(434) 202-1616
Open nights, weekends & holidays. Open 365 days a year.
Call ahead if possible!
Blog banner

All Posts Tagged: Toxins

Tremorgenic Mycotoxin Toxicity: The Moldy Shakes

The compost pile, a seemingly innocuous feature of your outside garden, can seem like a great idea, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, this kind of eco-friendly heap of decomposing organic matter can also look like a free meal to your dog. As food in a compost pile starts to decay, a variety of molds can grow on it — molds that won’t always deter a dog from wanting to enjoy an outside feast. Many of these molds (at least 20 varieties are known to inhabit compost piles) produce mycotoxins that can have negative health effects. Ingesting even a small amount of mold can cause small muscle tremors and ataxia (which will cause your pet to look like he/she is drunk or having trouble walking) for a period of hours or days. A large amount of mold exposure can cause severe tremors, seizures and even death.

Spoiled food and fats in the compost pile can also cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody). Moldy dairy products such as cheese, moldy nuts such as walnuts or peanuts, moldy grains, and pastas are often the culprits behind these kinds of issues.

Apart from food found in compost piles, moldy refrigerator food thrown outside or in the trash can also potentially expose your dog to toxic molds. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a compost pile or moldy trash, please take him/her to a vet immediately. Depending on whether the pet is showing signs of toxicity, your dog may be made to vomit. We never recommend the inducing of vomiting at home, due to possible complications. For instance, if your pet isn’t stable, he/she could inhale their own vomit or bloat. At the vet, a dose of activated charcoal is also often given to help absorb toxins from the GI tract.

Most dogs with this kind of mold toxicity likely will be kept in the hospital on IV fluids and given muscle relaxants to address any tremors, until the tremors cease. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to treat any diarrhea. A hospital stay can range from one day to several days, depending on how much mold your pet consumed and how quickly they were treated by a veterinarian.

Just like anything else, with mold toxicity, prevention is key. Keep compost piles in areas out of reach of your pet, or keep the material in a secure composting container. Also, don’t throw food away in inside trash cans. Most outside trash cans are much sturdier, and some are made to be difficult for a dog to open — even if the can is overturned. Finally, avoid throwing moldy food from your refrigerator in your backyard.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

PODCAST: Tremorgenic Mycotoxins

Tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by molds on foods are a relatively common — and possibly under-diagnosed — cause of tremors and seizures in pet animals. Because of their relatively indiscriminate appetites, dogs tend to be most commonly exposed to tremorgens. These toxins are produced by a variety of fungi, but tremorgens produced by Penicillium spp. are the most commonly encountered. The molds grow on practically any food, including dairy products, grains, nuts and legumes, and compost piles may also provide a source of tremorgens. Tremorgens have a several different mechanisms of action: some alter nerve action potentials, some affect neurotransmitter action, and others change neurotransmitter levels. The overall result is the development of muscle tremors and seizures.

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Nicotine Toxicity in Pets

Recently here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, we had a patient that presented with full body tremors, was drooling, was excited, and started vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. The owner had stated the dog was normal in the morning, and the dog’s presentation condition was consistent with her getting into something. However, after asking the owner numerous questions, we were unable to identify what the dog potentially could have ingested. It wasn’t until the next morning, when the owner was smoking, that she noticed several cigarette butts in front of her house were missing.

Nicotine toxicity in dogs and cats is more common than most people think, and it is especially common in pets with owners who leave cigarette packs out or toss cigarette butts outside. Nicotine is most commonly found in cigarettes, cigars, nicotine gum and candy, and nicotine transdermal patches. The average cigarette (depending on the brand, blend and whether it is marketed as a “light cigarette”) contains 13-40 mg of nicotine, and it doesn’t take much nicotine to cause problems — the lethal dose for a dog is 9.2 mg of nicotine per kilogram of your pet’s body weight. Incidentally, an average cigarette butt contains about 25 percent of the nicotine present in an unsmoked cigarette, so they can be toxic as well.

Nicotine gum actually has to be chewed — not swallowed (which most dogs will do) — to release nicotine. However, the sweetener xylitol, which is also toxic to pets, is often added to nicotine gum.

Once nicotine is ingested, signs typically develop within 15-90 minutes. However, in some cases it can take hours for symptoms to emerge. Initially you might see your pet being hyperactive or acting overexcited. They might also start drooling, experience vomiting or diarrhea, or even look like they are having trouble breathing. At higher doses or for longer exposures, your pet might show signs of weakness, start twitching or having muscle tremors, have an elevated heart rate, collapse, and even die. So nicotine toxicity is a potentially life-threatening condition.

As with any toxicity, early treatment and diagnosis are crucial, so be sure to bring your pet to your regular vet or to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. If your pet is not already vomiting upon arrival, a drug is typically given to make them vomit. Activated charcoal is also administered to help absorb nicotine from the GI tract. Your pet will also likely be put on IV fluids; started on antacids; and given oxygen, if they are having trouble breathing. Usually within 24 hours of treatment, your pet should be almost back to normal (although diarrhea can sometimes take 1-3 days to resolve).

Our cigarette butt eater here at Greenbrier came through just fine, but the experience should serve as a reminder to all pet owners who smoke: Keep your cigarettes, cigars and other nicotine-containing products out of reach of your pet. And think twice before just tossing that cigarette butt!

