Almost every veterinarian has a story about things their patients have consumed—rubber duckies, sewing needles, golf balls. Most veterinary students, in fact, have heard from their college professors the story of meeting owners at the emergency clinic in the wee hours of the night, the owners hesitant to admit their dog accidentally ingested marijuana.
“It is a common situation that veterinarians are faced with. Owners sometimes don’t want to own up to what their pets have accidentally ingested,” says Brad Hanna, DVM, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Nonetheless, according to Hanna, “It is important for vets and owners to work together for the benefit of the animal.”
What to Do if Your Pet Consumes Something Toxic
If possible, collect the leftover packaging/item that your pet appears to have consumed. If you are en route to your veterinarian, you can also consider contacting the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or the Pet Poison Hotline for advice and other information:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre: aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control.
Phone: (888) 426-4435..
Pet Poison Hotline: petpoisonhelpline.com.
Oh, the places pets go
Narcotics aren’t the only, or even most common, non-food items that dogs and cats accidentally eat. Lawn fertilizers, rat and mouse bait, and prescription medications (either human or veterinary) are also toxins that pets somehow find irresistible.
One such example was described in an article published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. A group of veterinarians from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine described a dog that ingested 40 to 50 tablets of a drug called phenylpropanolamine, frequently prescribed for treating urinary incontinence/dribbling in dogs, that was more than 50 times the recommended dose of the drug. The dog experienced anxiety, oral ulcerations, heart abnormalities, muscle damage, retinal detachment in both eyes, and elevated blood pressure. Only aggressive medical therapy saved the dog’s life.
Other common sources of poisons
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Poison Control Center says human and veterinary prescription drugs and human over-the-counter drugs are three of the top 10 most common poisons. That said, even seemingly innocuous things can be poisonous to your pet. Things, such as:
- Foods containing garlic, onion, chocolate, avocado, grapes, raisins, alcohol, and the artificial sweetner in gum and mints, xylitol;
- Plants such as poinsettias, azaleas, rhododendrons, and the bulbs of tulips and daffodils; and
- Heavy metals found in pennies and paint (e.g., if your dog chewed a painted wall or ingested a child’s toy that contains high levels of lead)
Prior preparation prevents poor performance
Dogs and cats are like perpetual toddlers, and pet ownership is synonymous with parenthood. With that, you should always store chemicals and medications well out of reach of your pet, preferably in a locked cupboard. Ensure your dog does not eat garbage or other “debris” during walks, and conduct “ground checks” before turning your pet out in the yard.
Be certain to read the label before treating any pet (in multi-pet households) to ensure the correct medication is administered to the proper patient. It is also advisable to supervise elderly people taking their own medications in case they accidentally drop one or more pills.
Time is of the essence
If you know your pet ingested something they shouldn’t have, it is not advisable to either take a “wait-and-see” approach or try to treat your pet by yourself. Signs of toxicity are highly variable, depending on what exactly they ate, and can develop quickly. Treatment will also be highly dependent on what exactly your pet ingested.