Allow me to set up a scenario for you:
You are just getting home from work, or grocery shopping, or picking up the kids, or working outside… In any case, when you walk through the door you are met with a scene that no pet owner ever wishes to encounter: your dog or cat has gotten into something. If you are lucky, it is just a spilled pile of mail, or maybe a torn up pillow. But what if it’s not? What if they have gotten into some medications, household cleaners, or maybe even a box of chocolates?
Do you know what to do in a situation where you pet has potentially ingested something that could do them serious harm?
Each year, thousands of pets in North America suffer accidental ingestion of potentially deadly substances that have been found in and around their home. The key to saving your pet from an unintentional poisoning is education. In this blog, we will discuss how to prevent pet poisoning incidents and what to do if you believe that your pet has ingested something toxic.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
– Benjamin Franklin
The best way of saving yourself the headache (and potential heartache) of a pet accidentally ingesting something toxic is to be aware of what items within your home are poisonous to your animals and making sure that they are safely stored in a place that your dog or cat cannot get to.
A full list of substances toxic to dogs and cats can be found here, but the most common ingested items are:
- Mouse/Rat Poison and
- Onions and Garlic
- Tea Tree Oil
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Advil (ibuprofen)
Once you have familiarized yourself with what items in the home can be a potential danger to your pet(s), the next step is to do something about them. You need to eliminate your pet’s access to these items, which can be accomplished in a number of ways:
- Crate your pet when you are not able to supervise them.
- Make use of baby gates or other barriers to stop animals from entering areas where harmful items are kept.
- Store dangerous items in a locked cupboard, or out of reach entirely (even from counter-surfing animals) on a high shelf.
- Swap out the use of rodenticides and insecticides with traps but keep them far from your pet’s access. Don’t forget unwanted critters can track poisons to other locations around the home if they walk through them. Also, an avid mouser may potentially ingest mouse/rat poison if they catch the offender after it has been exposed.
- Keep the clutter to a minimum – meaning, remove any enticing items (ie. chocolates, scented lotions, flavoured medications) from counters and side tables.
- Invest in trashcans with a secured lid, or keep them behind closed cupboard doors or in inaccessible rooms.
- Clean up spills immediately (ie. antifreeze or de-icers in the garage, coffee grinds or table salt in the kitchen).
- Close toilet lids after use, especially if you use automatic toilet bowl cleaner in the tank, or stick-on pucks on the inside of the bowl.
- Eliminate toxic flowers from any bouquets or potted plants received and displayed.
- Hang your purse out of reach on a hook, or store in a closed closet.
- Keep pets off of lawns that have been sprayed with commercial herbicides.
It is always recommended that you have your pet’s information on-hand. This means an accurate description of your pet and their medical history available in case you, or anyone else, need to go to the nearest veterinary clinic in an emergency situation. Keep a folder handy that is clearly labelled and indicates the following:
- Pet’s Name, including the last name they are registered with. It is especially important to keep registered last names the same if you go to more than one clinic.
- Age, Sex and Breed/Species
- Up-to-date Weight
- List of any underlying Medical Conditions
- List of any Current Medications
It is also important to have necessary contact information readily available. This would include the name of your veterinarian and their clinic’s phone number and address, as well as an after-hours emergency clinic should you require assistance outside of regular business hours. The information for emergency services such as the Pet Poison Helpline would also be useful. Be sure to include all of your own contact information as well, in case it is a house-sitter or dog-walker that has encountered the emergency situation.
WHAT TO DO
Despite your best efforts the worst has happened – you suspect your pet has ingested something that they shouldn’t have and you are concerned that it could pose a serious health risk. There are a number of steps that you need to take, and you need to act fast. Time is a factor here, even if your pet is not yet displaying symptoms of poisoning. The sooner your pet is diagnosed, the sooner they can be treated and the better chance they have of being okay.
Tend to the Area
First things first, safely remove your pet from the immediate area in order to eliminate continued exposure to (or ingestion of) the potentially toxic material. Also remove any other pets or children that could be harmed by exposure to the substance in question. If possible, quarantine the area as you may not have time to adequately clean it in the moment.
Tend to the Animal
Next, check that your pet is safe. Make sure they are breathing and acting normally. Resist the temptation to give them any type of home remedy or to induce vomiting yourself. Either of these can be very dangerous and you may inadvertently cause more harm than good.
Contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately for further instructions (if you are travelling with your pet, be sure to research while you are making travel plans where the nearest veterinary clinic and emergency animal hospital are located). It would be prudent to be prepared with as much information as possible regarding the incident. This information will be dependent on the situation and the material ingested. Here is a basic guideline on what you may be asked about the material ingested:
- Plant – What is the name of the plant? Is it a houseplant, outdoor plant or weed? Which part of the plant was ingested (bulb, leaves, flowers, stem, fruit)? How much was consumed?
- Medication – What is the name of the drug? What is the milligram strength? How much of medication was potentially consumed (ie. how many tablets were in the bottle and how many are remaining)?
- Chemical – What is the brand name of the product? What are the active ingredients and concentration of those ingredients? What are the label warnings? How much was ingested (ie. what was the original weight of the product and how much remains)?
If you need to immediately go to a veterinarian and do not have time to contact them, be sure to collect up all the wrappers/packaging from the item and take them with you.
You will most likely also be asked about the scenario in which the material was consumed as well. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- How long ago did ingestion occur? If your pet was unattended when it happened, how long were they alone (thus how long ago could they have potentially gotten into the product)?
- Is your pet currently displaying any abnormal behaviour, such as pawing at their mouth, pacing, whining, drooling, etc.?
While these questions may be tough to answer, it is important that you do so calmly and to the best of your ability in order to receive the best guidance and care for your pet.
We hope that you will never have to refer to this guide, but if you do, here are some names and numbers that we feel you should always have accessible:
Snelgrove Veterinary Services (That’s us!)
11526 Hurontario Street, Brampton
Located on Hwy 10, South of Mayfield Road and North of Concervation Drive/Wanless Street
Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Brampton (After-hours clinic)
1 Wexford Drive, Unit 10, Brampton
Located in the Wexford Square Plaza, on Highway 10 just South of Bovaird Drive
Pet Poison Helpline (Open 24 hours)
Mississauga Oakville Veterinary Emergency Hospital (Open 24 hours)
2285 Bristol Circle, Oakville
404 Veterinary Emergency + Referral Hospital (Open 24 hours)
510 Harry Walker Parkway South, Newmarket
Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital (Open 24 hours)
21 Rolark Drive, Scarborough
Veterinary Emergency Clinic (South) (Open 24 hours)
920 Yonge Street, Suite 117, Toronto