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Toxic Substances

February 28, 2015

Our home and gardens can be very enjoyable places for us, however they can pose hidden threats to our pets. Common household items can be very toxic to our pets if ingested so taking regular inventory and supervising our pets is definitely a good idea!

We have previously covered the toxic foods that our pets may delve into and then regret their splurge, and most people know pesticides are a nasty idea for dinner. However what about the other household products that could play a feature role in what ails your pet? From that beautiful floral arrangement to the unattended medicine cabinet, things that bring us joy and relief can sometimes bring the polar opposite for our furry friends.

Below are listed some common pet toxins, however if your pet ingests something you are unsure of, ALWAYS call your vet. Having the packet or ingredient list in front of you is beneficial, as is knowing exactly when and how much was eaten.

PESTICIDES

We all hate those pesky critters that munch on the veggie garden or nibble at the cereal boxes, it's natural that we then want to take action action against these pests. Enter pesticides! Most people will use some form of pesticide at some point, and of those people a lot of them will have pets. It goes without saying that a product designed to cause bodily harm to the specified pests is undoubtedly going to be bad for your pet if ingested. There are many brands and types available but if we split up pesticides into two main categories; rodenticides and insecticides, it's easier to understand what these particular products are capable of.

Rodenticides tend to have quite a large variety but the most common rodenticides are anti-coagulants. Anti-coagulants affect the body by inhibiting blood clotting and Vitamin K production. Most unfortunately onset of symptoms is delayed with these toxicities, so you may not see a change in your pet for 2-3 days after ingestion. It is essential to act before we see symptoms! If you suspect your pet has ingested a rodenticide contact your veterinarian immediately, if it was ingested recently we are often able to remove the rodenticides from the system before the body absorbs it. Unfortunately as soon as soon as it is digested and the body absorbs the toxic substance it becomes harder to treat. If you were unaware or unsure if your pet has fallen victim to a rodenticide toxicity and you notice any of the following symptoms it is essential that you seek veterinary treatment immediately, lethargy, coughing and difficulty breathing, weakness, collapsing, pale or bleeding gums, vomiting, diarhoea, bloody urine, nose bleeds, swelling or bruising. There is a another form of rodenticide known as Bromethalin, this is a relatively newer type and is not an anti-coagulant! Bromethalin is a neurotoxin and causes cerebral edema (swelling in the brain) it has no known antidote. Again there is a delay in the onset of symptoms so it is important to seek treatment immediately if you think ingestion has occurred. Again once the body has absorbed the toxic substance and symptoms appear immediate, veterinary attention is required. Symptoms include, lethargy, decreased consciousness, ataxia (in-coordination or 'walking drunk'), abnormal pupil size, tremors or seizures symptoms have been observed to be more severe. Bromethalin toxicities in particular are fatal if left untreated, so with all rodenticides, treatment immediately after ingestion is important. If you have even the slightest suspicions that your pet has ingested a rodenticide contact your vet for treatment immediately, you should not wait for symptoms to appear.

Insecticides are different to rodenticides in that there is a rapid onset of symptoms after ingestion. The active ingredient varies from product to product and can produce slightly different symptoms, but should you suspect ingestion or observe any of the following symptoms contact your veterinarian immediately for life saving treatment. Symptoms include; nausea, vomiting (can sometimes be bloody), diarhoea, excessive drooling, lacrimation (tears), abdominal pain, pancreatitis, lethargy, difficulty breathing, hypothermia (low body temperature) or hyperthermia (high body temperature), tremors, seizures or a coma. If left untreated these toxicities are fatal so treatment is necessary and as with rodenticides immediately after ingestion is best.

With any sort of pesticides it is important when seeking treatment to know when, roughly how much and what exactly was ingested. The most accurate way of ensuring a correct identification is to bring the pesticide packet, a sample of the product or even just knowing the product name. It is important to know what the active ingredient is so we can either alert you of possible symptoms after the body has been cleared of the toxin or if the body has already absorbed the toxins what combative treatments are necessary.

