Sometimes our pets can ingest items or substances that cause serious harm if not treated immediately. If you suspect your pet has ingested or come in contact with something toxic, bring your pet to VREC as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are key for a favorable prognosis in accidental ingestion and toxicity cases.
If possible, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435. They are a great resource for any animal poison-related emergencies and questions. Their staff are board-certified, have access to an extensive database of toxins, and are available 24/7/365. To save time and money, ask for your call’s case number so that we can access your file from the hospital. There is a fee for this service.
According to the ASPCA-APCC Hotline, the top pet toxin cases involve:
10. Gardening products (fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides)
9. Plants (indoor plants, outdoor plants, bouquets)
8. Insecticides (insect and pest poisons)
7. Rodentcides (mice and rat poisons)
6. Household items (paint, glue, cleaning supplies)
5. Veterinary products (such as pet medications)
4. Chocolate (baked goods, candy)
3. Food (such as xylitol, grapes/raisins, onions/garlic)
2. Human prescription medication
1. Over the counter medications (pain relievers, cold medicines, herbal supplements)
Lilies are gorgeous but are potentially fatal to cats. They are especially dangerous because all parts of the lily are toxic to a cat: the leaves, petals, pollen, stems, and even water in the vase has potential to cause harm. The actual toxin is unknown but it targets the kidneys and causes irreversible acute renal failure. Common toxic lilies to cats include tiger lilies, stargazer lilies, day lilies, all Asiatic lilies, Japanese show lilies, and Easter lilies (many accidental ingestions happen around the Easter holiday.) If you are uncertain if a lily is toxic, we recommend that you keep it out of your cat’s reach until you can contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.
The toxins from lilies are rapidly absorbed in a cat’s body after consumption and symptoms can start in as little as five minutes. During the first three hours common clinical signs include vomiting, anorexia, depression, and hypersalivation (excessive saliva production). Renal failure starts within 12 to 24 hours post-ingestion. At this phase, clinical signs are polyuria (increased urination), depression and anorexia. After 1 to 5 days after ingestion, dehydration, anuria (decreased or no urine production) and death usually occur. There is often a poor prognosis if therapy is not started within 18 hours of ingestion or if anuria (decreased or no urine production) develops. If a cat is not treated the prognosis is grave. Unfortunately, some cats that recover from acute toxicity can be prone to developing chronic kidney disease later in life.
Treatment involves decontamination such as inducing vomiting, gastric lavage, and administering activated charcoal with sorbitol. Cats are then started on aggressive fluid therapy (2-3x maintenance) for 48-72 hours. Gastroprotectants are also helpful (antiemetics, antacid, phosphate binders.)
Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute. It looks and tastes like sugar but contains less calories than sugar, a lower glycemic index, and has anti-cavity properties. Some common “sugar free” products containing xylitol are gums, candies, mints, toothpastes, and mouthwashes, but it can be in products like pudding, baked goods, home and beauty products, and peanut butter. Although xylitol can be considered a “healthy” sugar substitute in humans, it is toxic to dogs. Just a few small pieces of sugar-free gum can affect your dog within a matter of minutes.
Human and canine blood sugar levels are controlled by the pancreas’ ability to release insulin. Xylitol does not affect the release of insulin in humans, but triggers a canine to release a large dose of insulin, causing a spike in blood sugar. The spike can result in hypoglycemia (a dangerous drop in blood sugar). As little as 50mg of xylitol per pound of body weight can cause hypoglycemia, and its effects can begin to occur in as little as 10 minutes. Clinical symptoms develop rapidly – usually within the first 15-30 minutes after ingestion – and include vomiting, ataxia (lack of coordination), lethargy, tremors, seizures, vomiting, and coma. Untreated cases can develop liver failure in the days following the ingestion. The sooner a dog presenting with these symptoms is seen by a veterinary professional, the better the prognosis will be. If you suspect your dog has ingested any amount of xylitol, remain calm but do not hesitate to bring them to VREC immediately. There is no antidote for xylitol toxicity, but the prognosis is good for dogs that are treated quickly.
The best way to prevent accidental ingestion starts at the store. Look for xylitol in the ingredients of items for the home, especially if you purchase sugar-free items. It may be listed as a sugar alcohol or in the inactive ingredients section of the label. Keep all products that contain xylitol on a high shelf or secure the area with locks so pets cannot access them. If you keep gum or mints in your backpack/purse/briefcase, make sure they are secure enough that a curious pet cannot access the contents.
The ever-increasing prevalence of illicit drugs in our society can also affect our pets. If you suspect your pet has ingested an illicit drug, please do not hesitate to bring them in for evaluation and treatment. Do not delay. We understand there may be an aversion to seek care due to drug stigma or the fear of legal repercussions, but at VREC our goal is to provide care to your animal in its time of need regardless of the situation.
Because of the illegal nature of drugs, owners are often fearful of bringing their pet to a medical facility due to legal repercussions. By withholding information due to a misplaced fear of criminal charges, your pet’s diagnosis and appropriate treatment will be delayed. Few veterinarians care about the illegal aspects of drugs; their goal is to treat the pet to the best of their abilities. In suspected cases of exposure to illicit drugs, an attempt should be made to provide the staff with information about the animal’s environment, amount of exposure, time of onset of clinical signs, and their type and duration. By withholding information due to a misplaced fear of criminal charges, your pet’s diagnosis and treatment will be delayed. Without honesty, your pet may be subject to more tests or suffer effects for a longer time. The prognosis for treating pets who have come in contact with illicit drugs is greatly improved the sooner proper treatment begins.