toxicity

Toxic Medications & Products For Pets

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It’s natural to want to ease your pet’s pain if they are experiencing illness or discomfort. But before you act, you must be aware that common medications used for adults and even children can be toxic and even fatal to your pet.

It is always recommended that you contact your veterinarian before administering any medications to your pets. It could be the difference between life and death.

Danger Lurks in the Medicine Cabinet

Tylenol: Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in this pain reliever, is very toxic in cats. The drug interferes with oxygen uptake in the blood of cats and can result in death if not treated promptly. Acetaminophen (also used in Excedrin and other aspirin-free drugs) can be used in dogs, but there is a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose. Consult with your veterinarian. Acetaminophen overdose in dogs can cause severe liver damage.

Aspirin: This drug is also very toxic to cats except in a very low dose. At times, veterinarians will use aspirin as an anticoagulant for cats with heart disease. This should only be done under a veterinarian’s supervision, as aspirin can be fatal. Dogs can tolerate this drug, and veterinarians will sometimes recommend it for use as a pain reliever. Chronic use of the drug produces side effects.

Ibuprofen: This is the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Motrin, and "cold and flu" medications, and is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). This drug is never recommended for cats or dogs, as it can result in severe gastric ulcers or acute kidney failure. Accidental ingestion should be treated immediately. Ibuprofen and other human NSAIDS should never be used in pets, as there are veterinary specific NSAIDS that are less toxic. Drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Meloxicam are veterinary prescribed NSAIDS, and are much safer for pets.

Naproxen: This is the active ingredient in Aleve or Anaprox, and is a very potent NSAID. Even the smallest of doses can result in severe symptoms of gastric ulcers, stomach perforations, or acute kidney failure in animals, and should never be used in animals.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most common pet poisons.

Over-The-Counter Products to Skip

Tear supplements with antibiotics: Dogs with chronically dry eyes (commonly a problem in short-faced dogs with protruding eyes) need tear supplements to help with lubrication and keep them comfortable. But read the label: Some of these products contain neomycin, an antibacterial that should be administered under the advice of your veterinarian only.

Alcohol-based ear treatments: Alcohol burns and inflames the sensitive tissues of the ear canal while drying them out, which actually makes problematic ears worse. And yet, a quick internet search will show you all kinds of “home remedy” sites encouraging its use. (Along with gentian violet, another Internet “cure” that’s not recommended by veterinarians.) If your pet has an ear infection, you need to take him to your veterinarian. After that is resolved, you can use a veterinary-recommended cleaner on a regular basis to help keep the ears clean and healthy.

Hydrogen peroxide: While commonly, effectively and safely used to induce vomiting in dogs, hydrogen peroxide should not be used on wounds. The fizz created when it interacts with tissue makes it seem like something good is happening, hydrogen peroxide, in fact, inflames the healthy skin around a wound, which increases healing time. However, recent studies have shown that it’s not even an effective antibacterial.

Steroid creams: We all know how miserable itching makes us, and when your dog is scratching, you’re almost as miserable as they are, just from watching and listening. But don’t just slap a steroid cream on the itchy spot; you may be making an infection worse, or you may just be wasting your money. Your veterinarian has many ways to help stop the itch, but the problem needs to be correctly diagnosed before any of them will work properly.

What to Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned by a medication, call your veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian is not available, call an animal poison control. There is often a charge with these services, but paying a minimal fee could save your pet’s life.

  • Pet Poison Helpline: 1-800-213-6680


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Homemade Slime: Toxicity and Health Risks for Pets

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There has been a rise in a love of crafting homemade slime in households. While not a threat to creativity, some ingredients in slime pose a threat to our beloved pets.

 

Table Salt

This is often the most concerning ingredient in many slime recipes. Pets can develop salt toxicity or hypernatremia. Depending on the amount of salt ingested symptoms can range from GI upset to Central Nervous System signs such as lethargy, tremors, seizures, coma, and death. Signs of toxicity can be seen at 2 g/kg , or 0.13 tablespoons/kg of body weight. To put this into perspective, a 10lb dog (4.54 kg) could began to show signs of toxicity after ingesting just over 0.5 tablespoons of table salt. For that same 10 lb dog a fatal dose is possible at 1.5 tablespoons of salt ingested. Some slime recipes do not contain a particular amount of salt but just instructions to continue adding salt until the desired consistency/texture is achieved. This can make it difficult to gauge the amount of salt in the finished product. Some homemade slimes contain epsom salt instead of table salt. It would generally take more epsom salt than table salt to cause toxicity but this is still an ingredient that should not be ingested in large amounts as significant GI signs can result.

 

School glue

This is a common ingredient that does not usually hold significant potential for toxicity. When ingested GI irritation (vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia) is possible.

