“I can’t believe you ate that!” – toxin exposures in dogs
Anyone who has a dog knows they can get into everything. The trash can, new potting soil bag, paper bag with mysterious contents they found in the park– it’s all fair game. As dog owners, we worry about exposures to potentially harmful substances, especially in our younger dogs that, to put it mildly, don’t always exercise the best judgment when putting things in their mouths.
Two recently published reports from large pet poison control centers, Animal Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline shared information collected on toxin exposures in pets.
Not surprisingly, dogs are the major culprits when it comes to potential toxin exposures. Both groups report the vast majority of phone calls to poison control involve dogs; around 86 percent. Dogs under 5 years old accounted for 76 percent of the calls in one study, with much lower exposures reported in middle-aged dogs, and very few reported in dogs more than 13 years old.
According to Animal Poison Control Center, calls to the center increase slightly in the summer months, but overall numbers are steady throughout the year. Two exceptions are peaks noted around Christmas and Halloween, caused by increased calls on chocolate ingestion. Chocolate ingestion happens to be the most common food-related reason for calling Pet Poison Helpline.
Both groups report that ingestion of human medications, prescription and over-the-counter, is by far the most common reason pet owners contact poison control. The majority of phone calls are due to accidental ingestion of pills. Dropped pills are the most common scenario according to APCC. Pain medications, especially ibuprofen and acetaminophen, were the most commonly reported over-the-counter exposures, and antidepressant drugs were the most common prescription drug exposures.
Owners can take some common sense steps to minimize the chance of toxin exposure or improve outcomes if exposure occurs:
- Be careful when taking medication. Stand at a counter or table to minimize the chance of dropped medication reaching the floor.
- Keep all medications out of reach of pets and children.
- Know everything about your prescriptions: drug name, what it is for, how many pills were prescribed, and how many are left.
- Early diagnosis and treatment are critical. Call your veterinarian or poison control even if exposure is just suspected.
- Be aware of times of the year when exposures are most common, summer months and holidays.
The good news is fatalities due to exposures are rare. By being proactive in preventing exposure, and acting promptly when exposure does occur, you can make a difference in keeping your pet healthy.