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Amphetamine Toxicity

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Amphetamines are available as prescription medications for humans. They are used as appetite suppressants and mood elevators as well as in the treatment for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Amphetamines can also be obtained as an illicit drug.

Pets are usually exposed to amphetamines by accident. A pill may be dropped accidentally and later your pet may find and eat it. Sometimes, amphetamines are intentionally given to pets as a way to reduce their hyperactivity. Unfortunately, amphetamines do not work in dogs the same way they work in attention deficit and hyperactive people. The most commonly affected pets are young dogs.

After ingestion, toxic signs are usually seen within one to two hours. Amphetamines are nervous system stimulants that also affect the brain.

What to Watch For

  • Restlessness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Whole body shaking
  • Seizures

    Prompt veterinary treatment for amphetamine toxicity is crucial and will give your pet a better chance of full recovery. If left untreated, amphetamine toxicity can be fatal.

    Diagnosis

    Diagnosis is typically based on physical exam findings of high blood pressure, hyperactivity, racing heart and dilated pupils. A history of possible exposure to amphetamine-type medications is very important.

    Stomach contents, blood and urine can be tested for the presence of amphetamines, but treatment must be started before these test are completed since test results may take several days.

    Treatment

    Expect your veterinarian to recommend hospitalization with continuous intravenous fluids. Additional treatments may include:

  • Sedatives to reduce the nervous system stimulation

  • Activated charcoal to reduce additional stomach absorption of the drug

  • Blood samples to monitor the function of the kidneys, since kidneys can also be affected by amphetamine stimulation
    With prompt treatment, the majority of pets with amphetamine toxicity do well and return home with no permanent damage.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If you witness ingestion of amphetamines, contact your family veterinarian or local veterinary emergency facility for instructions. You may be instructed to induce vomiting. This should only be done if specifically directed by a veterinarian since inappropriate vomiting can be harmful and dangerous.

    After treatment for amphetamine toxicity, home care is primarily aimed at providing peaceful and calm surroundings to allow the pet's nervous system and brain to recuperate. Watch for decreased appetite, vomiting or profound lethargy. If you feel that your pet is not improving, consult your family veterinarian for additional home care instructions.

    The way to prevent amphetamine toxicity is to prevent access to amphetamines. Keep prescription medications out of reach of your pets. Make certain that all missing pills are accounted for. Educate your family so they understand that amphetamines may help calm an attention deficit and hyperactive person but will not calm a hyperactive dog. Attention deficit syndromes have not been diagnosed in pets.

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