Pets in danger of medication poisoning
Pets can get extremely ill if they ingest medications that belong to their owners. Human foods and household products can also be toxic.
Veterinarian Dr. Daniel Murphy said pets have broken into Tylenol bottles. Tylenol can be a liver toxin and can kill a dog or a cat pretty quickly, he said.
Pets have also gotten into people’s anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and other prescriptions, Murphy said.
Veterinarian Dr. Jane Doyle recently had a case where a dog broke open their owner’s bottle of prescription pills and ate some.
If an owner sees their pet ingest something, they need to call their veterinarian right away, Doyle said. If a pet is sick and they’re not sure if they have eaten something toxic, they need to take the animal
to the vet.
It’s better to err on the side of caution, Doyle said.
“If you wait, it could get too late,” she said of a possible pet poisoning.
Murphy advised pet owners to call the emergency veterinary clinics in Hagerstown or Winchester if it’s after hours and they think their pet has eaten something toxic. They can also contact the national Animal Poison Control Center Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680.
Don’t play doctor
Doyle said one of the biggest problems she has seen is people giving their pets medications that are not prescribed.
“This becomes very dangerous, especially for cats,” Doyle said.
Cats are far more sensitive than other species and don’t process the medication in the same way. Doyle cautioned against pet owners playing doctor.
“Get your prescriptions from a vet,” she advised.
Doyle said she’s seen problems with medications from the vet being given
inappropriately, like topical flea medication for dogs being mistakenly put on cats by owners.
“It can be pretty severe. Cats are not small dogs,” she said.
Pet poisoning can result from improper feeding or accidental ingestion, Murphy said. Symptoms of poisoning can differ depending on what an animal has ingested.
Lack of appetite, weakness, vomiting,
diarrhea, tremors and incoordination could all be signs of poisoning or another illness, he said.
People need to pet-proof their homes, just as new parents do for a baby, Murphy said. Look at all the things pets could eat, whether plants, chemicals or foreign bodies, and keep them out of reach.
Check lower cabinets for things like caustic drain cleaners. Don’t leave medications where a pet could get them, he urged.
“People are careless and a pet may be drawn to the smell or taste or by inquisitiveness,” Murphy said.
At holidays, cats chew on ornamental plants like poinsettias and lilies. Problems can range from skin irritation to acute toxicity, he said.
Outside pets can travel through yards with insecticides and get some on their paws or fur and ingest it, Murphy said. He encouraged owners to keep their pets reined in.
Murphy cautioned about the dangers of antifreeze poisoning. Dogs and cats are attracted to antifreeze because of its sweetness and will drink it. It destroys their kidneys very quickly, he said. There are some treatments if the poisoning is caught in the early stages.
Murphy said he’s had many calls about pets ingesting rat and mouse poisons. Substances like D-Con have a flavor and can be incredibly lethal for a dog or cat if they eat it, he said.
They contain warfarin, an anti-blood clotter, and could cause an animal to bleed internally. Staff is trained on getting owners to induce vomiting in their pet, Murphy said.
Some cleaning products are toxic to pets, especially for sensitive animals. An animal can lie on a floor that has been cleaned and lick itself or lick the floor, Doyle said.
Chocolate, grapes and onions are toxic to dogs and cats. Murphy has seen chocolate poisoning. They should also not be fed chicken bones, ham bones and table scraps, he said. Pets need to have a balanced food diet.
Murphy said he has seen a tremendous increase in food allergies and skin diseases in dogs and cats with lots of itching and scratching. It’s a reaction to proteins in the foods that trigger allergic responses. Murphy also sees lots of pets with airborne allergies to dust mites and molds.
Doyle recommended feeding pets high-quality nutritious food. She said her patients do really well on fresh whole foods. Doyle advised that canned tuna shouldn’t be given to a cat or a dog more than once a week because of the mercury.