Dog Toxins Part 2

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Do you ever wonder what toxic substances you should prevent your dog from getting into? This week’s episode continues the discussion of common dog poisons with emergency veterinarian, Dr. Christine Klippen. Listen to find out why you should keep your dog away from rat bait, antidepressants or ADHD medications, your other pets’ medications, and gardening supplies, as well as what to look for if you think your dog has gotten into them.

Part 2 of Common Dog Toxins

[00:01:05] Welcome, everyone, to today’s episode of Your Vet Wants You To Know. Last week, we were joined by Dr. Christine Klippen, who shared with us a wealth of information about toxins that you might find around your house that could injure your dog. Today, we’re going to be continuing the 2nd of the 2-part series in that discussion. So, sit back and enjoy.

Toxin #6 - Rodenticide (Rat Bait)

[00:01:24]Dr. Lancellotti I want to transition now a little bit to things that are dangerous. Our toxin #6 is mouse and rat poison/ rat bait. Tell us a little bit about what these are and why they might be toxic.

[00:01:39]Dr. Klippen: We see a lot of mouse and rat bait ingestion. One of the things that a lot of pet owners may not realize is that by putting this mouse bait out, they’re under a false sense of security that your pet will not eat it. And I think that’s a little bit of a dangerous thought process because if it’s good enough for a mouse or a rat to eat, there is going to be concern that your pet may eat it as well. We see ingestions a little bit more commonly in dogs. There are 3 different types of rat baits that we will typically see. The major categories that we see are cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3 derivative type of baits), bromethalin type baits, and then we have a class of what we consider anticoagulant rodenticides or anticoagulant rat baits. The challenge with these is that all of these different types of rat bait are pretty similar in color and pretty similar in consistency. So what will sometimes happen is, you’ll have a pet that comes to the hospital and the owner will say they got into a rat bait. When describing that blue-green fluorescent color, that doesn’t help me determine what the active ingredient is, and the ways that we treat them are all very different because they all act very differently in the body.  

[00:03:15] Dr. Lancellotti: Just so our listeners know, we have a couple of really good episodes coming up on 2 of the types of rat baits. We’ll be talking about cholecalciferol in detail with a veterinarian whose pets actually did ingest this and had quite an ordeal. Then, we’ll discuss the anticoagulant rodenticide (Warfarin), which causes significant bleeding. Dr. Klippen, tell us briefly about the different types of rat baits that there are. 

[00:03:42]Dr. Klippen: Cholecalciferol will raise the level of calcium and phosphorus in the dog’s system, causing what we consider soft tissue mineralization or potentially kidney failure, especially if not treated properly and promptly. The 2nd group that we see is something called Bromethalin, which has been touted as one of the more safer type of rat baits. The reasoning for it is that animals do have to eat a larger amount of that rat bait. But the downside, from a veterinarian’s perspective, is that it causes swelling of the brain. Unfortunately with bromethalin ingestions, if you have a pet that develops clinical signs, it can be a little bit more challenging to treat and the prognosis is pretty significantly affected. Then, the last group is the anticoagulant, which will prevent the dog’s blood from clotting, causing severe and potentially uncontrolled bleeding. And with that particular one, we will start to see signs within about 48-72 hours after ingestion.

[00:05:01]Dr. Lancellotti: I know you had mentioned before that they all have this beautiful blue-green color to them. What do you think is important for pet owners to do if they notice their animal eating something that has that blue-green color? What would be most helpful, to you, as an emergency veterinarian?

[00:05:17]Dr. Klippen: I think that there’s a couple of things that you can do. If you put out the rat bait yourself and still have the original packaging, that gives me a lot of information. Even if it’s a torn up piece of packaging, I can still typically find it while searching on the internet. So that’s usually the first thing. If you have the original packaging, great. Bring it in so I can take a peek at it.  The other thing that I’ve had to rely upon is your shopping history on Amazon. A lot of people will throw away that original packaging, but when we questioned where they bought it, most of us still have it listed in our Amazon orders. So, I have had people go through their Amazon orders to get me the name of it. And then the last thing is, let’s say you didn’t put out the product yourself. Let’s say you contracted either a company to put the product out, or it’s one of those many bait stations that we will typically see around the city. With any of those contractors or even those bait stations, as part of putting out poison, they have to be able to record and keep track of those ingredients that they’re putting out. Sometimes, there are phone numbers that can be called on the bottom of those bait stations so that you can touch base with the company that put it out. Then, the other thing that is really helpful is that a lot of the bait stations will have an EPA registration number (you may have to look for it), and we can actually contact ASPCA Poison Control and they can look up those EPA registration numbers to get that information. There are definitely some things that can be done to try to narrow down the type of toxin. Therefore, we’re able to target therapy a little bit better. 