MEDICATIONS

There are some medications used by both the veterinary and human medical profession, and similarities certainly do exist. However in saying that you should never give your pet any form of prescription or even over the counter medication unless under the advice and directed to do so by your veterinarian. Many medications can be harmful to our pets not just when taken to excess (overdose) some are harmful when given at all. If you suspect your pet may have helped themselves to your medicine cabinet it is important to contact your vet, letting them know the drug name, the strength and the quantity ingested, from there they will be able to assist you further and implement the necessary treatment plan.

CLEANING AGENTS/CHEMICALS

Many different products exist to brighten the bench and cut through the grime, and majority of them are caustic. So if ingested by our pets damage can certainly be done, prompt veterinary advice is needed. Knowing what product was ingested, what time and how much is important for your vet to know. It is imperative that you do NOT induce vomiting at home and seek veterinary attention immediately.

BRUNFELSIA

It's Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, and it's highly toxic. Also known as "Lady of the Night" or "Noon and Night" Brunfelsia contains two toxins, found in all parts of the plant: one is a stimulant (brunfelsamidine), the other toxic agent is a depressant (hopeanine) When ingested by either cats or dogs, severe signs can be seen, these include vomiting, anxious behaviour, coordination problems, tremors and seizures. It is essential that prompt veterinary attention is received.

LILIUMS

All forms of Liliums are highly toxic to cats, and lily toxicities can be fatal. All parts of the flower are toxic, so whether planted in your yard or sitting in a vase any sort of ingestion requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of lily ingestion include lethargy, depression and vomiting. If left untreated lily poisoning can lead to acute kidney or renal failure. If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of a lily contact your vet immediately.

Some other toxic or problem plants include:

• Anemone or windflower (A. coronaria)
• Bulbs (onions, plus all the spring-flowering favourites, such as daffodils, tulips, jonquils, and snowdrops)
Caladium bicolor (indoor foliage plant)
• Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis)
• Chalice vine (Solandra maxima)
• Cherry tree (Prunus serrulata)
• Clematis (the large-flowered hybrids)
• Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster glaucophylla)
• Cycads (seeds on female plants)
• Daffodils (Narcissus varieties)
• Daphne (various)
• Delphinums
• Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
• Dicentra (Dicentra spectabilis)
• Dieffenbachia
• Euphorbias (poinsettias, Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, etc)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Golden Robinia (R. pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’)
• Hellebore (Helleborus orientalis)
• Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
• Holly (Ilex varieties)
• Hydrangeas
• Iris
• Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
• Jasmine (not clear which ones)
• Lantana (L. camara, the common one)
• Lilac (Syringa varieties)
• Mountain laurel (Kalmia varieties)
• Mushrooms (not clear which ones)
• Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
• Oaks (Quercus varieties – the acorns are toxic to pets)
• Oleanders (Nerium oleander, Thevetia peruviana)
• Philodendron (many, it appears)
• Pine ((eg, savin, Juniperus sabina, also several others)
• Poinciana (not the tropical tree, but the shrub Caesalpinia pulcherrima)
• Potato plants and green potatoes
• Privet (Ligustrum varieties)
• Pyracantha (not clear which one)
• Rhododendron (including azaleas)
• Rhubarb (presumably the leaves)
• Snowdrops (Leucojum)
• Snowflakes (Leucojum)
• Strelitzia (not clear which one)
• Sweet peas
Solandra maxima (chalice vine)
Stephanotis (Madagascar jasmine) (consumption of the seed pods is especially deadly to dogs)
• Strelitzias (Strelitzia reginae, S. nicolai)
• Sweet peas
• Toadstools
• Tomato Plants
• Tulips
• Walnuts (mouldy nuts near the ground)
• Wisteria
• Yellow oleander (Thevetia peruviana)
• Yew (Taxus varieties)

For a complete list and possible symptoms you can visit the US Pet toxin website, or contact your veterinarian. It's always a good idea to check with your vet or landscaper before planting new plants to make sure they are pet friendly.

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