Aspirin toxicity (salicylate toxicity) is poisoning that occurs following the ingestion of aspirin or aspirin-containing products. Aspirin toxicity usually occurs after the ingestion of improperly stored drugs or the administration of the incorrect dose of aspirin to a ferret.
Young animals are more susceptible to the toxic effects than are adult animals. Aspirin toxicity may cause gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, neurological problems, bleeding disorders, and kidney failure.
Other conditions can cause symptoms that appear similar to those of aspirin toxicity. Conditions include:
Administration of other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Rimadyl®, Etogesic®, phenylbutazone, flurbiprofen, ibuprofen may cause identical symptoms as those caused by aspirin toxicity.
Administration of steroids can cause vomiting and stomach ulceration as well as increased thirst, urinations and urine dilution. These symptoms can mimic those of acute kidney failure.
Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) of any cause can mimic the gastrointestinal symptoms of aspirin toxicity. History of aspirin administration or intoxication is the best way to distinguish aspirin toxicity from other causes of gastroenteritis.
What to Watch For
Loss of appetite
Vomiting (uncommon in ferrets)
Pinpoint bruises in the skin and on the gums (petechiae)
A history of administration or accidental ingestion of aspirin is helpful to your veterinarian in determining the cause of your ferret's illness. In addition to obtaining a history and performing a thorough physical examination, your veterinarian will likely perform the following tests:
A complete blood count (CBC) is used to assess the white blood cell count and red blood cell count. If the ferret has intestinal bleeding secondary to ulceration of the stomach, the red blood cell count may be decreased.
A biochemistry profile is a blood test used to assess internal organs such as the kidneys. Elevations in the kidney values indicate that the kidneys have been damaged. This blood test also indicates evaluation of the liver values, which is important because diseases of the liver could produce symptoms similar to those of aspirin toxicity.
A urinalysis is performed to assess the kidney's ability to concentrate urine. In cases of kidney damage, the urine becomes more dilute and appears lighter in color.
An activated clotting time (ACT) is a blood test done to measure the ability to form a clot and to stop bleeding when cut. Because aspirin may interfere with the ability to form a clot, clotting tests such as the ACT may be prolonged.
Hospitalization is often required for definitive care and may require two to five days. Recommendations may include:
Administration of activated charcoal to prevent absorption of aspirin from the stomach.
Placement of an intravenous (IV) catheter to administer IV fluids to rehydrate and to treat or prevent kidney failure.
Administration of antacids such as misoprostol (Cytotec®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), famotidine (Pepcid AC®), or sucralfate (Carafate®) to prevent or treat ulceration of the stomach.
Administration of antiemetic (anti-vomiting) drugs such as metoclopramide (Reglan®), prochlorperazine (Compazine®) or chlorpromazine (Thorazine®).
Home Care and Prevention
If accidental ingestion has occurred, remove any remaining pills from the environment. Calcuate the number of pills you think your pet may have taken and call your veterinarian immediately. Take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment.
Do not administer aspirin to ferrets unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian. Keep bottles of aspirin out of your pet's reach, including bottles kept in purses or pocketbooks.