Springtime Toxins

Springtime Toxins

Spring is almost in the air! With the change in weather, all of the plants start to wake from their winter slumber.  Time for Betty and Milly to investigate the garden and try each new plant to see if it is tasty!  Toxic plants and pesticides/chemicals in the yard can cause your pet to feel sick in different ways – mild signs like vomiting and diarrhea but others can cause serious conditions like kidney or liver failure, neurologic disease, or death.  Here are a few few tips to prepare yourself for possible toxic situations this spring that your dogs or cats may encounter. 1) Always call your vet if you suspect that your pet has consumed something poisonous/toxic.  Your vet may be able to recommend treatment over the phone to perform before you reach the office.2) Keep a bottle of in-date hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet to have on hand in case your vet recommends inducing vomiting.  Sometimes emptying the stomach of a potential toxic substance can be important for treatment if caught quickly (within 1-3 hours after ingesting).  DO NOT automatically induce vomiting with all toxic substances (some corrosive chemicals can cause worse irritation to the esophagus if you cause your pet to vomit).  Our vets will instruct you on how much hydrogen peroxide to give if inducing vomiting will benefit your pet.3) Visit the ASPCA Poison Control website for lots of information on different toxins/poisons that can affect your pets (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control).  The website even has a section with lots of information on plants that can be harmful (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants).  If your pet has consumed something toxic, you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (888-426-4435, FYI a fee will be required for consult) for information on treatment and discussion with a veterinary toxicologist (your vet may recommend calling this number if the toxin is not common).4) Try to train your pet to avoid eating plants in the yard – you can use different fencing to keep pets from areas of concern in the garden or try applying a deterrent spray (Yuck! or Bitter Apple) to a few leaves to teach your pet not to chew.  Consider planting only pet-friendly plants in your garden to avoid concern.  Last year, I planted a lot of marigolds, rosemary, catnip, and zinnas in my garden just in case Betty (the puppy Golden Retriever) started craving something green to munch on.5) If you think your pet has ingested a toxic chemical or fertilizer, keep the packaging for our review!  A lot of important information may be present on the label – some companies even include a toxicology/poison hotline that you can call for more information (it may be no cost to you!).
Plants outside aren’t the only potential toxins to be concerned about – spring can bring all sorts of beautiful flowers and tasty treats inside too!  If you order flowers for someone special, you can request “pet-friendly” varieties if you know that a dog or cat may have access to your gift as well.  Since Easter is just around the corner, I want to discuss two poisonous items that can be the most harmful this time of year =  Lillies and Chocolate
* Lillies (Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, Stargazer, “true lillies”) – These flowers are not toxic to dogs typically but are EXTREMELY toxic to cats.  The flowers are the most toxic part of the plant, although cats can still become very sick simply by drinking water that contains lillies or coming in contact with the pollen.  Eating multiple lily flowers can cause death within a few hours.  The toxin found in lillies typically causes acute kidney failure over a period of 1-5 days.  Symptoms of acute kidney failure include lethargy/weakness, vomiting, decreased appetite, increased drinking/urination or no urinating in severe cases.  These symptoms can occur within 2 hours of exposure.  If you are concerned that your cat has eaten part of a lily flower/plant, please call/visit our office as soon as possible to begin treatment.  Other non-true lillies (Lily of the Valley, Peace, Calla) do not cause acute kidney failure, but they can cause other conditions (GI upset, heart issues) that require treatment – better to avoid any type of “lily” in the house if you own a sweet kitty-cat.
*Chocolate – Easter baskets bring lots of wonderful treats for kids and adults, but many dangers for our pets.  Dogs and cats can not tolerate certain substances called methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine) that are found in chocolate.  The amount of these substances varies depending on the type of chocolate (baking chocolate is the most toxic for pets, milk chocolate is the least toxic) – there are different calculators online that can determine if the amount and type of chocolate consumed will be harmful/fatal for your pet.  Methylxanthines can cause hyperactivity, tremors, heart arrhythmias, and death if not caught early.  The sugar found in chocolate can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) that can become life-threatening without treatment.  Sugar-free products that contain xylitol (an artificial sweetener) can cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if ingested leading to seizures and coma.  Here is a helpful article from VeterinaryParnter.com (a website created by veterinarians) about chocolate toxicity: https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952115
We hope these tips and pearls of wisdom help you as you prepare your garden beds for the season and start planning Easter baskets.  We wish you and your furry friends a safe and happy springtime!  Please call our office if you have any questions about a potential toxin/poison that your pet has found in your home!
– Dr. Lara

Comment (1)

  • Moses Ivans March 31, 2021 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It’s the little changes which will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!

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