© 2012 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

PODCAST: Common Household Pet Toxins

Our first podcast — and many more to come! This first podcast focuses on common household pet toxins — we’ll identify these toxins and briefly discuss treatments and outcomes. There are some tasty treats that you might never suspect are toxic to your pets.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Grape toxicity and pets: Delicious but deadly

Grapes may be one of people’s favorite fruit-based snacks, but they are not a safe snack for our pets. While grapes don’t cause humans any harm, they can cause acute kidney failure in dogs, and even possibly in cats. Despite recent research, the exact agent in grapes that causes the toxicity is still unknown. It was previously thought that perhaps something related to pesticides or heavy metals in grapes was causing the problem, but that hypothesis has since been disproven. Current theories suggest that the fleshy portion of the grape, rather than the seed, is the toxic culprit. Thompson seedless grapes, the common green ones from the supermarket, statistically seem to create the highest number of problems in animals — however, this could just be because that variety of grape is the most commonly purchased. Other products made from real grapes, such as raisins, grape juice and grape jelly, have also shown to cause problems. And heated and fermented grape products, like those used in baked cookies and cakes with raisins, can also be toxic to pets. One notable exception is grape seed extract, which is found in some pet products and synthetic grape-flavored medications, and is not currently thought to be a pet hazard.

One of the most frustrating things for owners is just how small an amount of grape ingestion can be toxic. I have had people tell me, “Well, he only ate 2 or 3 grapes,” or “Well, he got into some trail mix with raisins, but there weren’t many in it.” Unfortunately, any known grape ingestion — regardless of the amount — could potentially cause a problem.

People also tell me, “I have been giving my pet grapes for years without a problem.” Regardless of what you may have given your pet in the past, that doesn’t ensure that your pooch won’t react badly to grapes in the future. In fact, some dogs that have eaten grapes in the past with no signs of toxicity ultimately may run into trouble with them. The consequences of grape toxicity can be severe, so why take the risk? To avoid these kinds of problems, we highly recommend not giving your pet grapes in any amount.

Like many other products that are toxic to animals, your pet may appear normal for up to 24 hours after they eat grapes or a grape product. Within 24 hours or so, you might start seeing them not wanting to eat, vomiting, acting like their abdomen is in pain or experiencing diarrhea. Within 48 hours after ingestion, they can start experiencing more serious problems, such as showing a decrease in the amount of urine they produce — or not producing urine at all. These are some of the signs of acute kidney failure.

And just like any toxicity, early treatment is the key. If you suspect your pet has eaten grapes, raisins or products containing them, bring your pet to Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital or to your regular vet as quickly as possible. Grapes can sit in the stomach for hours after being ingested, so your vet will most likely give your pet an injection to make them vomit. They may also be given what is known as activated charcoal to help bind up any additional grape products in the GI tract. Your pet will also likely be placed on intravenous fluids for 48 hours and have their kidney function checked daily for 72 hours via a blood test. The prognosis of any given case usually corresponds with how soon you realize that your pet has eaten the grapes — and how fast you react to get them the proper treatment.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

Read More

Winter Hazards for your Pet

Now that the holidays are upon us, I thought it would be a good time to remind pet owners of the many common household items that can be hazards to pets during the winter season. I’ll start with a list of common food items that can present serious problems for pets. Many of these items have their very own blog entries, so please search our blog after you read this post if you’d like more detail. I am constantly surprised by how many people aren’t aware that these foods are potentially toxic to pets, so I don’t think we can list them too often.

Foods
Yeast bread dough: converts to alcohol, causes bloating
Moldy foods: contain toxins that can cause tremors
Macadamia nuts: can lead to weakness, depression, vomiting
Chocolate: GI and cardiac signs, can make pets hyper excitable
Onions, garlic, leeks, onion powder: can lead to anemia
Xylitol (contained in sugarless gum): causes low blood sugar, liver toxicity and blood clotting disorders
Grapes/raisins: can lead to kidney failure. For some dogs, it only takes a few.
Fatty foods: can cause pancreatitis

Plants
The following plants are toxic to pets:
Lilies: can cause kidney failure in cats
Holly: can cause gastrointestinal problems, lethargy
Mistletoe: can cause gastrointestinal problems and is a cardiotoxin
Poinsettia: can cause irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal problems and is a mild toxin

Holiday-related items
Since many of the items below only come out seasonally, they can be a novelty — especially for those curious cats or puppies. Take care to pet-proof your holiday decorations!
Christmas tree water: can be laden with bacteria and/or pesticides; causes gastrointestinal signs
Ribbons/tinsel: cats especially love these, and they can cause linear foreign bodies requiring surgery
Liquid potpourri: can cause severe oral, ocular and dermal damage
Electric cords: can lead to electrocution, fluid in lungs

Other toxic items
Antifreeze: Extremely toxic to animals!! Lethargy, “drunk” behavior, kidney failure
Ice melt: irritating to skin, paws and mouth

Please keep your pets safe this holiday season. If you think your pet has ingested any of the above, please seek veterinary attention immediately. Many of these toxins can be mitigated with early veterinary intervention.

Dr. Elvira Hoskins

Read More

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.

Read More