Your Guide to Common Dog Poisonings

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Metaldehyde. Metaldehyde poisoning results from the ingestion of products containing the active ingredient metaldehyde. This is a common ingredient used in molluscicides, which are products used to kill snails and slugs. Metaldehyde toxicity causes rapid onset of neurological symptoms that begin 1 to 4 hours after exposure. Repeated seizures can cause a very high body temperature, which can lead to complications that are fatal. Affected pets usually require hospitalization for 24 to 72 hours after metaldehyde ingestion.

Metronidazole. Metronidazole is a commonly used and very effective antibiotic. Unfortunately, as with all drugs, toxicity and adverse effects can occur. However, toxicity from metronidazole is uncommon and is generally associated with prolonged use (many weeks) or high doses of the drug. Animals with underlying liver disease are more prone to metronidazole toxicity. Toxic levels of metronidazole affect the brain and equilibrium. Symptoms include: not eating, vomiting, staggering or difficulty walking, involuntary and constant eye movements (nystagmus), lethargy, and seizures. There is no home care for metronidazole toxicity. If you suspect that metronidazole is responsible for illness in your pet, consult your veterinarian.

Mushrooms. Mushroom poisoning occurs as a result of ingesting toxic mushrooms. Not all mushrooms are poisonous, but each type of poisonous mushroom can cause different signs of illness. Poisonous mushrooms are classified into four main categories, based on the clinical signs they cause, or into seven categories, based on the toxins they contain. The onset of clinical signs may occur anywhere from minutes to hours following ingestion. Signs may include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, jaundice (yellow skin color), seizures, coma and/or excess salivation. There is no adequate home care for poisonous mushroom ingestion. If you suspect that your dog has eaten a dangerous mushroom, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic substances secreted by molds and are commonly ingested when dogs raid the trash. Ingestion of certain moldy foods can result in signs of illness, primary whole body tremors. If left untreated, the tremors worsen and can progress to seizures. The dog’s body temperature increases and heat-related complications can occur. The most commonly implicated moldy foods are dairy products and pasta, but any mold may develop the specific toxins. Dogs that do not receive treatment may not survive.

Naproxen. Naproxen is a popular and effective over-the-counter medication available to treat pain and inflammation in people. For dogs, naproxen can easily exceed toxic levels. The most common cause of naproxen toxicity is a well-meaning owner who tries to alleviate pain in his dog by giving the medication without knowing the toxic dose. The initial toxic effect is bleeding stomach ulcers. In addition to ulcers, increasing doses of naproxen eventually leads to kidney failure and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

Nicotine. Nicotine is found in a variety of sources, primarily cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum and nicotine patches. The toxic level of nicotine in dogs is 5 milligrams of nicotine per pound of body weight. For example, one cigarette contains 15 to 25 milligrams of nicotine, and nicotine patches contain between 8 to 114 milligrams of nicotine. A 10-pound dog would only need to eat 2 to 4 cigarettes in order to show toxic signs. You should note that even after smoking, tobacco retains a significant amount of nicotine residue. Signs of nicotine toxicity generally develop soon after ingestion and include vomiting, drooling, excitement, tremors, low heart rate or seizures. When large amounts are consumed, the effects can be life-threatening, but even small amounts can induce symptoms. Without treatment, nicotine toxicity can cause paralysis of the breathing muscles and your dog may die from an inability to breathe, sometimes within a few hours. If your pet has ingested nicotine, call your veterinarian.

Onions. Onion toxicity can be caused from raw onions, cooked onions, onion powders or flavorings. Canines lack the enzyme necessary to digest onions properly and this could result in gas, diarrhea, or severe gastrointestinal distress. If large amounts of onion are ingested or onions are a daily part of your dog’s diet, the red blood cells may become fragile and break apart. Severe anemias and even death can occur if the dog ingests lots of onions and receives no treatment.

Organophosphate Insecticides. An organophosphate is 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 canine formula should never be used on cats. Overdosing has also resulted in toxicity. Organophosphates 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.

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