Discovering that a beloved pet may have ingested a poisonous substance is the stuff of nightmares. It’s easy to panic in such a situation, but calm minds are indispensable when it comes to saving a life. If you want to be certain that you will remain clear headed in an emergency, then it is advisable to prepare in advance of such a situation occurring.
When you are prepared for the worst, then you have the peace of mind of knowing that you can cope with potentially catastrophic circumstances. What’s more, you’ll be able to react productively and efficiently. Rather than wringing your hands and wondering what to do, you’ll be able to take action. Since minutes or an hour can make a tremendous difference in the survivability of a poisoning episode, that quick action can be the key to a positive outcome. Prepare yourself and your family members if you want to improve your odds of saving your pet’s life.
What To Do When You Suspect Poisoning
If you find your pet with a potentially toxic substance, immediately remove him from the area. Consider sequestering him in another room that you know is safe. This prevents him from ingesting any more of the toxic substance. Observe him for a moment or two, or ask a family member to stay with him, to ensure that your pet is acting and breathing relatively normally. Then, go back to collect a sample of the poisonous substance in a plastic bag. Gather any packaging that may have come with the substance too. In the event that you have to take your pet to the veterinarian, this will be vital evidence.
If your pet vomits, take a sample of this as well in a plastic bag. Once again, this may prove helpful in the event of a vet visit. Even if your dog or cat appears to be feeling fine and behaving normally, you’ll want to keep samples of what you believe he ingested. Sometimes, the symptoms of poisoning do not manifest for hours or even days after ingestion. Your pet’s normal behavior should not prevent you from taking further steps to ensure his health.
It is imperative that you not try to administer any home remedies, nor is it advisable for you to try to induce vomiting. These measures often don’t work, and sometimes they make the situation even more hazardous for your pet. It is far better to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680. Either of these help lines operate on a 24/7 basis and are staffed by pet poison experts who can help you to determine how you should treat ingestion of the specific toxin involved. Additionally, they can reliably recommend whether or not you should seek the immediate attention of your vet or a local emergency veterinarian hospital.
Information to Give to Help Line Workers
Once on the phone with a help line professional, you’ll be asked a series of important questions. Be prepared to describe your pet’s age, breed, species and weight. Also, disclose how many animals may have been involved in the incident. The call center worker will ask you to describe any symptoms your pet is exhibiting, if any. As a trained toxicologist, the help line professional will be able to determine how serious the situation may be from this description. You’ll also be asked to identify the poisonous substance, so it will be helpful to have any packaging with you if you’re asked to read a list of ingredients or other information. Try to be as specific as you can about how much you think your pet may have ingested and how long ago the exposure occurred. The poison control expert may advise you regarding how to treat your pet or recommend taking your animal to a local veterinary office.
In fact, if your pet is already exhibiting troubling symptoms like seizures, difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness, forego the call to a poison control center. Call your vet or local emergency hospital to warn them that you are on the way with a potentially poisoned pet.
Make an Emergency First-Aid Kit
When you call a poison control center, you may be advised to administer certain home remedies to counteract the toxic substance that was ingested. Accordingly, it’s wise to have a basic first-aid kit on hand. This kit can also contain components that will be helpful in the case of other emergencies.
Place the kit in an area that’s easy to locate, and make certain that all family members are aware of it. Include a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which can be used to induce vomiting if this is recommended by a poison control center worker. Usually, a large medicine syringe or a turkey baster is the best way to administer this remedy. Consider also including a saline eye cleanser and artificial tear gel to help your pet when a foreign substance gets into his eyes. A small set of forceps for removing stingers, a muzzle and a mild dishwashing liquid for cleansing away skin contaminants are also recommended. With this first-aid kit ready to go, you’ll be far better prepared to handle a medical emergency.
Inform Yourself About Emergency Care
No one wants to think that an accident will befall their beloved pet. However, refusing to consider that bad things can happen has a way of making an unfortunate situation even worse. The more fully you prepare yourself for the eventuality that something tragic or at least frightening could occur, the better and more effectively you’ll be able to react, and that could mean the difference between life and death.
Have a talk with your veterinarian about what kinds of 24-hour, emergency pet care are available in your local area. It may be that your vet’s office is available on that kind of basis. If not, it’s best to know about that beforehand so that you’ll know who to call or where to go in the middle of the night when the unthinkable happens. Program the number for animal poison control centers and local emergency vet services into your phone now so that you’ll be able to easily locate them in a serious situation. Place the name, address and phone number of the emergency vet clinic on your refrigerator too so that other family members have immediate access to it.
