Poisoning – Thousands Of Substances Are Harmful To Your Pets

By Joe Musielak, DVM

Poisons or toxins refer to any substance that has a potentially harmful effect on an organism.

We see pets on a weekly basis that have been accidentally exposed to harmful substances.

Thankfully we see very few intentional poisonings. For every major body system there are literally hundreds of toxins. Unfortunately there are only a handful that have actual antidotes. Even though TV shows and movies would have you believe otherwise.

Treatments for most poisons rely on supportive care, minimizing further absorption and trying to get the body to expel the toxins and their breakdown products as rapidly as possible.

To determine which toxin your pet has been exposed to we dramatically need to narrow the field. The toxicology database contains thousands of substances that are harmful to domestic animals. You and your family are often the best source of information as to what your pet may have been exposed to. You know what you have in your home and on your property; we don’t have access to that information.  We greatly appreciate your honesty in this matter. Additionally many diseases can produce symptoms that resemble those produced by poisoning.

A recent article in the Journal: Compendium, Continuing Education for Veterinarians, listed the 5 most common toxins in small animal as: Chocolate, antifreeze, rat poison, slug bait and marijuana. Of these five toxins only two of them have antidotes. The other three are treated by supportive and symptomatic care, minimizing absorption and increasing the rate of elimination from the body.

Antifreeze and rat poison have antidotes if caughtEARLY enough. Remember, poisons damage the body, if the damage is too severe or has been going on for too long the initial cause becomes a moot point for that particular pet.

We can submit samples for testing to determine which toxin your pet has been exposed to. It is highly recommended that we do so to prevent future exposure. The necessary testing can require days to weeks. Certain toxins can be detected in vomit, feces, urine or blood. Other toxins require samples of tissues from the affected animal.  Since there are so many possible toxic agents we need your help to determine which group of toxins to request for testing. With the size of our smaller patients they may not have enough blood or other tissues to spare to search through ALL the likely toxins.