While no accurate national statistics on the incidence of pet poisonings exist, the Veterinary Poisons Information Service reports annually based on the number of queries it receives from veterinary surgeons. These figures appear to provide a good correlation with the poisoning cases we treat at Roundwood Vets.
Below are listed ten common pet poisons. Six in the dog, three in the cat and one in the rabbit.
Common Dog Poisons
Ibuprofen (Advil, Nurofen).
This over the counter for human use painkiller is extremely toxic to dogs (and cats). As little as one tablet can cause gastric ulceration, liver damage, kidney failure and death. It is the most common cause of poisoning in the pet.
Another human use painkiller. This drug produces toxic by products as it is used by the body. Dogs (and cats) cannot break these toxins down and so they quickly become poisoned by them. (As little as half a 500mg tablet can be enough to kill an adult cat).(Tragically both of the above drugs are often given by owners seeking to relieve a pets discomfort without realising the potential consequences - there is absolutely no indication for the use of these drugs in pets).
Metaldehyde (slug bait)
Dogs seem to find these small blue coloured slug pellets tasty. If they ingest enough of this poison they become overexcited, begin to have fits and eventually fall into a coma and die. Whenever you treat your garden with slug bait ensure that you fence off the treated areas to prevent the pet getting access to the poison.
Warfarin (Rat poison)
Pets either eat the poison directly or they find and eat a rodent which was killed by warfarin. Ingestion of this poison will prevent an animal's blood from clotting and they can bleed to death.
This recreational drug is quite commonly ingested by pets. Although the relative quantities ingested can be quite high (no pun intended) the drug rarely causes serious side-effects. Overexcitement, drooling and increased sweating. Occasionally an affected pet will seem unaware of its surroundings and it has been reported that these pets are often have an increased appetite.
Typically seen at Christmas when a pet raids the selection boxes. The active ingredient is theobromine and can cause death if eaten in enough quantity.
Common Cat Poisons
Permethrin flea treatment (Bob Martin and others)
This drug is available over-the-counter from pet shops and supermarkets. The commonest form of poisoning occurs when the dog form of this treatment is applied to a cat though the packaging explicitly warns against using the dog preparation on cats. Unfortunately, some owners fail to read this and treat the cat regardless. Affected cats become over-excited have fits and fall into a coma. Without supportive care these animals will usually die but can recover if treatment is begun quickly enough.
This seasonal bloom is attractive to cats, which often ingest the foliage. Unfortunately even a little of this plant is extremely toxic to the kidneys. There is no cure for the poison and affected animals almost always die.
If ingested anti-freeze forms crystals in the kidney rapidly causing kidney failure and death. Cats seem to find the taste of antifreeze appealing so it is vital to keep it stored appropriately. Thankfully as motor vehicles become less serviceable by the lay-man, incidences of anti-freeze toxicity are becoming less frequent.
Rabbits are not often poisoned however there is one drug you should never use on any rabbit.
This flea treatment should only ever be used on dogs and cats.
Most poisonings are preventable.
Pet owners need to learn more about the potential pet poisons in their homes and take steps to restrict access to them.
Always consult your veterinary surgeon before treating your pet with a drug that has not been prescribed for it.
The sooner a pet suspected of being poisoned receives treatment, the higher its chances of recovery. If you think that your pet has been poisoned then contact your veterinary emergency service immediately, your pet's life may well depend on it.