Poison

by Handy Mag

by Clare Brash BVet Med, MRCVS, Station House Vets

One of the most difficult parts of my job as a vet is when a beloved pet is presented in the advanced stages of poisoning.

Different chemicals can cause a wide range of signs from depression, muscle twitching, drooling, vomiting ,pain, collapse, all manner of signs depending on the toxin.

Some animals show dramatic signs very quickly and some, sadly, are simply found dead with no evidence of the offending chemical having been consumed. This is a tragic situation for everyone concerned but luckily it has become very rare compared to my experience in the past when there was less control of these substances, back in the mists of time when I first came to Malton.

Equally nasty are the cases where the condition may start off as mild and then is progressive, like antifreeze which causes kidney failure in the latter stages. Lily pollen in cats is similar in its course.

The great news is that you, the owners, are infinitely more aware of the dangers and act accordingly. I recently had an 8-year-old boy who dragged his parents into the surgery after the family dog had eaten chewing gum. HE knew that the artificial sweeteners in many diabetic foods and confectionary were harmful to dogs. Top marks to Youtube and Dr Google. In these early cases when the poison is better evacuated, we just give them a small injection and 10 minutes later we have an empty stomach. We reverse the drug after we are sure there is nothing left and if necessary, do gastric lavage or administer very messy activated charcoal to absorb any remaining toxin. If there is any threat of organ damage, we may need to keep them on a drip, but this is less common.

Its simple when you vigilant owners actually see the pet taking the toxin, whether it be grapes, chocolate, human drugs, prescription or otherwise. Sometimes it requires real detective work to find the cause, for example, if you have put bonemeal on the roses or changed the antifreeze in the car. A case that had us scratching our heads was a DIY project where stripping old lead paint from a staircase had affected the family spaniel. Luckily, I’m old enough to remember lead paint. There must be some benefits to ageing!

Horses can have toxicity problems too unfortunately. Ragwort, yew, and sycamore are well known culprits along with foxgloves, laburnum, ivy amongst others. Some problems are more difficult to establish such as rat poison or mouldy feed, but a really difficult one we had recently was a staggering pony who had eaten daffodil bulbs, poor thing.

Whatever the problem you face, call your vet if there is any concern, and don’t delay on this type of thing as swift intervention, if needed, can be vital. Be safe and enjoy the summer when it finally arrives!

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