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Your Guide to Common Dog Poisonings

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Carbon Monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, that when absorbed into the bloodstream, forms a compound that causes hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply) of the heart and brain. Pets can be exposed by automotive exhaust in a closed garage, faulty exhaust system, non-vented furnace, gas water heater, gas/kerosene space heater and/or smoke inhalation from a fire. Some pets are predisposed to toxicity due to preexisting heart or lung disease. Symptoms of toxicity include drowsiness, lethargy, weakness, incoordination, bright red color to the skin and gums, difficulty breathing, coma and/or abrupt death. Occasionally, chronic (low-grade, long-term) exposure may cause exercise intolerance, changes in gait (walking) and disturbances of normal reflexes. Be aware that if the source of poisoning still exists, both you and your dog are at risk. Prevent toxicity by minimizing exposure and using carbon monoxide detectors around your home.

Carbamate Insecticides. Carbamates are a type of insecticides used to treat insects on our crops and soils, prevent and treat flea infestations and are used in ant and roach baits. The majority of toxicities related to this chemical are due to improper use of the chemical, especially when many different types of insecticides are used at the same time. The dog formula should never be used on cats. Carbamates affect the nerve-muscle junctions. Without a normal nerve impulse through the muscle, the function of the muscle is impaired. Since muscle tissue is present in the intestinal tract as well as the heart and skeleton, various signs may be seen if a pet is exposed to toxic levels of this insecticide. Symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, difficulty breathing, muscles tremors, twitching, weakness and paralysis. Prompt veterinary care is required to survive a toxic exposure.

Chocolate. Chocolate, in addition to having a high fat content, contains caffeine and theobromine. These two compounds are nervous system stimulants and can be toxic to your dog in high amounts. The levels of caffeine and theobromine vary between different types of chocolate. For example, white chocolate has the lowest concentration of stimulants and baking chocolate or cacao beans have the highest concentration. Depending on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount eaten, various problems can occur. The high fat content in chocolate may result in vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Once toxic levels are eaten, the stimulant effect becomes apparent. You may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination and possibly excessive panting. Heart rate and blood pressure levels may also be increased. Seizure activity may occur in severe cases.

Cocaine. Cocaine is rapidly absorbed from the stomach, nasal passages and lungs. Following exposure the cocaine usually leaves the system within four to six hours. The lethal dose of cocaine in dogs is 25 mg per pound of body weight. Pets exposed to cocaine show signs of intermittent hyperactivity followed by profound lethargy. Some may develop seizures. Treatment is aimed at supporting the body systems. Inducing vomiting is not helpful since cocaine is so rapidly absorbed. Hospitalization with intravenous fluids and sedatives are typical treatments. Depending on the severity of illness, amount ingested and time lapsed before treatment, some pets exposed to cocaine do not survive.

Detergents and Soaps. Most soaps and detergents are generally non-toxic. You can expect some vomiting and maybe even a little diarrhea from eating a non-food item. Read the container for additional information. If ingestion is witnessed, you may flush the mouth with large amounts of water.

Ecstasy. Ecstasy, also known by various street names such as XTC, Adam and MDA, is chemically related to other amphetamines, which stimulate the central nervous system. After ingestion, signs of toxicity generally develop within one to two hours and last longer in pets than in humans due to the animal's inability to metabolize the drug. Symptoms include hyperactivity, restlessness, drooling, tremors, staggering, seizures, and if no treatment is given, coma and death ensue.

Estrogen Toxicity. Estrogen toxicity is a condition in which a group of estrogen compounds (female hormones), either produced in excess within the body or administered from the outside, become poisonous to the body. Estrogen toxicity is seen most commonly in reproductive-age females and older. Symptoms can include: lethargy, pale gums, bleeding, fever, thin hair coat and feminization (female sex characteristics) in males.

Ethanol. Ethanol is an alcohol that is used commonly as a solvent (liquid that dissolves) in medications and is the major ingredient of alcoholic beverages. Common causes of toxicity include direct access to alcoholic beverages or spilled medication, ingestion of fermented products (bread), intentional or malicious administration by human beings and/or dermal (skin) exposure to these products. Toxicity can cause a wide variety of signs and may lead to death. Signs can include: odor of alcohol on the animal's breath or stomach contents, incoordination, staggering, behavioral change, excitement or depression, excessive urination and/or urinary incontinence, slow respiratory rate, cardiac arrest and death. If you suspect your pet has ingested a form of ethanol, please call your veterinarian for additional instructions.

Fuel. Gasoline is not a commonly ingested toxin, most likely due to its odor. If ingested, unleaded gasoline irritates the gastrointestinal tract and may cause vomiting. Some pets may inhale stomach contents as they vomit, resulting in aspiration pneumonia. To develop signs of toxicity, the amount of gasoline that needs to be ingested is around 20 ml per kilogram of weight. For a 20 pound dog, that is about 1/2 cup. Diesel fuel and jet fuel may also cause gastrointestinal upset but have less toxicity than unleaded gasoline.

Glow Jewelry. The active ingredient in most glow jewelry and other glow-in-the dark products is dibutyl phthalate. This substance has low toxicity and there has not been a report of an animal poisoned by its ingestion. If your pet has ingested dibutyl phthalate, you may see profuse drooling. Encourage him to drink a small amount of milk or eat a piece of bread. This will help dilute the taste of the dibutyl phthalate. Even rinsing the mouth out with water can help reduce the signs associated with glow jewelry exposure. Even after rinsing the mouth, you may want to bathe your pet to remove any dibutyl that may have leaked out of the tooth marks and onto the pet's hair coat.

Grape and Raisins. Recently, reports have begun to surface that ingesting large amounts of grapes or raisins can be toxic to dogs. So far, about 10 confirmed cases have been officially reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The amount of grapes or raisins ingested has been between 9 ounces and 2 pounds, and dogs ingesting these large amounts have developed kidney failure. Any dog that ingests large amounts of grapes or raisins at one time should be treated aggressively, so contact your veterinarian immediately if ingestion has occurred. Eating a few here and there has not been proven to be toxic.

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