[00:07:14] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s excellent. That is really helpful information as far as figuring out exactly what the animal ate and how you can best help it.

Toxin #7 - Antidepressants

Dr. Lancellotti: What about toxin #7, antidepressant medications? I know that’s something that people have, very commonly, in their home. Why are antidepressants toxic, and what should pet owners know about this? 

[00:07:34]Dr. Klippen: Most of the antidepressants that we see in the emergency room are usually part of a class of medication called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). Sometimes, we will use similar products, even in our veterinary patients with behavioral issues. It is a medication that a lot of us familiar with, but what can happen is that with accidental poisonings or ingestion, we will start to see things like sedation even central nervous system stimulation. These patients will act jittery, they may have dilated pupils, they may be panting, they may have an elevated heart rate, no appetite, or lethargy. Again, because of the fact that we always have pets at our feet in our households, dropping a pill or two happens quite frequently, but those medications are more formulated for a human size and not necessarily a dog or a cat size. 

[00:08:37]Dr. Lancellotti: If an animal does happen to ingest these antidepressants, what might the pet owner see, and what are some of the things that the dog might experience?

[00:08:46] Dr. Klippen: Again, we can see sedation or even overstimulation, vomiting, tremors, etc. In really severe ingestions, there could potentially be seizures, elevated body temperature (they may feel hot to people), dilated pupils, etc. A lot of these pets, if they’ve gotten into something, act like something is not right, so I feel as though most pets are experiencing signs that owners will pick up on. 

Toxin #8 - Stimulant medications (ADD and ADHD)

[00:09:11] Dr. Lancellotti: On the opposite end of that, we’re moving on to toxin #8 – stimulant medications for ADD and ADHD. Why should pet owners be concerned about these medications? 

[00:09:24] Dr. Klippen: Most of the ADHD medications are stimulants, so when a dog ingests a stimulant, you can start to see an increase in activity. We may see pacing or walking in circles, these pets can have an elevated heart rate, or they may feel warm again. The key thing with the ADHD medications and some of the antidepressants that we talked a little bit about, is that they can come in different formulations. They can come in rapid release formulations and then they can also come in extended release formulations. So that really depends upon when we will start to see signs. With the rapid release, we may start to see signs within 15 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion, but with the extended release, because of the coating and because of the way that they make those medications, it may be several hours until we’ll see those signs. The concern with the extended release formulations is that those clinical signs can last upwards of 48-72 hours. Again, even if you’re like, “Ah, maybe I’ll just wait and see,” it is actually better to consult with either one of the pet hotlines (the ASPCA or Pet Poison hotline), or reaching out to your veterinarian because they all work very differently within the body. 

[00:10:47] Dr. Lancellotti: Perfect. Having good information about what medications are in your home, and exactly what it is that the animal might have gotten into, is going to be helpful for the veterinarian as well.

Episode #9 - Other pets' medications

Dr. Lancellotti: What about medications that other pets in the household have? What concerns might there be with one pet eating the other pets medication? 

[00:11:09]Dr. Klippen: There are lots and lots of different pet specific medication companies that are out there, and we, as veterinarians, rely upon a lot of these newer companies that are out there to make giving medications to our dogs and cats much easier. We will rely upon different flavorings or formulations to make that struggle of giving pills and liquids to pets a lot less painful for the pet owner. But sometimes, what can happen is that we make these medications so appetizing and so easy to eat that the other pets in the household may inadvertently get into those medications, so accidental ingestions can occur all the time. There are lots of them out there- thyroid medications, cardiac or heart medications, and even seizure medications that dogs and cats will inadvertently eat. And I think that because there are so many different types that are out there, it’s hard to specifically point out what clinical signs that an owner may notice. But because we deal with these inadvertent ingestions all of the time, and have probably gotten 5 or 6 calls about it previously, we may be able to give you information about whether this is something that needs to be seen or it is something that you need to come in for on an emergency basis. 

[00:12:42]Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah. Knowing what medications you have for all of your pets in the household and keeping those medications out of reach from the other pets is really helpful.

Toxin #10 - Garden Fertilizers

Dr. Lancellotti: Toxin #10 (or this group of toxins) I’m very excited to talk about, because this is something that we deal with in our house as well. Toxin #10 is gardening supplies- things like bone meal, fertilizer and pesticides. Why are these things toxic and what should pet owners know about them?  

