This advice does not substitute a proper consultation with a veterinarian and is intended only as a guide. We recommend you follow all advice as given by your veterinarian and contact them immediately with any concerns. You must follow medications as dispensed by your veterinary clinic and monitor your pet closely during their recovery period noting any changes and contacting your veterinary clinic as needed.
There are many drugs/foods that can potentially be toxic to our family pets. It is important never to give your animal any over the counter or prescription medications that are not prescribed for your pet. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes pets ingest toxic foods, plants, and medications. If this does happen, try not to panic, but try to remember how much of what toxic substance your pet has eaten. It is never wrong to contact your veterinary clinic for further advice.
Signs your pet may have ingested a toxin
While this list is not exhaustive signs can include the following:
- Unusual behaviour – circling
- Loss of balance/co-ordination
- Large pupils/uneven pupils
- Coughing of blood
- Vomiting blood
- Pale gums
- A racing heart rate
- Weakness or lethargy
- Halitosis (“uremic” breath)
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Absence or decreased urination
- Jaundice/icterus/yellow discoloration to the gums
- Weakness or collapse secondary to a low blood sugar
- Dull mentation, acting abnormally
- Black-tarry stool (melena)
- Rodenticides (rat poison): There are many different kinds of rodenticides. These agents can cause an array of clinical signs including bleeding disorders and neurologic abnormalities.
- Ethylene glycol (antifreeze): This chemical can cause severe and sometimes irreversible kidney failure.
- Grapes and raisins: Although they are tasty to us, never give them as a treat to your pet. Acute kidney failure is likely.
- Chocolate: Never let your pet ingest chocolate, as it can cause heart disturbances and seizure activity. Be careful on Easter and Valentine's Day holidays when there are often chocolates lying around the house.
- Onions: These may cause stomach and intestinal upset as well as destruction of the cells that make up the blood.
- Household cleaning products: When used in excess with little ventilation, many of these products may lead to respiratory distress and gastrointestinal problems.
- Lillies, rhododendrons, and azaleas: These flower varieties are just some of the common household plants that can be toxic to our pets. Sometimes even just biting the leaves can be fatal to our fuzzy companions.
- Tylenol: This over-the-counter medication is very toxic to our pets (especially felines). It can cause blood disorders and even death.
- Heavy metals, including zinc (found in Desitin and other creams), lead (found in many paints) and mercury (found in fish and in thermometers): If any of these items are ingested by your pet, do not hesitate to contact your local veterinarian and seek immediate care.
This is not a complete list and if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxin contact your veterinary clinic immediately, some of these can be life threatening and many pets react differently much like humans with allergy resistance levels. The quicker your pet sees a veterinarian the higher their chance of survival.
Treatment will differ dependent on the toxin ingested; there is no antidote for many of the above mentioned toxins resulting in most of the treatment plans being supportive therapy. This can include IV fluids, blood transfusions, and medications to counteract the symptoms such as muscle relaxants for seizuring patients. If your pet has only recently ingested the toxin it may be possible to induce vomiting, or give enemas to help flush the toxin through, in more severe cases your pet may be anaesthetised until the toxin is no longer active.