Feb 20, 2002, 9:24 AM
Post #1 of 1
Dogs may have access to poisons both inside and outside of the home. Some of these include plants, foods, herbicides, pesticides, mouse poisons, medications, metals, and cleaning supplies. Learn how to protect your dog from these dangers and what to do if you think your dog is poisoned.
Emergencies & First Aid # Poisonous Household Items
- Chocolate: Is it Really Poisonous?
- Lead Poisoning
- Plants Which Are Potentially Poisonous
Chocolate: Is it Really Poisonous?
Face it, most dogs love chocolate. And, because we love chocolate too, we have probably contributed to our pets' taste for this treat. But for dogs, this 'treat' can be deadly.
Chocolate toxicity is one of the most common 'poisonings' we see in veterinary clinics, especially during the busy holiday season (and Valentine's Day). We know to keep that chocolate box especially for guests or that gift box of chocolates out of Fido's or Fluffy's reach. But it is easy to overlook holiday baking with its more deadly chocolate forms – semisweet chips and baking chocolate.
Some dogs tolerate chocolate better than others. Although the toxic dosage varies from animal to animal, everyone agrees that chocolate contains a lethal ingredient, a methylxanthine called theobromine, and that baking chocolate contains 10 times more of this lethal ingredient than milk chocolate.
Theobromine acts on four areas of your dog's body:
- It increases the rate and force of contractions of the heart.
- It acts as a diuretic, causing your pet to lose body fluids.
- It affects the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting and diarrhea and it may cause stomach ulcers.
- It acts on the nervous system, causing convulsions, seizures, and sometimes, death.
If you find that your dog has ingested some chocolate, call your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. They will probably ask you the size of your dog, the type and quantity of chocolate your dog has eaten, and how long ago it was eaten. Try to have these answers before you call. They then may tell you to make your dog vomit. This will depend on the amount of chocolate ingested and how long ago it was eaten. If your veterinarian or emergency clinic determine that your dog needs to come into the hospital, do not delay. The effects of chocolate toxicity may not be apparent right away, but do not let that lull you into a false sense of security.
Lead poisoning occurs when the concentration of lead in the dog's blood reaches levels that start to cause symptoms. This will occur more commonly in dogs who ingest lead-based paint chips or dust during the remodeling of older homes. It can also occur when dogs eat items that contain lead such as toys, drapery weights, fishing weights, lead shot, and tile. Some types of insulation can also cause lead poisoning if ingested. Water from lead pipes can carry lead with it, as can water offered in improperly glazed ceramic bowls. Usually the symptoms are observed after the dog ingests enough lead over a short period of time, such as licking lead-based paint dust from the haircoat over a day or two. However, low amounts eaten over a longer time can also build up in the body.
Lead affects many body organs especially the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the nervous system. Symptoms include lack of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation then diarrhea, chomping of jaws, blindness, seizures, muscle spasms, behavior changes, circling, and incoordination.
An initial diagnosis is made based on history of exposure to lead, clinical signs, and response to specific treatments. Lead poisoning should be considered a possibility any time an animal (or human for that matter) shows both GI tract and nervous system signs. Examining the blood under the microscope may show abnormalities of the red blood cells, although this is not a definitive diagnostic test. The definitive diagnostic test is checking the lead concentration level in the blood. If the dog has died, the lead concentration level in the liver can be measured and provide the diagnosis.
Treatment is aimed at removing any remaining lead from the GI tract by inducing vomiting, if the exposure is very recent, or through surgery, if indicated. Symptoms such as seizures and vomiting are also treated as necessary. The specific therapy for lead poisoning is chelation therapy with Ca2Na2EDTA. Other treatments include penicillamine or thiamine. After treatment, another blood lead level should be taken to verify that the level has returned to the normal range.
Prevention is aimed at keeping the dog from ingesting lead. For example, if you are remodeling and the paint contains lead, the dog should not be allowed in the area, and appropriate precautions should be taken to prevent human exposure (contact your local public health agency for more information). Lead paint chips and dust can be ingested by the dog if he licks his haircoat that has the dust on it. Any lead-containing item that may be ingested should be out of reach of pets (and children). If one pet in the house develops lead poisoning, it is a good idea to test the blood lead level in all pets and people in the household, especially small children.
Plants Which Are Potentially Poisonous
Pets, especially puppies and kittens, tend to explore their world by putting everything in their mouth. This may help them learn about their environment, but it can also be harmful. Many plants are dangerous. Some may cause vomiting or diarrhea while others may cause organ failure and death. Pet owners should seriously take the responsibility of keeping pets away from dangerous plants.
The following is a list of some of the more common poisonous plants. This is not an all-inclusive list. The same plant may also have different common names depending on the area of the country in which one resides. Every pet owner should know what plants are in and around his/her house.
If you think your pet has chewed on or eaten one of these plants, please contact your veterinarian, animal emergency clinic, or the poison control center for advice.
Bird of Paradise
Cherry (seeds, wilting leaves, and pit)
Crown of Thorns
Fruit Salad Plant
Jack in the Pulpit
Lily of the Valley
Marigold (Marsh Marigold)
Oak Tree (buds and acorns)
Peach (wilting leaves and pits)
Potato (all green parts)
Snow on the Mountain
Star of Bethlehem
Swiss Cheese Plant
Tomato Plant (entire plant except ripe fruit)
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