Pet Safe Property

First Aid for Pet Poisoning

Puppies and kittens are cute and cuddly. We enjoy watching them at play with various objects around the house.
We laugh as they chew on an old slipper or chase a ball of wool. Few of us stop to think what would happen if the pup ate something that could be harmful. Even fewer are well prepared to act quickly and decisively if the ingested substance happens to be a poison.

The potential sources of poisons are endless. Drugs, household cleaning products, indoor and outdoor plants, garbage, rodent poisons, insecticides, weed killers, slug bait, antifreeze, gasoline and other petroleum distillates are some of the most common ones. The list goes on. What you can do will make a difference.

Here are the principles of handling a poisoning situation. You should have a strong suspicion of poisoning if you observe any of the following signs:

pet plant safety

  • Spilled, opened or chewed containers of medicine, insecticide, garbage or any questionable product
  • Pets chewing or playing with a poisonous substance
  • Poisonous substance on pet’s mouth, feet or body
  • Burns or painful areas on mouth parts or skin
  • Abnormal smell from pet’s mouth
  • Pet exhibiting vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness, excessive drooling, shaking, convulsions or abdominal tenderness

Here is what you can do. Contact your local veterinarian and follow his advice. If he is not available contact the nearest poison control center. The telephone number is located on the inside cover of the white pages of your phone book. It is a good idea to have emergency numbers close to the phone anyway.

Generally speaking here are the principles of first aid for poisoning:

  • Induce vomiting to remove ingested poison from stomach. (This is not indicated for acids, alkali or petroleum distillates)
  • Give substances by mouth to prevent absorption, to dilute, detoxify and promote faster evacuation of the poison from the body
  • Treat for signs of shock until you can get to your veterinarian

To treat or not to treat? If you can be at your local veterinarian’s within 20 minutes then you should call him to tell him you are coming. Bring with you the packaging of the substance your pet ate and the vomitus. This will allow him to identify the poison and find out if there is an antidote. If your veterinarian is not available and you can’t contact another one, read on.

Emetics are substances that induce vomiting. Keep in mind that they don’t always work. If your pet has not vomited after the first trial, repeat in 5-10 minutes. Do not try more than three times.

Here are three commonly used emetics:

  • Syrup of Ipecac (available at drug stores from pharmacist) 1l teaspoon for every 10 lbs. of body weight up to a maximum of 1 1/2 tablespoons.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3% – 1 to 2 teaspoons.
  • Salt (normal table salt) 1/2 teaspoon salt to back of throat followed by 1 to 8 ounces of water. Do not induce vomiting if the ingested substance is a strong acid such as car battery fluid, a strong alkali such as ammonia or drain cleaner or a petroleum distillate such as gasoline. Vomiting in this case could cause burns to the esophagus and rupture the stomach wall if it has been previously weakened.

Acids and alkalis can be neutralized with the following substances:

For Acids:

Milk of Magnesia – 1 teaspoon per 5 lbs. body weight up to a maximum of 8 teaspoons – give once.

Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) – Add 1 teaspoon to 1 cup water – give 1 tablespoon per 12 lbs. body weight.

For Alkali:

Dilute lemon juice with equal parts water – give 1 teaspoon per 5 lbs. body weight up to a maximum of 8 teaspoons.

For all poisons you can use activated charcoal (available in powder or tablet form at drug stores). It binds poisons and prevents their absorption into the body. Add 4 tablespoons per 1 cup milk or water and give 1 ounce or 30 mls per 10 lbs. of body weight. If you have charcoal tablets give one tablet per 5 lbs. body weight.

Substances which are used to coat the digestive tract and act to dilute and slow absorption are eggwhites, milk, mineral oil, kaopectate and milk of magnesia which also acts as a cathartic. Use one to 3 tablespoons depending on the size of your pet. If your pet is beginning to show signs of shock such as being to excited to swallow, acting very depressed, is convulsing or unconscious do not give anything by mouth. In this case there would be a danger of the animal breathing the substance into the lungs.

In all cases, until medical help is at hand, be prepared to treat the animal with supportive measures. Convulsing animals should be gently wrapped in a blanket to decrease the chance of self injury. Resist the temptation to grasp the tongue. It will not help your pet and may result in an injury to you.

At the first signs of vomiting be sure that the head is lower than the body to allow drainage of the vomitus. A safe and effective method of achieving this position is by placing a sofa cushion on the floor and placing the animal’s body on the cushion, allowing the head to droop onto the floor.

Loss of body heat is a common occurrence with poisoning, and can be prevented by wrapping your pet with a blanket. For extremely cold animals use a hot water bottle but make sure it is not hotter than what you can hold comfortably in your hands. Place the hot water bottle between the cushion and the blanket with your pet on top of it.

Very weak or unconscious animals should have their position changed from side to side every 15 minutes and you should observe that their breathing remains steady. If your pet stops breathing you may have to give artificial respiration, but hopefully you can get help before your pet reaches this stage.

Finally, since prevention is the best policy, take the time to poison proof your house and yard to ensure the safety of your family and pets.


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