It’s Pet Poison Awareness Month. Find out what to do if your pet is exposed to something toxic
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Rose chewed up a bottle of eye drops. Momo ate a silica gel packet labeled “Do not ingest.” Fizz ate a pack of sugar-free gum. Sophie ate a brownie. Polly ate a Flintstones chewable vitamin.
Dogs will try anything at least once -- and it’s not always easy to know whether a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.
That’s when it’s a good idea to call a pet poison hotline. Here’s what to know.
-- When to call. If you think your pet has gotten into something, don’t take a wait-and-see attitude. Renal failure can occur before you realize something’s wrong. Calling first can save you a trip to the vet or alert you to a serious situation.
Calling before you get to the clinic can also speed up things for your veterinarian. The poison control hotline will already have a case number set up for you, and your veterinarian or the emergency clinic can call back as often as needed at no additional charge. Remember that although veterinarians are well-trained in pet health care, they aren’t experts on all the poisons that can affect pets. That’s where veterinary toxicologists come in.
“Poison control will guide the treating veterinarian through treating the case and any complications that might arise,” says licensed veterinary technician Colleen Clemett.
-- What to have on hand. When you call, the poison control staff will need to know the following: pet age, weight, medical conditions, medication they’re on, what you know or think they got into and how much they may have ingested. You may be asked about behavior or symptoms, such as staggering or vomiting, or whether they could have been exposed to fertilizers, insecticides, snail bait or mouse, rat or gopher poisons. Having the packaging or container on hand is helpful, as Nancy Kerns discovered.
When a dog she was fostering ingested most of the contents of a bottle of prescription medication for a previous dog who had died, Kerns called the ASPCA poison control hotline. They helped walk her through the math of how many pills were remaining in the bottle and how many could have been in the bottle based on the date the prescription was picked up and the date of death of the dog who had previously been taking it. They determined that the foster dog did indeed need to get to the ER as quickly as possible, then helped the vet staff calculate the dosage of medication needed to reduce his blood pressure, which had spiked from the drug he had taken.
-- What not to do. It’s a common myth that vomiting should be induced if a pet ingests something toxic. It depends on the substance, as well as other factors, notes A.J. Jeffers, DVM, consulting toxicologist for the ASPCA, speaking on the ASPCA’s myths in toxicology podcast (aspcaanimalpoisoncontrolcenter.libsyn.com/2022/05) last May. Inducing vomiting is a bad idea if pets are brachycephalic (has a short nose, such as a bulldog, pug or Persian cat); have recently had surgery that required stitches; have heart disease or seizure disorders; or have swallowed sharp objects or caustic substances.
When you are advised to induce vomiting, it’s best to use a fresh, unopened bottle of hydrogen peroxide, Clemett says. That’s because once opened and exposed to air, hydrogen peroxide eventually breaks down to just plain water. A fresh bottle will do the best job at bubbling in the stomach, causing your pet to vomit, she says. Have a needleless syringe on hand as well to administer the hydrogen peroxide. The poison control staff can guide you if you’re not sure how to do it or how much to use.
-- Cost. There’s a fee, generally $75 to $85 (which covers follow-up calls as well). Have your credit card ready.
-- Money-saving tip. If you have pet health insurance or your pet’s microchip is registered, a poison control call may be covered or discounted. Check your policy.
Ensure the return
of your lost cat
Q: My cat lives strictly indoors. Does she really need to be microchipped or, for that matter, wear a collar and tag?
A: Short answer: Yes! It’s all too common for indoor cats to escape accidentally. Workers can leave a door open, or the door can close but not latch, allowing a curious cat to push it open. It’s amazing how quickly they can slip through an open door, become frightened and disappear.
A collar and tags are the first line of defense. They’re visible, and someone who finds your cat can look at them to get your phone number or address and contact you. We put our last name (not the cat’s name) on the collar, as well as our cellphone number. If there’s room, we include a work phone number or a landline.
But collars and tags can come off. With the feline ability to squeeze through tight spaces, it’s important to use a breakaway collar that will come off easily so your cat doesn’t get hung up on something and choke.
A microchip is the second line of defense if a cat gets out and is lost. Even if a collar and tag have come off, a microchip is permanent identification that can’t be removed. A microchip is tiny, about the size of a grain of rice. It lasts a cat’s lifetime and never needs recharging or replacement.
A microchip is implanted by your veterinarian, injected beneath the skin between the shoulder blades. This is often done when the cat or kitten is being spayed or neutered, but no sedation or anesthesia is required. The microchip emits a signal when activated by a scanning device, available at most veterinary clinics and shelters. Then you can be notified that your cat has been found. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
-- This month, celebrate canine veterans, puppies and cats. Military working dogs -- K-9 veterans -- serve as sentries, scouts and messengers; detect mines and explosives; seek out injured people; and search tunnels. Observe National K-9 Veterans Day on March 13 by sharing stories celebrating military dogs on social media. National Puppy Day on March 23 recognizes the love, laughter and licks we get from puppies. Give your puppy -- even if he’s all grown up -- a special treat to celebrate. And on March 28, show a little respect to your cat; after all, it’s Respect Your Cat Day. A new catnip-stuffed toy or a heated bed could be just the ticket to let your cats know just how much you love and respect them.
-- It’s not just your dog who needs heartworm protection. Cats and ferrets can be infected with the deadly parasites, too. Dogs can take monthly preventive to ensure that the worms don’t travel through their bloodstream and take up residence in the heart. No FDA-approved preventive product is available for cats, so protecting them from mosquitoes is important. The same is true for ferrets. Prevention includes using screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house, not leaving standing water outdoors where mosquitoes can breed, and changing pet water bowls frequently. Ask your veterinarian about other ways to protect pets from mosquitoes.
-- Many animal-related words in the English language lend color to our conversations. Two of our favorites refer to the way a dog’s appearance is applied to other objects. One of these terms is “dog-eared,” in use since about 1650, a description of a turned-down book page, folded over like a dog’s ear. A lovely wildflower, the dogtooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis), takes its name from long petals tapering to a point, which resemble a dog’s canine teeth, or fangs. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.