When to Seek Emergency Care from a Vet
Some signs and symptoms are so serious that they need to be immediately reviewed by a veterinarian. Look for things like partial paralysis, loss of consciousness, difficulty standing, rapid breathing, seizures and temperature variations to gauge when a veterinarian’s attention is required. It may be helpful to call the vet’s office before leaving or from the car so that they can be prepared to see your pet as soon as you arrive. Try to describe any symptoms and whether or not you suspect poison as clearly and calmly as possible. Bring along any samples you collected and any relevant packaging.
Beware of Common Pet Poisons
Unfortunately, it is often common, everyday items that prove to be toxic to our pets. Things that you may use to relieve pain or clean your home may seem ordinary and benign, but they may not be so helpful when our pets accidentally ingest them. When you are aware of some of the common household products that are toxic to pets, you’ll be better able to protect dogs and cats against poisoning.
Statistics suggest that prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the most common toxins ingested by pets. Something as simple and widely used as acetaminophen can be extremely harmful to dogs and cats. Pets have also been known to overdose on their own medications, especially the varieties that are flavored to make them more palatable. For this reason, it is recommended that pet parents store all medications in closed cupboard that are above the level of the countertop. Medications and pills of all descriptions should be never be left out on a countertop or table where pets could potentially access them. Trouble can also arise when people try to give their pets a human medicine. Never do so unless this is being done under the guidance of a veterinarian.
Insecticides can also be dangerous to your pets. Some of these are flea and tick treatments that are designed to protect animals. However, when pets gain unsupervised access to these products, a medical emergency can occur. This is also true in regard to the insecticides that are used in the house and around the yard. Always read the labels of such products carefully before using them, and always take care to use them in strict adherence with the instructions. Store any unused supplies well out of the reach of animals.
Similarly, chemical baits that are used to control rodents and other pests may be harmful to companion animals. These products should never be stored where pets can access them, and they should only be used in accordance with instructions. They should never be applied to any areas of the house or yard where pets may be able to get into them.
A surprisingly long list of indoor and outdoor plants may also be poisonous to animals. Popular indoor plants like the dieffenbachia can cause drooling, mouth pain, vomiting and loss of appetite. Exposure is generally not fatal, but it is most definitely unpleasant. Lilies are particularly dangerous to cats, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, seizures and even death. Azaleas may be beautiful, but they are also toxic to dogs and cats. With symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, blindness, seizures and coma, it’s important to prevent animals from ingesting these plants. Many other common plants like rhododendron, poinsettias, and marigold can also be harmful to pets. It makes sense to supervise pets while they explore your yard and to choose plants for your house and yard that are less likely to be harmful to companion animals. Keeping pets out of potentially toxic plants is yet another good reason for keeping dogs leashed while out and about in parks and forests.
Household cleaners can also be especially dangerous to pets. Detergents can be hazardous to both dogs and cats, causing them difficulty breathing, lethargy, mouth burns and vomiting. Contact with or ingestion of disinfectants, bleaches and other cleaners can lead to respiratory problems and gastrointestinal distress. For this reason, all cleaning products should be stored well out of the reach of curious animals.
Sometimes, it is the foods that people commonly eat that are among the most toxic substances that our pets may be exposed to. It’s never a good idea to allow pets to consume any type of alcoholic beverages. Similarly, chocolate and coffee are not advisable as pet foods. Macadamia nuts, onions, grapes and garlic can all cause significant issues. Avoid giving your pets any of these foods. If they are ingested, then it may be necessary to consider a call to the poison control center or your veterinarian.
As seasons change and the holidays arrive, the dangers to which your pets are exposed may change too. Christmas and winter can be especially hazardous times. Tinsel, Christmas tree water, electrical cords and batteries are all dangerous when ingested or chewed on by companion animals. Consider using something other than tinsel and getting an artificial tree to protect pets. Keep electrical cords and batteries out of the reach of animals.
The cold weather also means the use of chemical de-icers and antifreeze. Both substances can be extremely harmful if ingested by pets. After playing or walking in the snow, thoroughly wipe down your pet’s legs, feet and belly to prevent them from ingesting chemical ice-melting products. Securely store antifreeze and clean up any spills to prevent ingestion.
Even the warm weather of summer can bring certain dangers. It’s important to only use sun protection and insect repellant products that are designed specifically for pets. Products designed for humans can actually be harmful. Citronella candles, lighter fluid and matches should be kept well out of reach of companion animals at all times. Following these summer guidelines ensures that everyone has fun at the barbecue or the beach.
Take Action Now
Knowing the basic things you have to do to protect your pets from poisoning is an excellent place to start. Now is the time to put these tips into action at your house. If you do, then you will be able to react productively and efficiently should an emergency ever arise. You just might save your beloved pet’s life.