Take Steps to Prevent a Pet Poisoning Today

As an ER veterinarian, interesting cases are never in short supply. Some are tragic, some are heroic, but there’s never a dull day. Poisoning is a common reason for pets to make a trip to their local veterinary ER. In this blog post, I’ll discuss and give you tips on:

  • Some of the more common poisonings that pets encounter
  • How to pet safe your home
  • How to prevent your pet from encountering a toxin and becoming one of those sad statistics

A poisoned pet can look like anything. The signs they show can vary with the toxin, as can the treatment, cost and prognosis. Luckily, malicious or intentional poisonings are very rare, and it’s the curious nature of pets that lands them in trouble, rather than someone seeking to do deliberate harm to them.

If your pet isn’t acting right and you think a poisoning is possible — don’t delay. See your veterinarian right away and contact an animal poison control center on the way to start the process of getting them better (some contact information is listed at the end).

Here’s a list of some common poisons, the signs that pets show and estimated costs associated with treating them.

Toxin                     Signs & Info       Treatment Costs                                    
Antifreeze Causes kidney failure — vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite. Fatal in 12-24 hours in most cases. Tests for exposure available. Nearly 100% fatal in cats. IV fluids, antidote (known as 4-MP), dialysis in severe cases. Antidote not available in all places. $200-$20,000 (if dialysis needed). Most are $200-$1,000 and require 2-4 days in the hospital with 24-hour care.
Chocolate Tremors, restlessness, vomiting/diarrhea. Dark chocolate more serious than mild chocolate, baking chocolate worst of all. Signs seen with ingestion of about 1lb milk chocolate for a 40-lb. dog. Induction of vomiting if found within 2 hours of exposure. For dogs with symptoms, IV fluids and sedatives help until eliminated (usually 12-24 hours). $200-$300 for exposure only or mild signs, $400-$2,000 for severe cases that require hospitalization and medication.
Rat Poison Causes bleeding — signs can be visible/external or internal. Blood in stool or urine, bloody nose or blood in body cavity, brain or joints. Signs delayed for 2-5 days after exposure. Blood clotting time test available to confirm exposure. Blood or plasma transfusions, vitamin K (antidote), oxygen if severe. Due to long duration of action, vitamin K is given for 30 days. $200-$300 for exposure decontamination only. If showing signs/bleeding, $800-$2,500 for transfusions and supportive care.
Snail/Slug Bait Tremors and seizures, elevated body temperature. IV fluids, sedatives, muscle relaxers. $200-$300 for exposure decontamination only. Severe cases $500-$2,000.
Grapes/Raisins Similar to antifreeze. Unknown substance causes kidney failure. Not all grapes are toxic, but unknown how to tell which are safe. IV fluids, dialysis in severe cases. $200-$300 for exposure decontamination only. $200-$20,000 (if dialysis needed). Most are $200-$1000 and require 2-4 days in the hospital with 24-hour care.
Xylitol (artificial sweetener found in gum and candy) Acts like insulin to cause severely low blood sugar and liver damage in some cases. IV fluids, intensive care to keep sugar levels normal, possibly medication for liver injury. $200-$300 for exposure decontamination only. If showing signs, $800-$2,500 for transfusions and supportive care.
Prescription medications Various — lethargy, seizures, vomiting. Highly dependent on which medication ingested. General supportive and symptomatic care, lab tests to assess organ function. Highly variable: $200 to $1,500 for most cases, much higher if advanced care like a ventilator is needed.

Prevention is key for most of these toxins. Make sure your medications are out of reach and in child-safe containers. Pick up spilled medications quickly. Never give your medications (whether prescription or OTC) to your pet, and never give one pet’s medication to another without the OK of a veterinarian.

Make sure all cleaning products and chemicals are in sealed containers and out of reach of pets (and kids, too). Pets, and dogs in particular, are like eternal toddlers — they never grow up. Their natural curiosity about the world, and tendency to consider all things edible until proven otherwise, means they are always exploring and always at risk. As their guardians and protectors, it is up to us to keep them safe from harm and make sure all chemicals and medications are secure.

If you’re worried that you pet consumed something poisonous, don’t hesitate to call one of these pet poison control centers:

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