Poisoning in domestic animals.

Many dogs, especially puppies, are not so careful with what they eat and pick up from the ground. There is also a risk of them coming in direct contact with poisonous substances, through licking their fur. Dogs can also get poisoned by eating poisonous potted plants, medicine that may be exposed to them or by biting a poisoned prey, a dead rat for example. Dogs as well as cats have been known to inhale poisonous vapours leading to poisoning.
The most common way of envenoming in Spain is through warfarin and strychnine (rat poison), closely followed by insecticides like carbamate, amitraz and pyrethrin, detergents such as “lejía” (chlorine), lead from car batteries and, not too surprisingly, marijuana.

Symptoms of poisoning
The most common symptoms of poisoning are vomiting and diarrhoea. Vomiting occurs in relation to most (but not all) cases of poisoning, but can also be completely unrelated. It is therefore not sure that a dog has been poisoned just because it's throwing up. Unfamiliar movements, cramps, inner bleedings, excessive saliva and unconsciousness are also common symptoms.

I think my pet has been poisoned, what can I do?
Without an examination it is difficult to say whether poisoning is the cause for the symptoms mentioned above. If there is reason to believe that your pet has recently come in contact with toxic substances, make the pet vomit as soon as possible by placing a spoonful of mustard deep on its tongue. Exceptions have to be made when the pet has digested corrosive acids, alkaline products or is unconscious. If your pet has been externally poisoned you must immediately wash this off with soap and water. Do not let the cat or dog lick itself clean after this. If the animal is highly-strung and has cramps make an attempt to keep the animal from hurting itself. If it is unconscious, make sure its tongue is hanging out. Place something between the jaws so that it cannot close its mouth. After that its important that you contact your local vet immediately. Always call, if possible, beforehand to prepare the vet for your arrival because poisoning are often acute situations with no time to loose. If possible, it is also helpful if you bring a sample of what you suspect the pet has digested or come in contact with and also a sample of the animals vomit to facilitate the procedure.
If the poison can be identified, time also can be saved. To categorise different poisonous substances into different classes of poison does not necessarily say everything about the poison's danger. What is vital is to know how much of the poison has been taken and in what concentration. Other important factors is the pet's age and general health condition. In most cases it is as good as impossible for the vet or the owner to determine what poisonous substance the pet has taken. The exception being when the owner has seen the cat or dog ingest the poison.

What happens to the poison in the body and what is the treatment like?
The decay of the poison mainly takes place in the liver, which works as the body's detoxifying organ. The substance that is being decayed is almost always emitted with the urine through the kidneys. The poison can have a special effect on a certain organ in the body or affect the whole animal. At the veterinary clinic the animal is treated depending on what symptoms it's showing. The main principle of treatment is to restore all the normal life-supporting functions of the animal's body. What is important is that as little poison as possible is absorbed into the animal's body. This can be achieved by giving the pet a preparation that hastens the passage through the intestine. If the animals is over-excited and has cramps a tranquilliser is used and if it has problems with breathing oxygen must be given to the pet. If the poison was ingested a short time beforehand the vet can try to make the animal throw up by injecting it with vomit-triggering substances. In most cases when the substance that caused the poisoning, there is usually an antidote by which the animal can be treated.
In many cases poisoning is suspected at the first sign of any symptom. If the owner has not seen the animal come in direct contact with a poisonous substance it is usually extremely difficult to determine whether its a case of poisoning or not. And even more difficult to determine with what. In Spain there is an information hotline specifically designed to give information about poisoning. This is where both vets and the general public turn for advice on acute cases of poisoning. (Telephone 915 620 420)

NEVER give painkillers or tranquillisers aimed for human consumption to domestic animals.

Don't treat a pet with human medicine, except when following your vets advice. Some human painkillers are extremely dangerous for animals. If your pet needs something to ease the pain, call your vet and ask for advice instead. Most dogs' cannot take paracetamol which is found in most painkillers. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) can be life-threatening for cats.

Other poisonous substances for pets:

Chocolate (the more cacao the worse)
Rat Poison
Some flowers and plants
Chlorinated disinfectants
Snake bites
Different resistance substances

Susanne Kamu
Clinica Veterinaria Pet Vet Kamu
C/. Maestra Aspiazu, Puebla Lucia, ES-29640 Fuengirola (Málaga) Spain.
Tel: (+34) 952 667 333, contact@petvetkamu.com

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