Taking Action: Toxicities in the Pet Care Facility
By Professional Pet Boarding Certification Council
There are hundreds of toxins in our environment, including household chemicals, medications, plants and pesticides. Many toxins that are present in the home environment are not present in the pet care facility, and vice versa. Quality pet care facilities are proactive in preventing these types of accidents from occurring.
Poisoning occurs when a pet swallows, inhales or absorbs a substance that causes structural damage or functional disturbance of the tissues of the body. Depending on the exact toxin and the body system affected, virtually any symptom can be caused by a poison.
Symptoms can include any of the following:
- Lack of coordination
- Heavy salivation
- Ulcers on face or paws
- Hemorrhage (bleeding)
If you suspect a dog or cat is poisoned, get as much information as possible; the bottle and label or MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) of the suspect product, detailed observations about the pet and any other information you consider pertinent (for example, pet information). Keep your veterinarian’s telephone number, national animal poison control numbers and the local human poison control center’s number handy so they can be dialed quickly in an emergency. (Note that human poison control centers do not usually have specific information on pet poisonings, but they do have databases of chemicals and active ingredients.)
Two excellent pet poison control resources are:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
Pet Poison Helpline
There may be a cost associated with a consult but the veterinary toxicologists can provide detailed recommendations about poisoning cases.
Use your first aid skills to assess the condition of the pet (it is recommended that all employees of an animal care facility be certified in pet first aid and CPR.) Note the pet’s attitude, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, mucous membrane color and pulse quality.
Feel the heart beat on the side of the chest below the elbow and count the beats per minute. Normal is 60-100 for big dogs, 80-120 for medium/small dogs and 120-150 for cats.
Watch the chest move and count the breaths per minute. Normal is 20-30 for cats and dogs. (Panting is normal for dogs when they are exercising or excited but is never normal for cats.)
Lubricate a thermometer and insert it into the anus. Normal is 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit for dogs and cats.
Mucous Membrane Color
Look at a non-pigmented part of the gums. Normal color is pink.
Decontamination refers to removing toxin from the body to minimize toxicity. The method will depend on how the pet was exposed to the toxin.
In cases of poison ingestion, you may be instructed to induce vomiting (make the pet vomit). Vomiting will help to remove toxin from the stomach. It is most effective within a few hours of swallowing. However, vomiting may do more damage to the esophagus and mouth, especially if the chemical is corrosive, acidic, alkaline or petroleum-based (oily). Induction of vomiting should not be done if the pet has seizures, altered mental status (depressed or comatose), severe cardiac (heart) disease, recent gastrointestinal surgery or a loss of gag reflex.
Do Not Induce Vomiting
Unless Specifically Directed By A Veterinarian
Only induce vomiting if your veterinarian instructs you to do so. The best way to induce vomiting in the pet care facility is to use standard hydrogen peroxide (3% H2O2). Give 10-20 ml (2-4 teaspoons) per 20 pounds of body weight by mouth. Do not exceed 3 tablespoons, even in large dogs. Peroxide has a risk of significant gastritis (stomach irritation) or aspiration (inhaling the peroxide and/or stomach contents into the lungs). Use a syringe and slowly squirt it into the back of the mouth so the pet can swallow.
Some sources recommend inducing vomiting with table salt or syrup of ipecac but these can cause serious complications so are not recommended.
Again, do not induce vomiting unless specifically directed by a veterinarian.
Ocular Exposure (Eye Contact from Poison)
Rinse the eye(s) with tap water, distilled water or saline for 20-30 minutes. Flush the eye from medial (nose) to lateral (ear) to prevent contaminating the other eye.
Topical Exposure (Skin Contact from Poison)
Wash the pet with warm water and mild detergent such as Dawn® dish detergent. Staff should wear protective clothing and gloves to avoid exposing themselves.
Remove any poisons in the proximity of the pet. Save any vomit or samples of the substance for identification. Transport the pet to a veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible. Perform CPR if you have been trained and if the pet has no pulse or breathing. If the pet has seizures, keep the pet safe and comfortable and transport to a vet.