Your pet comes in licking his chops well before mealtime. Uh-oh. What has he gotten into?
Chances are, it's something that's not good for him. Last year, the Top 10 toxins ingested by pets were over-the-counter medications, medications prescribed for humans, insecticides, human foods that are toxic to pets, household items, veterinary medications, chocolate, plants, rodenticides and lawn and garden products.
If you find evidence or even suspect that your pet has swallowed something that could disagree with him in a serious or fatal way, the first thing to do is take a deep breath and remain calm. Then look for empty packaging or other clues as to what he might have eaten and how much.
Call the veterinarian to say that you're on your way with your pet, and why. Bring the empty or partially eaten containers, plant material or any type of label. It will help your veterinarian to know if that chocolate bar your dog ate is milk chocolate or 77 percent cocoa Belgian chocolate.
Maybe it's the middle of the night and you don't have a 24-hour veterinary hospital in your area. Call a pet poison hotline. Be prepared to describe packaging, labels or plant type and whether your dog or cat is conscious, alert, breathing normally and able to stand and walk.
Don't induce vomiting. It's not the best way to remove toxic substances from a pet's stomach, so toss out that old bottle of ipecac. Nobody recommends it anymore, for pets or kids. Instead, keep activated charcoal on hand. It acts like a sponge, absorbing what's in the stomach. Stick with plain activated charcoal, available from your drugstore or grocery store.
Toxins aren't always ingested by swallowing; some are absorbed through skin or fur. If your pet has a reaction to an insecticide or other substance, your first thought might be to bathe him to remove it, but it's smart to check with your veterinarian or the poison control hotline first. Some products become more toxic when they get wet. If you get the go-ahead to give a bath, brush your pet first to help remove the substance from the surface of the fur.
Learn about your local plants and their toxicity. Toxic plant lists don't always include regional plants. And know the origin of ornamental plants in your home or yard. Many beautiful but toxic plants come from South Africa.
Among the foods that can give pets a bellyache or worse are grapes and raisins, moldy walnuts and dairy products. Although not every dog reacts to grapes or raisins, aggressive treatment is recommended because the reaction can be severe – renal failure – or even fatal. Give activated charcoal immediately, and take your dog to the veterinarian right away. A good course of action is IV fluid therapy for at least 48 hours and careful monitoring of blood pressure, urine output and blood chemistry values for at least 72 hours to check for kidney failure.
Moldy foods cause a severe and potentially deadly neurologic syndrome. Signs – including restlessness, panting, excessive salivation, tremors and seizures -- usually begin within 30 minutes of exposure. A dog doesn't even have to eat a moldy walnut; simply putting it in his mouth can cause problems. For the same reasons, toss the moldy cheese you found in the back of the refrigerator.
Lastly, in case you were wondering, wine and other alcoholic beverages are also toxic to dogs. So remember: It's a sin to let your dog dig zin.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.