[00:13:09] Dr. Klippen: It’s starting to warm up here on the East coast and lots and lots of people are going out and starting to work on their gardens. We can see animals accidentally get into things while we’re out gardening, or getting into the shed or getting into the garage, because a lot of us don’t necessarily think about putting them up and out of reach. We don’t think that children will get into them, but some of these products are stinky and if they’re stinky and yucky, it might be something that a dog would want to eat.

[00:13:42]Dr. Lancellotti: Oh yeah. Russell, the Your Vet Wants You To Know mascot, is notorious for trying to get into different types of fertilizers when we’re out working in the garden. He is as disgusting as he is scruffy, so I can certainly sympathize with trying to keep pets out of these materials. 

[00:13:59]Dr. Klippen: Yes. A number of years ago (well before I became a veterinarian) when I was a kid, one of my dogs got into a significant amount of bone meal. God knows how much the dog ate. We didn’t think anything of it until he developed really severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Everyone who has experienced bloody diarrhea in a dog knows how alarming that it can be. I remember taking my dog to the emergency room that weekend and I felt miserable for him. It caused a really significant tummy upset, so I’m sure he was regretting his decision at that moment. 

[00:14:39] Dr. Lancellotti: Yeah, absolutely. What about compost piles? I know a lot of people will have their own compost piles. We certainly do, to try and minimize the amount of waste, but also to have some really good fertilizer for our garden. Tell us a little bit about the danger with those. 

[00:14:55]Dr. Klippen: With compost piles, it depends upon what you are putting out in the compost pile as well. Again, we’ve already talked a little bit about grapes and raisins, and some of those other products that dogs can inadvertently eat. The other major concern with compost piles is, as that plant material starts to break down into those nutrients that we want to put on our flowers and our gardens, they can also start to develop mold and spores (tremorgenic mycotoxins), and these types of molds can develop significant full body tremors. I’ve seen dogs come in (because they’re having such full body tremors that they can’t walk) that almost look like they’re having seizures, and their body temperatures can go up very high, to the point where they mimic a dog with heat stroke. So, really trying to limit the access of a dog to those areas by using fencing or using one of those controlled composters that come in a bin (so that there is no chance that a dog or an animal could get into it) is key.

[00:16:04]Dr. Lancellotti: And what about that really fancy mulch that almost seems like chocolate mulch? I know some people have used that. Do you have concerns about the cocoa bean mulch? 

[00:16:13] Dr. Klippen: We do. It is beautiful and it smells delicious because it really does smell like chocolate. And again, if it’s something that smells good, this is something that a dog might inadvertently ingest. With the cocoa bean mulches, because they still will contain those active ingredients that we see in chocolate ingestions, dogs that get into this type of mulch may actually exhibit signs very similar to if they had eaten dark chocolate.

What can you do?

[00:16:46]Dr. Lancellotti: Perfect. So, we’ve gone through our top 10 household dog toxins. Hopefully, people are a little bit more aware of things that might cause issues with their animals. What are some of the big takeaway points you’d like pet owners to remember? 

[00:17:01]Dr. Klippen: With any sort of ingestion, I would say the first thing to do is to take stock. And what I mean by taking stock is assessing the situation. It is frightening when you look down and go, “Oh my gosh, I dropped something,” and a pet has lapped it up, but taking stock in what is happening around you and gathering that information is important before reaching out to a veterinary professional. Some people are very confident in whether or not an animal has eaten something. If they dropped one pill, they know for a fact that their pet only ingested the one pill. But what happens if you come home and you find that your pet has chewed on a medication bottle? A couple of tricks with that is to look at when the prescription was last filled. Part of the things that are on the bottles are the number of pills that are in that particular bottle, so, if you know that you filled it 2 weeks ago and you take one pill every single day, then there should be (potentially) 14 less than what is written on that particular bottle. That sort of worst case scenario helps veterinary professionals be able to triage and know whether or not that ingestion could potentially be something serious.

[00:18:23]Dr. Lancellotti: And how about inducing vomiting at home? Do you have any recommendations as far as whether or not that’s something that you would encourage pet owners to do? 

[00:18:34] Dr. Klippen: I actually don’t like to induce vomiting at home without the input of a veterinary professional. The reason behind that is that a lot of substances can actually cause more harm with attempting to induce vomiting. If they get into cleaning products or sharp objects or something like that, it may seem like getting it out of their system might be the best thing, but you can actually do more harm by having an animal vomit rather than taking other recommendations. The last reason why I am very nervous about owners inducing vomiting at home is if there’s an underlying medical condition like heart disease The brachiocephalic breeds’ (smoosh-faced dogs like pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, etc.), confirmation puts them at greater risk for aspiration. They would not able to protect their airways as well if they were to vomit and have it go down the wrong tube, and having them vomit in a hospital setting, so that they can be monitored by veterinary professionals, may be what’s recommended. 

