Poisons and our pets

Poisons and our pets

Several weeks ago, my neighbours asked me to have a look at their cat. She was unsettled, hiding away and covered in dried mud. She had no apparent injuries so we concluded she’d probably been fighting with another cat and hopefully would be back to normal shortly.

I went home and that evening my cat, as usual, jumped onto my lap. He too was covered in mud… I embarrassingly confessed to my cat being the ‘the other cat’ the next day.

Cat fights can leave very painful and sometimes infected wounds which warrant emergency treatment on occasion, following on from last months article on common emergencies, this month we will focus on common poisonings.

Dog owners are becoming increasingly aware of the risk chocolate poses but it is worth remembering that dark chocolate in particular contains high amounts of the toxin Theobromine. Dogs metabolise this far more slowly than humans with the common side effects being vomiting and diarrhoea. Excitement, hyperactivity and on rare occasions, seizures have also been reported. Do not underestimate a dog’s ability to unwrap a box of chocolates, open a cupboard and even fell a Christmas tree to get to the dangling chocolate treats!

Other potentially fatal food sources are grapes and raisins. Even small amounts can cause kidney failure. The mechanism of action has yet to be identified but even if you even suspect your dog has eaten these, contact your veterinary surgery immediately as prompt treatment can literally save your pets life. Remember that Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies all contain raisins and other dried fruit.

Lilies can be lethal to cats. If you are given Lilies and own a cat, as the flowers open pick out the orange stamens as these are the toxic parts of the plant but unfortunately also the most appealing.

Ibuprofen is extremely toxic to both dogs and cats, causing ulceration of the stomach and intestines followed by kidney failure in severe cases. I once had a cat owner’s boyfriend give their cat an Ibuprofen, the cat deteriorated so he gave it another! The cat presented to us vomiting, collapsed and in kidney failure. After several days of intensive care the cat thankfully made a full recovery and was returned to a very grateful owner.

Paracetamol can kill cats, they cannot metabolise it causing liver failure. Do not allow your pet access to any medication other than those prescribed by your veterinary surgeon.

The Allium family (garlic, onions, etc.) can cause a certain type of Anaemia in dogs. Garlic is the most toxic and certain breeds such as Akita’s are also more prone to its effects. I often have this discussion with owners as garlic is a natural anti-parasitic and although many people use this in their pets with no adverse effects, my advice would be to avoid it as there are other safer options available.

Rat baits traditionally work as long acting anticoagulants causing fatal spontaneous bleeding. Over the years they have been made safer with animals required to ingest large amounts to achieve a toxic dose. However, they are still toxic so avoid them at all costs and contact your vets immediately if you are suspicious of ingestion with the name of the product and active ingredient to hand.

One of the newer toxins more recently discovered is Xylitol. It is found in chewing gum, artificial sweeteners and toothpastes. Small amounts can cause a life threatening low blood sugar level but larger amounts can cause liver necrosis and failure. This is not a naturally appealing group of foods to dogs but worth being aware of.

Toxin ingestion always seems to be more common  over the festive period so please remember to take precautions around your pets. We hope you’ve had a merry Christmas and wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.


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