Posts Tagged ‘poisoning’

“Help, my dog ate…..!”

Monday, January 13th, 2014

DSCF1832 (2)One of the most common calls we get at CVH is about pets who ingest potentially toxic substances. I’m still waiting for the day I get the “help! my dog ate my Viagra” call! Hasn’t happened yet… wonder why? Here’s a list of my 5 most common non-Viagra toxicology cases.


Especially around the holidays, chocolate toxicity calls are common. The good news is that it’s usually dark bakers chocolate that you need to watch out for, not  your secret stash of Snickers. That’s because the toxic ingredients in chocolate – methylxanthines which include caffeine – are highest in dark chocolate. Toxicity is also size and dose dependent. Great Dane and Hershey Kiss= good;  Chihuahua  and bag of Toll House chocolate chips = not so good. Clinical signs range from a mild intestinal upset (from small amounts of milk chocolate) to hyperactivity and rapid heart rate, to full blown seizures. Gives new meaning to the phrase “death by chocolate”.


We used to see more antifreeze toxicity cases, but thanks to the wider use of pet safe antifreeze, the numbers have declined. Outdoor kitties who like to shelter in garages or under cars are most affected; antifreeze is sweet and colorless. Ethylene Glycol is the toxic ingredient in antifreeze, and it is metabolized into crystals that damage kidneys. Unfortunately, by the time an animal is in kidney failure, the damage is done and the prognosis is poor. If you see your pet drinking from a highly suspicious puddle, bring them in right away. Supportive care with IV fluids, and the antidote (fomepizole or ethanol) can be started while waiting for the results of an antifreeze blood test.

Rat Poison

Again, seeing your pet eat rat poison is the best way to ensure a happy outcome. Rat poison contains anti-coagulants, substances that prevent blood from clotting. Rats are killed by bleeding to death. Any dog who presents pale and weak, with a bloody nose, bloody urine or difficulty breathing is a suspect when ingestion is not seen. The antidote is Vitamin K to re-establish normal clotting, but in severe cases a blood transfusion may be required.


Pets are not people. While many of the drugs we use in veterinary medicine are the same as used in human medicine, many are not. Advil or Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and vomiting at very low doses, and will damage the kidneys at higher doses. Tylenol or acetaminophen requires a liver enzyme that dogs and especially cats lack to break it down. Pets can be depressed, vomit, have abdominal pain and dark brown blood and urine because of resulting liver damage. There is an antidote (acetylcysteine) for acetaminophen toxicity, but the prognosis is grave if clinical signs have developed.


My all time favorite.  That’s because it’s fairly easy to diagnose based on clinical signs, there is always a great deal of embarrassment/denial/finger pointing on behalf of the clients; and most importantly, the pet is usually OK with minor supportive treatment.  The typical Pot dog usually has dilated pupils and sways like he is drunk. He may tremor or twitch and often  falls asleep during the exam, only to startle awake. Some pets will have heart rate or blood pressure issues, but most are just inco-ordinated, with a change in behavior and personality.

With the toxins I’ve mentioned, the good news is recent ingestion (within a couple of hours) in an asymptomatic pet allows us to try to induce the pet to vomit and bring the bad stuff up . There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a big pile of green rat poison pellets or foil chocolate wrappers! Often times after making the pet vomit, we use activated charcoal to bind the remaining toxin so it can pass in the pets feces and prevent further absorption. IV fluids also help flush  the body of toxins.

The keys to successful toxicity cases are :

1) owner witnesses ingestion

2) owner seeks veterinary advise/care immediately

3) owner brings all information about the toxin with them – i.e. bag of chocolate, box of rat poison.

4) the patient is symptom free and vomiting is successful

The ASPCA has a great poison control section on their website and  a fee for service number you can call for those late night instances when you just don’t know if 5 bags of Halloween Mini Mars Bars and a 20 lb Dachshund are a good combination or not (hint….probably not!)