Rodenticide poisoning

Handling a Pet Toxin or Poisoning Emergency

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My pet just got into something he shouldn’t have. What should I do?

 

This could be the shortest blog post ever.  The answer:

1) Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.

2) If #1 is not possible, call Poison Control.     ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435

Perhaps you’ve been through a similar situation in the past. Perhaps your sister has. Perhaps your neighbor’s son’s friend worked in a veterinary practice for a few months three years ago. This is what we’ll tell you: Unless the advice you are given is the two steps above -- DON’T USE IT.

What your pet ate may be fine, and we get plenty of false alarms here. A call will never hurt, and is certainly quicker and more accurate than getting several dozen opinions from your friends, family, neighbors, and Dr. Google.

When you call, your vet (or Poison Control) will need to know:

• the name of the substance • the strength of the product if known (medication, chemical, etc.) • how much was consumed • how long since you think the consumption occurred • age, breed, and approximate weight of your pet

Can’t I just make my pet vomit?

No.

Do not give your pet any ‘antidotes’ unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian or poison control. Some substances will cause even more harm if you make your pet vomit. Some have even more risk if your pet inhales some of the substance while vomiting. Once, memorably, we encountered a substance that, when mixed with the stomach acid of the dog, could potentially have created a gas that was extremely dangerous to all of us in the hospital if we had released the gas by making the dog vomit. Some substances will need to be neutralized with specific antidotes that a veterinary hospital will have access and the tools to administer.

Here at VMC, poisonings and toxicities are what we deal with day in and day out. We are very comfortable handling these cases and are easily able to properly guide a pet owner through this process. While some cases are very routine and we know exactly what to do immediately, we commonly utilize the resources of Animal Poison Control. New products, drugs, and chemicals are created all the time, and so the potential toxins and combinations of toxins in common household items can change so rapidly. So can the antidotes and treatments. The ASCPA Animal Poison Control service stays current with the newest information that can make all the difference in saving a pet’s life.

WORTH REPEATING ONE MORE TIME: DO NOT MAKE YOUR PET VOMIT UNLESS YOU HAVE EXPLICIT INSTRUCTIONS FROM YOUR VETERINARIAN OR POISON CONTROL.

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Some general tips:

Be Honest. We know what a dog that ate marijuana looks like and acts like. We can run a whole bunch of tests that will tell us what we already suspect (and waste time and cost you money you don’t really need to spend), or you can just tell us the truth. It’s OK. We won’t judge. We just want to help your pet, and the sooner we can do that the better. And no, it is not, not, NOT OK to intentionally “share” with your pet. They do not react the same way to recreational drugs, and it is cruel to do that on purpose. Not funny. Not ever.

Drugs and Chemicals (rodent poisons, insecticides, antifreeze, recreational drugs, human pharmaceuticals) are potentially the most harmful poisons as they are often in a very concentrated form. Your pet may only need to consume a small amount for it to have a significant effect.

Cats tend to be more susceptible to poisons than dogs. Fortunately, cats are normally less likely to eat something unfamiliar. If toxic exposure does occur, cats may be more at risk, as their metabolism is less able to process many toxins (acetaminophen, permethrin, and plant poisons) that are somewhat less dangerous for dogs. Be aware that cats are at high risk for ingesting contaminants on their fur, however, due to their grooming habits.

The most common sources of toxins for pets, according to the ASPCA are: prescription and over-the-counter drugs (both human and pet drugs), insecticides and insect baits, common household plants, rodenticides and baits, and common household cleaners including bleach, detergents, and disinfectants. We see all of those problems at VMC, and would also add chocolate, xylitol, and recreational drugs to the list.

What should I include specifically for this in my pet's first-aid kit?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center experts recommend the following to keep on hand in case of toxins:

• Fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting) • Turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide) • Saline eye solution • Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing) • Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination) • Forceps (to remove stingers) • Muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting) • Can of your pet's favorite wet food • Pet carrier

Always consult a veterinarian or the APCC for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item. We also suggest that you keep the telephone number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888) 426-4435—as well as that of your local veterinarian in a prominent location.