 

Shaving cream, hand soap, dish soap, shampoo and most hand lotions

These ingredients cause not much more than GI irritation but variations in ingredients are possible that may increase the risk for toxicity. For example, there are shampoos and lotions that contain cocoa bean (Theobroma Cacao) extract which is an ingredient of concern for chocolate toxicity.

 

Boric Acid

Generally, in acute (one time) doses, this is a GI irritant that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or anorexia.

 

Saline Contact Lens Solution

While some contact lens solutions are just saline, in addition to the salt concern, many (usually the ones used to make slime) contain Boric Acid or Borate which is a GI irritant.

 

Laundry detergent

Laundry detergent, when ingested, can be a GI irritant or for some products even cause corrosive injury to the oral cavity and GI tract. Mixed into a product like a slime it would be diluted and less likely to cause corrosive injury but if not well mixed and if an area of concentrated laundry detergent came into contact with the GI tract there would still be potential for injury.

 

Toothpaste

Many kinds of toothpaste contain xylitol which can pose significant toxicity risk for dogs.  Depending on the dose ingested, xylitol can cause profound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and in higher doses liver failure. Both of these levels of toxicity can be life-threatening for your dog.

 

Liquid Starch

Most liquid starches contain ingredients that would be expected to cause GI irritation at most when ingested in a slime mixture.

 


There are other concerns in addition to toxicity when our pets ingest slime. Large amounts of slime could pose a risk for a foreign body obstruction or blockage in the GI tract.

When slime contains decorative additives such as sequins, tinsel, or glitter, injury to the GI tract is also possible. Tinsel is of particular concern as if long enough strands (more than a couple of inches long) are ingested, linear foreign body (a condition where string type materials can cause injury to the GI tract by bunching it up and causing blockage or necrotic damage)is possible.

Another concern is that slime is by nature slimy, and viscous. If your pet vomits this material back up there is a risk for aspiration of the product into the lungs which can quickly become a life threatening situation.


How do we prevent our pets from ingesting homemade slime?

  1. When the slime is not in use keep it somewhere that is not accessible to your pet.

  2. Keep your pets out of areas where slime is in use.

  3. Teach your children not to walk away from their slime project without putting it somewhere that is inaccessible to pets.

  4. Store the slime making ingredients out of reach of your pets at all times.

  5. Slime ingestion is also harmful for wildlife. Please dispose of your used slime responsibly.

 

What should you do if your pet ingests slime?

  1. Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home or treat your pet in any other way without advice from your veterinarian or an animal poison control center. Some at home treatments can do more harm than good.

  2. Call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline.


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Easter and Springtime Hazards for Dogs and Cats

Easter and springtime decorations (and edibles) liven the scenery, but also pose a potential hazard to pets. Who knew that plastic Easter grass could be dangerous, even deadly?

With spring comes spring cleaning and surveying the area for any potential hazards to your pets. It's better than the alternative of spending time and money at the veterinary hospital. Here are a few tips to help your clean up.

Easter Lily (and related Lily plants)

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The Easter Lily is a common finding this time of year. This plant, and related plants in the lily family, are highly toxic to cats if ingested.


Symptoms

The first signs seen are vomiting and lethargy, and if untreated, may progress to kidney (renal) failure and death. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your cat has eaten any part of a lily plant.

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Another spring flower often used in cut flower arrangements, daffodils, are also toxic to cats.

For a more in-depth look on plant toxicity, read our article.

 

Easter Grass (or multi-colored tinsel)

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Stringy things like Easter grass or tinsel at Christmas, pose a deadly threat if ingested, creating something called a Linear Foreign Body.

Symptoms

The first noticeable signs, aside from the material being visible from the mouth or anus, are vomiting or straining to defecate and a painful abdomen.

!IMPORTANT! Trying to pull out visible grass or string is not recommended, as this can cause more damage if the piece is long and trapped far inside the body. Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has sampled the Easter grass. While Linear Foreign Bodies are more common in cats, dogs may also ingest non-food material, and the same rules apply.

 

Chocolate


This is typically more of a dog hazard, as many dogs have a sweet tooth, a great nose, and the determination to find chocolate — hidden or not, but cats may consume chocolate too.

The toxic components in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine, and the level of toxicity is based on the type and quantity of chocolate consumed. Different types of chocolate have different amounts of theobromine and caffeine; dark chocolate contains the highest concentrations and white "chocolate" contains the least.

Symptoms

Early clinical signs are vomiting, diarrhea and trembling.

It is important to note that xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many candies, chewing gums and baked goods, is potentially very toxic to dogs and ferrets.


For a more in-depth look on chocolate toxicity, read our article.


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Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for more recipes, articles, and clinic updates delivered to your inbox (here). Or, you can keep up to date by liking and following our Facebook page (here). We also have additional helpful articles under our tips category (here).