Fido has just eaten the philodendron, Fluffy is reacting strangely to her new flea-control powder and Rover lapped up a puddle of antifreeze in the garage. What’s a pet owner to do?
Call Kansas State University’s poison control center for pets at 785-532-5679.
Just like poison control centers for humans, K-State’s poison control center for pets can provide immediate help when an animal has been exposed to or ingested a poisonous substance. The center, an offering of K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was formed in 1969 by Fred Oehme, a K-State veterinarian and professor of toxicology and pathobiology. Oehme, who still oversees the poison control center, also is director of K-State’s comparative toxicology laboratories in the department diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.
The center’s hot line is staffed by veterinarians 24 hours a day and can be used by both veterinarians and pet owners, Oehme said.
“We are surrounded by chemicals we need in order to maintain our lifestyles,” Oehme said. “Because of that, we and our pets are exposed to the chemicals every day. Under normal circumstances exposure to chemicals is not a danger. Problems arise when people or pets are overexposed to them or when they ingest the wrong chemicals.”
Oehme estimates the hot line receives more than 35 calls a week. “We’ve been seeing an increase in evening calls that seem to be related to pet owners coming home from work and finding something that disturbs them about their pet,” he said.
Not all calls to the hot line are related to animal poisoning. “We often get questions about environmental concerns, like water contamination, food contamination, children becoming poisoned and those kinds of things,” Oehme said.
The types of poisoning the K-State center is contacted about vary depending on the time of year. Antifreeze poisonings go up during the spring and fall when people are flushing out their automobile cooling systems for the upcoming weather change, Oehme said.
“The most common types of poisonings we get for dogs and cats are related to the use of chemicals like insecticides on the pet by the owner. Associated with that is the misuse of the chemical on the animal by using too much,” Oehme said.
“The second most common poisoning threat is a pet getting into the owner’s medication or ingesting household products, like cleaning solutions.”
When it comes to treating pets who have ingested a poison, it can be a race against the clock, Oehme said.
“Our best advice is to not hesitate in calling us, your veterinarian or another poison control center as soon as possible. The amount of chemical exposure and the length of time it’s been in the body is crucial,” he said. “If you wait three hours before seeking help, a lot more chemical is absorbed than if you just wait one hour.
The longer a chemical is in the body, the more time it has to start causing damage to the liver or the kidneys or other organs, Oehme said.
“If you wait until the animal has become severely ill, it can be an uphill struggle,” he said.
The first step a pet owner should take before phoning for help is to determine what chemical product was ingested and how much, Oehme said. The owner also should have the container handy because the label can provide the professional with important information.
“Sometimes it’s not the active ingredient but other ingredients present in the product that cause the problems,” he said. “After contacting the poison control center or a veterinarian, the pet owner will be given an estimate of how bad the situation is. It’s this evaluation and interpretation that a pet owner will find most helpful.”
Oehme said products like hydrogen peroxide, typically kept in homes for human use, also can work on animals.
“If we know that the animal has ingested a dangerous chemical and it is going to take a while for the owner to get to a veterinarian, then we might encourage the owner to give the pet a dose of hydrogen peroxide to help evacuate what is in the stomach,” Oehme said. “But it all depends on what the chemical is. If the animal has gotten into something that is very acidic, alkaline or is a petroleum product, then you don’t want to induce vomiting.”
Oehme said it is important that pet owners not induce vomiting on their own but to wait until they have received instructions from a veterinarian.
Oehme also said it’s up to pet owners to make their homes safe for their pets. “To prevent accidental poisonings, pet owners must make sure household cleaning products, prescription drugs and other chemicals are stored securely,” he said.
Tips for pet owners from K-State’s poison control center:
According to Kansas State University’s poison control center for pets, when a pet may have been exposed to or ingested a hazardous chemical, pet owners must act quickly by:
* Watching for symptoms of a chemical poisoning, including:
-burns around or in the mouth
-convulsions or unconsciousness
* Remembering it is a race against the clock and the overall goal is to stop the poison from being absorbed into the animal’s system.
* Identifying what the chemical is and how much of it the animal has been exposed to.
* Having the original container handy and calling a veterinarian, the local poison control center or K-State’s poison control hot line at 785-532-5679 as soon as possible.
* Always having hydrogen peroxide on hand, but DO NOT administer without instructions from the veterinarian or the poison control center.
* Waiting until the veterinarian or the poison control center has given instructions before taking any medical action.