methods in our clinic if we think this may be beneficial to your pet.
When I bring my pet to the practice what will you do?
All cases will be treated differently depending on the toxin, dose, timeframe, and signs.
- We may decontaminate your pet by washing or clipping contaminated fur.
- With some toxins/doses, we may make your pet vomit if ingestion was recent. We may use intravenous fluids to help flush out toxins.
- Feeding activated charcoal absorbs remaining toxins in the gut, which is then excreted safely in the faeces.
- If there is a specific antidote, this can be administered.
Information from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service’s most commonly reported toxins are highlighted below. There are thousands of toxins, all of which cannot be listed.
Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to many animals. Darker chocolate contains more theobromine, making it more toxic. Signs include; vomiting and diarrhoea, excitability, twitching, tremors, fits and life threatening problems with the heart.
If a toxic dose has been eaten within the hour, we will make your dog vomit. We may suggest intravenous fluids and monitoring, only using heart medication if required.
Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are all toxic to dogs. It is not known why. Some dogs have eaten large quantities with no effects, while others have become unwell after very small amounts.
Stomach issues may progress to kidney failure, which can be delayed by up to three days. Contact us at the time of ingestion, it may be too late once signs appear.
Some sugar-free sweets, sugar replacements, chewing gums, nicotine gums and medicines contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol. Ingestion can lower a dog’s blood sugar level to dangerous levels, with larger amounts causing liver failure. Signs can include weakness, lethargy, collapse or fits. Treatment depends on the signs.
Always keep your bins protected, as mouldy food can be toxic. Onions, garlic and macadamia nuts are less common toxins for dogs.
Human medications can be toxic, as can animal medications if accidently given in excess.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen are commonly available over-the counter, and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, gastric ulceration and kidney failure. Toxic doses will require veterinary treatment.
Cats are sensitive to paracetamoland even a very small quantity can be extremely dangerous, causing severe damage to the liver and blood.
Permethrin, an insecticide found in many flea treatments available for dogs and small pets, is a known cause of fatal seizures in cats. Likewise, Fipronil (in lots of cat and dog flea treatments) can be toxic to rabbits. Only treat animals with products designed for their species.
Rat bait used to control rodent infestations can cause bruising and bleeding several days later, if ingested. Not all rat baits are anticoagulant so it is important to determine which type has been ingested.
Slug and snail killer may contain Metaldehyde. The blue or green pellets eaten by inquisitive dogs may cause fitting lasting hours or even days. Cases often require hospitalisation for several days, using anti seizure medications and supportive treatment.
Lilies are very poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure. All parts of the plant are poisonous to cats and even small exposure to the pollen can be dangerous. Try to remove all the pollen from your cat before ringing us for advice.
Bites from the European Adder, the only venomous snake native to the UK, can occur in the spring and summer. Bites may result in severe swelling within a few minutes to a few hours, pain, distress and bleeding. Treatment includes anti inflammatories, pain killers, and sometimes anti-venom.
Benzalkonium chloride is a detergent found in some disinfectants, antiseptics and patio cleaners. Cats can develop drooling, fever and tongue and mouth ulceration after licking treated surfaces hours after exposure. Painkillers are often prescribed.
Prevention is always best. Keep food out of reach, and bleach, antifreeze, and medications locked away. Check your garden for toxic plants, and never buy lillies if you have cats. Use only veterinary products prescribed by our practice.
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