Want to Avoid a Vet Visit This Weekend?
Wise-Up to These Springtime ‘Peterinary’ Pitfalls
From cut flowers to cleaning products, chocolate to booze, which dangers must be kept separate from your pets this Easter…and what do you do if the worst happens?
If you’re getting guest-ready in the garden in prep for your bank holiday barbeque, please be pet-safe with your patio cleaner. Many solutions contain benzalkonium chloride (BAC). Cats may be at the highest risk of adverse effects from this as, commonly, symptoms come from walking on a freshly cleaned surface, and then licking the product from paws. Skin irritation can come from transfer from paws to other skin areas during scratching/grooming, or on the paws themselves. Hair loss and irritation may also occur around the mouth. Pets may drool and/or refuse food.
BAC poisoning is not usually life-threatening. Drinking directly from the undiluted bottle of solution would be the greatest risk of severe consequences. Keep bottle lids on and put part-used containers back into appropriate storage. Always follow directions on the packet for correct dilution before using it on your patio and take heed of any recommended pet-free time after cleaning.
As ever, spring plants growing from bulbs can be toxic if eaten by pets – including rabbits, so beware when exercising your bunnies. The bulbs are often the strongest for containing the toxin, but for many (including daffodils) the leaves, stems or flowers can contain toxin too. Be sure to monitor pets closely when enjoying the garden over the coming days.
At a time of year when we like to bring the outdoors in, please be aware that cut flowers can be a risk for pets. As mentioned, the leaves, stems and flowers of some plants can be toxic for pets. Vases should be out of reach of pets as drinking water from a vase containing toxic plants can cause illness – and drinking from vases is tempting, especially to house cats.
Lilies carry a high risk for cats and should not be in the home at all if you have a cat. The whole plant of the lily is dangerous for cats, not just the pollen, so even pollen-free varieties should be avoided. Lilies can cause fatal kidney damage. They may well be pretty – but, trust us, it’s not worth it.
Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical naturally occurring in the cocoa plant. Theobromine is toxic for many of our pet species, including rodents, rabbits, dogs, and cats. The toxic dose of theobromine is predictable, so if more than a certain amount of theobromine is consumed, your pet will be at risk of toxic effects. The amount of theobromine in dark chocolate is greater per gram of chocolate than in milk chocolate. So, dark chocolate is the biggest risk.
Importantly, if you know or suspect your pet has eaten chocolate, contact us immediately. Please don’t try and save pennies by waiting to see if they become unwell. If caught early, we may be able to get rid of the toxin before it’s absorbed from the gut, or slow down its absorption. This means your pet is more likely to remain healthy and your bill will probably be smaller.
Once theobromine is absorbed into your pet’s body from their gut, toxic effects can be serious. Pets suffering from chocolate toxicity are likely to show vomiting and diarrhoea initially. They may drink excessively and pass more urine. These combined effects can lead to dehydration. Pets may be hyperactive, have tremors and in severe cases, may have seizures.
Dogs are often most at risk of eating excessive chocolate because they scavenge and have the freedom of the house. With a fashion for smaller breeds and the toxic dose of theobromine being per kilogram of body weight (smaller dogs need to eat less than bigger dogs to become unwell), plus more chocolate being brought into our homes around this time of year, the risk of the toxic dose being eaten by your pet is significant.
We can’t be cross with our pets for wanting to scoff our chocolate – it’s delicious after all! So, as part of our duty of care as pet owners, we must store chocolate appropriately. Do your best to avoid any chocolate-scoffing incidences this season by keeping all chocolate eggs up high - before, during, and after your egg hunt. Ideally, keep chocolate in pet-proof containers.
Raisins, Currents and Sultanas
These delicious dried grapes turn up everywhere at Easter – hot cross buns, fruity biscuits, and Simnel cake are firm favourites on our Easter tables. Just make sure that table is out of reach to prying noses. As one of the most common accidental ingestion culprits we see, it’s important to be extra careful. It’s easy to accidentally leave an unfinished plate on the coffee table while answering the door, or let the dog hoover up under the highchair, forgetting what’s been fed.
The scary and important detail with grapes and dried grapes (both harmful) is that the toxic dose is not set – it’s not like chocolate – a larger dog cannot necessarily consume more of the fruit before becoming unwell. As little as a single grape has been known to cause severe symptoms. Some dogs indeed seem to be able to consume a few grapes without visible effects, but others are extremely susceptible to toxicity and there’s no way of knowing where your pet lies on the spectrum. Just keep everything out of reach and call us immediately if accidental ingestion occurs. Prevention is better than cure – if we can stop the toxin from being absorbed by the body that’s the best outcome. Grapes cause kidney damage so toxic effects can be serious and potentially irreversible once the toxin takes hold.
It can be seen as funny that pets enjoy drinking alcohol, especially dogs. People assume they won’t like it and see it as interesting – the spaniel lapping from a pint glass makes a funny pic for Instagram perhaps…? WRONG! Pets are much more vulnerable to alcohol poisoning than we are. Remember your worst hangover? Why would you inflict that on your pet? And they may well need to be hospitalised before the hangover if they’re vomiting and confused. Accidental ingestion of even a few drops could kill a smaller pet. Keep your alcoholic drinks well away from your pets at all times.
What To Do If Your Pet is Unwell This Easter
This is an easy one – call us as soon as possible. In all cases of potential toxicity, the sooner we see your pet, the more we can do to help. Even if you only suspect something has been eaten, call us for advice. Please don’t wait for illness to show as treatment will be more difficult and more expensive, with less chance of a good outcome.
In the early stages after eating something toxic we can use an injection to make your pet sick. We do this commonly in chocolate or raisin ingestion cases which we see often in practice. If the time of ingestion is known, it’s a great way to get the toxin out before it’s absorbed.
This isn’t the case for all substances – some cleaning products can cause chemical burns so once they’ve passed through the food pipe we don’t want to make them do it again, it could be very damaging.
NEVER try to make a pet sick at home. The method we use is low risk – methods found on the internet are very high risk and can cause even bigger problems.
If something toxic was eaten longer ago and absorption of the toxin is already happening, we can give treatments to slow that absorption down. If toxic effects are already showing, then we will use techniques and treatments to support your pet while their body deals with the toxin.
If we come across a substance we’re not used to, or we need further advice about a case, we may call the vet-specific helpline – the Veterinary Poisons Information Service. This is an advice line for vets available 24/7. We may ask to call them if we feel their advice will improve the chances of a good outcome for your pet.
In most cases, toxic cases can be treated successfully. This is far easier and quicker if the patient is seen very soon after exposure.
Please, please call us straight away if you know of or suspect your pet has been exposed to something potentially toxic. Few pets die from toxins, but more would do without appropriate treatment. The patients that are into the vets and back home in the shortest time are the ones we see early. The longer you wait to call, the greater the risk – and usually the more involved the treatment and the bigger the bill. Please act quickly.
We wish you all a safe and sunny Easter.