[00:19:48] Dr. Lancellotti: Perfect. Are there any common sense tips that you would give for owners to protect their pets, so that they don’t find themselves in a situation where the dog has to go to the emergency room because of something it’s eaten?

[00:20:00] Dr. Klippen: I always tell people to use the same common sense as you would with baby-proofing, but for your pets. All medications should be kept in areas of the house that not only children can’t get into, but curious pets as well. I think that those pill sorters are great, especially if you have a pet that has lots and lots of medications, but why not put that pill finder inside of a Ziploc bag or put it inside of a Tupperware that has the ability to snap down those sides, and up away from dogs that could inadvertently knock them down. Putting them up into a cupboard or on top of the refrigerator, so that they can’t get to them, is definitely recommended. 

[00:20:45] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s great. We’ll have lots of resources in the show notes for today because we went through a lot of things, especially, the link to the ASPCA Poison Control hotline, as well as the phone numbers there. People can just plug that number right into your phone so that you have it. A lot of family veterinarians are comfortable managing pets who have ingested something toxic, oftentimes, with the help of those Poison Control hotlines and the toxicologists that are there. The link to find a critical care veterinarian near you will also be posted on the website if you’d like to consult with a specialist. If your pet has ingested something that they weren’t supposed to (or maybe you went through a toxicity scare and you want to share your story with pet owners), then I would encourage you to join the Facebook group. Tell us about the time that your dog ate something and what you went through. Tell us about some other toxins that you think would be important for other pet owners to know about as well. 

Scratching the Itch

Dr. Lancellotti: Dr. Klippen, I always end the episodes with a segment called ‘Scratching The Itch.’ This is a segment that will highlight something, whether it’s a human interest story, a product or a website that either provides relief or just makes you feel good. Hence, scratching the itch. Do you have something that scratches the itch for our listeners today? 

[00:22:02] Dr. Klippen: I mentioned very early on in the presentation that I practice on the East coast. We are coming up on a time of the year that, if you aren’t from the East coast, you’re not familiar with- the cicadas are coming. For those of you that don’t know what a cicada is, they’re these flying insects that are about 2.5 to sometimes 3 inches in length. At night, you can hear them and it sounds wonderful when you go down south. The interesting part is that every 17 years, they go through this life cycle where they come out of the ground in swarms. It is insanity with these bugs that are flying around everywhere. Dogs love it because they eat them by the bucketfuls. Thankfully, they’re not toxic. They cause some vomiting if you eat a bunch of them, but they’re actually pretty beneficial to the environment. But if you are visiting the East coast during this every-17-year cycle, it can be very disarming. 

[00:23:18] Dr. Lancellotti: It’s traumatic. This is like so traumatic. I grew up on the East coast and I still have nightmares about those monsters just everywhere. 

[00:23:27] Dr. Klippen: Yes. It’s funny because I dealt with them as a child and I still, to this day, have terrible memories of these flying insects. And I moved away for veterinary school, so I missed the last swarm. But this summer, they’re coming. A mom in my community (who grew up with the same fears that you and I have of these terrible bugs) wrote this wonderful story for children that’s called Cecily Cicada. It’s a very heartwarming story. It goes through the life cycle of cicadas and why they are so beneficial to the environment, to help with our young children who may soon be experiencing these things. I just thought it was a really neat, very local resource, at least for people on the East coast. And for those of you who have never experienced a cicada swarm, teaching children about these bugs that- ugh, I’m not looking forward to this. 

[00:24:31] Dr. Lancellotti: I’m looking at Cecily Cicada here and this beautiful illustration is much more endearing and charming than the actual insects are. 

[00:24:42] Dr. Klippen: Yes. 

[00:24:43] Dr. Lancellotti: That’s very cute. Thank you very much for that ‘scratching the itch.’ That’s absolutely adorable. And good luck with the cicadas this summer. Godspeed! Dr Klippen, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all of this wonderful information on household dog toxins. I’m really looking forward to what you’ve got as far as household cat toxins next week. I think it’s going to be a really helpful episode as well, and I just so value your time and your expertise. Thank you so much. 

[00:25:15] Dr. Klippen: Thank you always. 

[00:25:17] Dr. Lancellotti: And for everyone else, I look forward to your next visit with Your Vet Wants You To Know.

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