Izzy's Story

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Izzy

Izzy was referred to the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York by her family veterinarian.  Izzy, a 3 year old otherwise healthy Yorkshire Terrier, had collapsed and was non-responsive by the time she arrived at her family veterinarian.   She was not breathing well, and her veterinarian quickly responded by placing a breathing tube and beginning assisted breathing with an ambu-bag.  Izzy’s heart rate was abnormally fast, and so IV fluids were also administered.  Because her family veterinarian knew Izzy needed specialty care, she was transferred to the Critical Care Service at the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY.  Izzy’s owners drove her here (an approximately 45 minute drive) with a tube in her airway.  Izzy was comatose and they were not sure that she would even survive the drive.

On arrival to the Veterinary Medical Center’s Critical Care Service, Izzy was immediately rushed to the ICU for evaluation and treatment.  She remained in a coma, with a fast heart rate and low blood pressure.  Her oxygen level was low, so she was given supplemental oxygen while a technician gave her breaths through an ambu-bag.  Tests were performed immediately while additional treatments were provided in order to improve Izzy’s condition.  An EKG showed a fast heart rate.  Blood pressure and oxygen levels were low.  Emergency blood work showed a low red blood cell level as well as a low protein level.  Izzy continued to receive IV fluids while her parameters were continuously monitored.  During this time a large swelling was noted on Izzy’s neck.  Further inspection of this swelling showed it was due to bleeding under the skin.  Izzy had also bled heavily from her IV catheter sites.  An ultrasound showed she was bleeding around her lungs, causing her lungs and airways to collapse.  This was deemed the cause of her difficulty breathing.

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Based on these findings she was immediately screened for anticoagulant rat poison toxicity, a toxin which causes life-threatening internal and external bleeding.  Her test results were highly suggestive of rat poison toxicity.  Izzy’s owners were informed of this and realized that there had been the potential for exposure to rat poison a few days prior to this incident.   Izzy immediately received treatment for this condition, which included a red blood cell transfusion, a plasma transfusion and Vitamin K injection.  She continued to be continuously monitored while a Critical Care specialist and a team of licensed veterinary technicians stood constantly by her side.  Over the next hour Izzy became responsive and able to breathe well on her own.  The breathing tube was removed, and her heart rate and blood pressure normalized.  Within 2 hours of treatment Izzy was up and going outside for walks!

Izzy remained hospitalized in the ICU for 48 hours to be closely monitored and receive supportive care.  During this time she made a steady recovery.   For the first 24 hours she remained in an oxygen cage to help support her breathing. Her heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, blood pressure and EKG were closely monitored.  Recheck blood work was performed to monitor her for internal bleeding.  She was eating and drinking well, and she was bright and alert (especially when her family came by for visits!).  Izzy was discharged 48 hours after presenting to the Veterinary Medical Center.  She was sent home with a 4 week course of treatment with Vitamin K.  A recheck evaluation performed 1 month later showed that Izzy made a complete recover and no further treatment was necessary.

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Recently the Veterinary Medical Center received these pictures of Izzy running through her yard, happy and healthy.  We are so grateful that Izzy has made a full recovery, and we wish her all the best!  Izzy is a very special patient of the CriticalCare Service, and she will never be forgotten!

So what made Izzy’s case so successful?  Not only did Izzy receive immediate care and treatment by her primary care veterinarian, but Izzy’s transfer to the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC) was an important step in her treatment.  At the VMC Izzy was directly cared for by board-certified specialists in Emergency and Critical Care.  The VMC is the only private hospital in central New York to have not only one, but two full-time Emergency and Critical Care Specialists, Dr. Maureen Luschini and Dr. Elise Craft.  Please refer to "What is Veterinary Critical Care"  or our website for more information.

Thanks to our Medical Director, Dr. Maureen Luschini, for summarizing Izzy's case for this post and some very special thanks to Izzy's family for allowing us to share her story!