Guard against Poison

Poison of one sort or another comes in a wide variety of commonly used or kept items. From plants and household cleaning products to over-the-counter human drugs and antifreeze preparations, they can all be potentially fatal to your pet. And that is before you get to the more obvious poisons like rat poisons and slug baits!

The list of potentially poisonous plants and products is very, very long.With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on how you can minimise the chance of your pet being accidentally poisoned by something in your house or yard.

Know your plants

Know which toxic plants are growing in your yard or immediate vicinity (including potplants). Probably the best place to get this information from would be the local plant nursery while your Veterinarian would be able to tell you the most common plant toxicities seen in the area and what the symptoms of these toxicities are.

Toxic plants can cause a wide range of symptoms. In some instances, only part of the plant are poisonous, while some plants are more poisonous in certain phases of their growth. Some plants can be highly toxic for one species of animal and hardly affect another species.

Depending on the plant, symptoms can range from skin irritations(due to direct contact with the plant) to vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors and in extreme cases, seizures and death.

When you consider that common plants like Azaleas, Jasmine, Pigweed, Chrysanthemums and Foxgloves are all potentially toxic, it is surprising that so few pets actually suffer from plant poisonings!

If you know what toxic plants are around and what symptoms they give rise to if ingested by your pet, then you will be that much better prepared in the unlikely event that your pet comes into contact with, or ingests, a toxic plant.

Know your household chemicals

Many household cleaners and detergents, not to mention batteries, turps, gasoline and various solvents can all cause a lot of damage to your pet, especially if they are swallowed. Take a few minutes to read the product labels - they will usually state the nature of the toxic components and very often give an indication of what to do in the case of accidental ingestion. While this information is usually aimed at human cases, it can nevertheless often be useful for animal cases as well - if only to identify the toxic substance.

Surprisingly, it is not advisable to try to induce vomition if you know your pet has swallowed one of these substances. Petroleum products, acids and alkaline substances can burn the oesophagus and, in extreme cases, rupture the stomach if vomiting is induced.

The best course of action is to try to get some water or milk into the stomach to dilute the ingested subtance and then get to a Veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Know your medicines.

Accidental ingestion of human and veterinary drugs is a common cause of poisoning in pets. In many cases, especially with regards to human drugs, the "accidental" part is in fact the act of a human giving a pet a human drug in the sometimes mistaken belief that the drug will have the same effect in the pet as it does in the human.

You are on dangerous ground here with respect to your pet's health! Never give a pet a human drug without first checking with a Veterinarian. Not only are most human doses not suitable for pets, but often, due to various physiological differences, the action of the drug will be different in the animal leading to unintended, but sometimes fatal, consequences!

Be sensible where you store drugs. Keep them locked up out of reach of both children and pets. That way you minimise the chances of any drug getting into the wrong hands (and mouths!).

Use Rodenticides carefully

These are frequently used in households, and very often it is put down in areas where particularly dogs and cats might venture. Worse (from a pet health point of view) is that these poisons are specifically designed to kill!

There is a lot of knowledge available about where to effectively put down these poisons for maximum wild rodent effect with minimal "collateral damage". Simply distributing the poison as far and as wide as possible is asking for trouble.Consult your local rodenticide distributor for directions on how best to place the poison.

Should your pet accidentaly eat rat or mouse poison, then you need to ensure that it gets to a vet as soon as possible. It is advisable to take the relevant packaging with you as there are a variety of rodenticide poisons, each with a different mode of action, and your vet will have a headstart in administrating the correct treatment if he/she knows what they are dealing with.

Follow Insecticide directions

Many commonly used insecticides contain organophosphates and carbamates. These substances are also incorporated in many old style tick and flea control products and can be toxic if overdosed. (Overdosed can mean a single excessive dose or a normal dose given too often!- a not uncommon scenario in treating a heavy flea or tick infestation.) Clinical signs include excessive drooling, muscle twitching, staggering, weakness, etc. Again the best course of action is to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible together with the offending insecticide packaging.

Steer clear of Baits

Strychnine, metaldehyde and the like are not substances you want in your environment. They are deadly and indiscriminate substances and are best avoided altogether.

Dispose of antifreeze properly.

Most antifreeze poisonings take place when the antifreeze is drained from the radiator and left on the ground. Cats, dogs (and babies!) only need to ingest a small volume to be affected so it is vital that the antifreeze is drained into a suitable container with no spillage taking place and that the container is then dispossed of correctly.

Likewise, the safe and secure storage of fresh antifreeze should be a priority.

Symptoms of antifreeze toxicity include vomiting, an unsteady gait, and seizures. These can be followed by coma and death within a few hours. Animals that survive the initial poisoning often go into terminal kidney failure after a brief period.

Inducing vomiting

It is common sense that if you induce vomiting (consult your vet for specifics on how to do this) as soon as possible after a poison has been swallowed, then there should be a reduced uptake of the toxin into the body.

However, there are cases when vomiting should NOT be induced including:
1) If the label on the product advises against it.
2) If the animal has swallowed an acid,alkali or petroleum product.
3) If the animal is having difficulty breathing.