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All Posts in Category: Poisons

Pets and Snake Bites: Act Quickly!

As the weather warms, our slithery, venomous snake friends become more active. And snake bites are a very common problem in the summertime. Our pets are very curious creatures and tend to lead with their noses and their front limbs, so that’s where we see the most bites (on the face and front legs). These bites often cause extreme pain, swelling and bruising, and that’s typically what you as an owner will notice first, if you don’t happen to see the snake itself. You may also see puncture marks that may be bleeding or oozing.

What should you do if you suspect your pet has been bitten?
Bring him/her in immediately to your veterinarian or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. Besides being extremely painful, snake bites can cause skin sloughing, shock, dangerously low blood pressure, bleeding abnormalities, and — in rare cases — death. Upon your pet’s arrival at the clinic, we will likely clean the wound; start medical therapy to make your pet feel more comfortable and maintain blood pressure; and perform diagnostics, including blood tests. Often, your pet will need to stay in the hospital for a short time, depending on the severity of the injury. Most snake bites in our area do not require anti-venom, however.

Although snake bites are very painful and can have very serious consequences, most pets do very well with prompt treatment — so if you suspect your pet has been bitten, act quickly to bring them in. Keep your pet as calm as possible. And if you see the snake, remember what it looked like, but DO NOT PICK IT UP! It can bite you, too!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Xylitol: Not So Sweet for Pets

Xylitol, an increasingly ubiquitous sugar substitute, is found in sugarless gum (e.g., Orbit, Trident, Dentyne), sugarless candy, a granulated form for baking, and even in toothpaste. Xylitol has antibacterial properties in the mouth, thereby reducing bacterial load and periodontal disease. Preliminary studies have shown that xylitol may have other far-reaching benefits to humans as well, such as reducing osteoporosis, helping with endometriosis and fibroids, and helping to prevent ear and throat infections.

In dogs, the effects of xylitol are very different. A dog’s pancreas will recognize xylitol as sugar, causing the pancreas to secrete insulin, which in turn causes a profound drop in blood sugar — a dangerous condition that can eventually turn deadly. And it only takes a small amount of xylitol to cause clinical signs — for a 20-pound dog, ingesting just two pieces of gum containing xylitol can be toxic.

Initial clinical signs of xylitol toxicity are related to low blood sugar: lethargy, weakness, disorientation and collapse. Clinical signs of liver failure usually occur 12-24 hours after xylitol ingestion and can include diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, uncontrolled bleeding and death.

So what should you do if you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol? Although there is no specific antidote to xylitol, seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will likely induce vomiting and place your dog on IV fluids to increase its blood sugar. Blood work will also likely be performed to monitor liver enzymes, blood sugar and blood clotting times. The best chance for your dog’s survival after ingesting xylitol is to begin supportive care as quickly as possible. So if you suspect xylitol toxicity, don’t hestitate! Get your dog to your veterinarian or emergency animal hospital as quickly as possible.

As a side note, it remains unknown whether xylitol is toxic to cats. There have been some anecdotal reports of xylitol toxicity in ferrets, however.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Rodenticide Toxins: Rat Poison and Pets

Unfortunately, many pets get into toxins — even toxins that were meant to get rid of pests like mice and rats. An extremely common type of toxicity is rodenticide, or rat poison. There are three main groups of rat poison used, and they can all be very toxic to dogs and cats (and even our exotic pets, too). The most common type of rat poison used is an anticoagulant poison and include chemicals such as brodifacoum and bromadiolone. This type of toxin prevents blood from clotting by decreasing the body’s amount of usable Vitamin K1, which is used in several clotting factors — meaning that pets that eat this toxin cannot clot their blood properly. Approximately 2-3 days after ingestion, pets can start to bleed from their gums and their gastrointestinal tract, and they can bleed into body cavities such as the chest, abdomen or joints. You might see blood in your pet’s mouth, abnormal bruising, or blood in their vomit or stool, or they may look pale, have difficulty breathing, have an enlarged abdomen, or have joint swelling. Testing often involves evaluating your pet’s clotting times, and treatment at this stage frequently involves a hospital stay, plasma, possibly a blood transfusion, and repeat blood work with possible radiographs or an ultrasound.

Patients that usually have the best prognosis from this type of toxicity are those that are actually seen eating the rat poison by their owners, who then bring them in for treatment right away. Upon arrival, decontamination and treatment to prevent bleeding disorders are initiated. Decontamination often involves initiating vomiting and giving activated charcoal orally. Most patients are started on Vitamin K1 as well, to increase the amount of usable Vitamin K1 in the body and prevent clotting abnormalities. When treatment is started soon after ingestion, most patients recover very well, so getting your pet to the animal hospital quickly is extremely important.

The two other types of rat poison used are cholecalciferol/vitamin D3 rat poison and bromethalin. Cholecalciferol increases the amount of calcium in the body, which can deposit on organs and cause organ dysfunction, including kidney failure. Vague symptoms, including depression, anorexia, vomiting, and increased drinking and urinating, may be seen 1-2 days after ingestion. Once severe clinical signs are seen, treatment is usually aggressive and normally involves hospitalization — and due to the advanced effects of the toxin, the pet may not survive. Again, early treatment and decontamination will likely lead to a much better prognosis for your pet.

Bromethalin poisoning produces neurologic signs, such as disorientation or stumbling, tremors, and paralysis, and a pet that has ingested this toxin may start to show signs 10-24 hours after ingestion — but the symptoms can progress for 1 to 2 weeks. Again, pets with severe signs often need to be hospitalized with aggressive therapy, and patients that are brought in immediately for decontamination have a much better chance for recovery.

