Poisoning Risks in Pets

Kapi-Mana News Pet Health Column Article for 2 October 2012

Written by Dr Ian Schraa, 02/10/2012

Poisoning cases are relatively common in pets, particularly amongst dogs. Poisonings can be from true poisons such as 1080, rat bait and slug baits, but also from foods, such as chocolate and many plants, including lilies.

The Animal Health Board has recently laid 1080 bait in the eastern hills around Kaitoke and the Rimutakas. Dogs in this area should be muzzled when off lead as the small amount of this poison that is required to kill a possum is enough to kill most large dogs as dogs are 8 times more sensitive to it. Even if a dog eats a recently deceased possum this can be enough to poison dogs. It also works very quickly resulting in convulsions.

The most common poisoning we see is with rat bait. It is of course made tasty to attract rats and nice, and therefore most dogs will happily eat it as well. The rat bait actually has its peak effect 5-7 days after being eaten and works by causing internal bleeding. We need to see the dog straight away so that we can make them vomit up the poison before it gets their system. We also have an antidote for rat bait poisoning.

With the gardening season under way slug and snail bait is starting to be laid. The most common one is metaldehyde. This is extremely poisonous as it works very quickly and affects the digestive and nervous systems. Dogs need to be kept well away from it. There are safer products on the market, such as in Quash Tui Slug Bait, which instead contains an iron chelate.

Chocolate is also a surprisingly common cause of poisonings in dogs and occasionally cats, especially at Christmas and Easter. The darker the chocolate the more of the active theobromine it contains. It initially causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. This can progress to cardiac problems, seizures, internal bleeding and even death. Making the pet vomit early after has been eaten is the best way to manage the problem. This may need to be followed with activated charcoal if little is vomited up. This helps bind the chocolate but is not a specific antidote.

We occasionally see poisoning in dogs and more commonly cats from eating parts of Christmas lilies. Other varieties of lily such as Tiger lily and Day lily are also very poisonous. The flowers are most poisonous part but the leaves and the pollen are also poisonous. It causes kidney failure, but can also affect the digestive and nervous system.

If you ever suspect your pet has eaten a poison always get them to a vet practice as soon as possible.

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