How to Avoid, and React, to Pet Poisoning

Recently we fielded an emergency phone call from a dog owner. She was worried because when she arrived home from work she found that her dog had consumed half a jar of Nutella. The 13-ounce jar was tipped on its side on the floor bearing all the signs of a canine lick-fest.

Knowing how panicked the owner must be I wanted to quickly figure out if her dog had eaten a toxic dose. With chocolate, it can be tough. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa per ounce than milk and a chocolate spread? Nutella has how much cocoa in it?

Googling Nutella did absolutely nothing to tell me how much cocoa was in the product. The ingredient that causes the bad side effects is methylxanthine. I hopped on my Veterinary Information network and found a posting by an ER vet who knew that European Nutella has 8.5 % cocoa or 8.5 grams per 100 grams of product and the US Nutella had 7.0 grams.

Going with the worst-case scenario, the calculations began. After triple checking my math it turned out the pup had eaten 450 mg of cocoa or ½ the potentially lethal dose. A dose in this range could cause a racing heart and nervous tremors. A lethal dose could cause seizures and cardiac arrest. Her pup was showing no symptoms but to be cautious we advised that he be examined. Since he had eaten the chocolate sometime during the day the toxin had already been absorbed and inducing vomiting was not on the table. He did well when treated with fluids and activated charcoal.

If you ever have a poisoning emergency there is a hotline you can call ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888- 426-4435. ASPCA Poison Control fielded 180,000 calls in 2012. What were the top Ten poison “hits of 2012”?

1. Prescription Human medications
2. Toxins
3. OTC human meds
4. Veterinary medication
5. Household products
6. People food
7. Chocolate
8. Plants
9. Rodenticides
10. Garden and lawn products

Note that 30% of the poisonings were due to human or veterinary medications. If people food and chocolate were combined it would rise to #3 on the poison list.75% of the poisonings was dogs and 11%-25% of them were cats. The 3’rd species called about is rabbits and 4’Th is birds.

There are increased poisonings in the spring and summer months when people are using chemicals outdoors and a spike on Easter and Christmas when chocolate and lilies are around in abundance. Variations in types of call occur based on geographic location. The south tends to call in more toad poisonings

70-90% of incidents were due to ingestion of a toxin. Toxins can also inhaled and come into contact with the skin. It is easy to mix up your human pill containers with the pet containers. Sometimes the human gets the dog pill and the dog gets the human pill. Unfortunately, dogs will get into owner’s illegal drugs and overdose on those.

Of the 180,000 poisonings, 58% of the pets had no symptoms, 22% had mild symptoms 7% had moderate to severe symptoms and 3% died. 10% could not be followed up.

What should you do if your pet eats something it shouldn’t? Don’t wait. Immediately call the poison control center or your vet. Your vet will determine if your pet needs to have its stomach emptied based on the type of toxin and how long your pet has been exposed. If your veterinarian is not available call the emergency veterinary center near you. Inducing vomiting can be extremely dangerous if your pet has ingested a caustic chemical. Don’t guess or depend on Doctor Google to treat your pet. Up to 60% of the medical information on the web can be wrong. Most importantly do not wait to see what happens. Get information and medical assistance immediately. If your pet has ingested antifreeze every minute counts before kidney failure sets in.

Just one ibuprofen can cause gastric ulcer bleeding and even perforation of the stomach. If and your veterinarian act quickly you will have a greatly increased chance of saving your pet’s life. For emergency veterinary services in Salem, MA, contact All Creatures Veterinary Hospital.