If your pet has ingested any toxin — especially rat poison — bring him/her to a veterinarian immediately for early treatment. And be sure to bring with you the container that the poison came in, so we can direct our treatment appropriately.

To prevent accidental ingestion and help avoid these kinds of poisonings, keep all toxins — including those intended to kill rodents — well out of reach of your pets.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Spring Toxins: Cats and Lilies, Dogs and Chocolate

With spring upon us and Easter just behind us, two very common pet toxicities are out in many households: lilies, the number-one cat toxicity, and chocolate, the number-one dog toxicity.

Lily Toxicity in Cats
Lilies can be extremely toxic to cats. The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, but the stems and flowers are also toxic. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can cause severe signs of poisoning. Initially, the cat may vomit, lose its appetite, and or become lethargic or depressed. Without proper veterinary care, these signs will continue to worsen, and the cat will develop kidney failure usually within 36-48 hours. Signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating more frequently, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many cats will not survive once they get to this stage, so acting quickly to get them treatment is crucial.

Toxicity and kidney failure have been caused by the following lilies:

• Easter Lily Lilium Longiflorum
• Tiger Lily Lilium Tigrinum
• Rubrum Lily Lilium Speciosum
• Japanese Show Lily Lilium Lancifolium
• Day Lily Hemerocallis Species

Precautions cat owners can take include:

• #1: Do not allow your cat to have access to lilies.

• #2: Should your cat ingest lilies, seek veterinary care immediately. The best results for decontamination are if emergency treatment occurs within 6-8 hours of ingestion. The likely course of action might include inducing vomiting in your cat and administering IV fluids to flush the kidneys.

Chocolate Toxicity
While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats, most of our chocolate toxicity patients are dogs. Darker and unsweetened chocolate contains more of the toxin theobromide. Toxic doses for a 50-lb. dog would be approximately 48 oz. of milk chocolate, 16 oz. of semisweet chocolate, or 5 oz. of baker’s chocolate (these are approximate doses only — all dogs react differently to chocolate).

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity usually occur within 1-4 hours after ingestion and include: vomiting; diarrhea; hyperactivity; muscle tremors; elevated heart rate; seizures; and, in severe cases, coma and death. Although there is no antidote to chocolate, the prognosis for survival is usually good with aggressive supportive care initiated within 8 hours of ingestion. Decontamination might include inducing vomiting in your dog/cat, giving your pet activated charcoal to absorb what is left in the GI tract, and IV fluids. So be sure to hide your chocolate from your pets and seek veterinary care as soon as possible should your animal get into your Easter stash.

Happy Spring!!!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Pets and Antifreeze Poisoning

‘Tis the season for snow and ice, and we’re certainly getting our fair share this year. Besides watching out for wintry hazards on the road, we also need to be very vigilant in observing our pets for signs of antifreeze poisoning.

Antifreeze can sometimes accidentally be spilled onto the ground when it is being poured into a vehicle, resulting in a small — and potentially deadly — puddle in your driveway or street. Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, so they will often lick or drink it right off the ground. Cats may also walk through an antifreeze puddle unintentionally and then lick it off their feet. Even that small amount of antifreeze can be fatal to cats, and just a few tablespoons can be fatal to a medium-sized dogs.

Symptoms of antifreeze poisoning will be obvious very quickly. Your pet may appear drunk/wobbly or unsteady on its feet. You may also observe seizures within 2-3 hours of ingestion. If you suspect your pet may have ingested antifreeze, it is imperative that you seek veterinary attention immediately.

Continued signs of antifreeze poisoning include excessive urinating and drinking, which can occur 1-3 days after ingestion. Antifreeze contains a substance called ethylene glycol that causes extreme kidney failure. Once kidney failure sets in, you may notice your pet urinating less and then, eventually, not at all. Often, a pet may appear to be feeling better a few days before kidney failure becomes critical. Don’t be fooled by this into thinking that your pet may be recovering. If you have any suspicion of antifreeze poisoning, or if you are concerned for the health of your pet, call your veterinarian immediately!

Blood and urine tests are needed to detect the presence of ethylene glycol in your pet’s system. Depending on the time of ingestion, vomiting may be induced. To help prevent kidney failure, IV fluids will need to be administered to your pet for several days.

If your pet has ingested antifreeze within the past 8 hours, a medication called Antizol-Vet (4-MP) may be used to prevent further kidney damage from the by-products of antifreeze. The prognosis for recovery is fair to good if your pet receives this treatment within 8 hours of ingestion, so time is of the essence when treating this kind of poisoning. Multiple doses of the medicine will be required. If it has been longer than 8 hours since ingestion, this medication is not as effective, and the prognosis for survival is poor to grave. Once kidney failure sets in, treatment is very aggressive, but even then survival is not assured.

Prevention of antifreeze poisoning obviously requires keeping antifreeze out of reach of your pets. This type of toxicity is not limited to the wintertime, however, so be sure to take care year-round. Keep all antifreeze containers tightly closed and out of reach of your animals. It is also recommended that you not let your animals out to roam the neighborhood unattended, where they might come upon a wayward puddle of the substance.

When disposing of antifreeze, do not dump it on the ground or in a drain — take it to a proper dump facility for disposal. Check your garage and driveway periodically for antifreeze leaks, and always check for spills after performing an antifreeze fill-up on your car. Clean up spills with towels, then dispose of the towels properly. And ask your local automotive supply store for environmentally-friendly and pet-friendly antifreeze alternatives.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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