Households harbour many toxic chemicals used as routine cleaners or for gardening, motoring or similar purposes. They are often stored where dogs can access them and are a particular danger to exploring puppies or bored dogs left alone. It is important not only to store such products out of reach of your dog but to clean up spills thoroughly and supervise dogs closely while using chemicals.
Many household goods contain batteries which can leak and poison your dog if the object is licked or bitten through and which can cause harm if disposed of carelessly. Dogs can also ingest rodent or fox bait, some of which can be scattered illegally. Discarded illegal drugs have also killed dogs and many human medications can be fatal, so keep them under lock and key and well out of reach. Antifreeze for instance poisons many dogs as they are attracted to its sweet taste and may lap up spills and leaks from puddles. Be vigilent at all times and teach your dog a reliable “leave it” command.
Nicotine is a water-soluble alkaloid that is absorbed easily through the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, skin and mucous membranes. Absorption increases once the nicotine reaches the intestines. The time taken the concentration of nicotine in the human body to decrease by half (half-life) is about two hours. The half-life of nicotine in dogs is unknown.
Clinical signs of nicotine toxicosis are dose-dependent and can occur within one hour of nicotine exposure. Low doses and the early phase of high-dose intoxication stimulate the central nervous system causing excitement, tremors, auditory and visual disturbances, ataxia, weakness, twitching, hypertension and tachycardia and sometimes convulsions. High doses result in progression to depression paralysis, respiratory arrest and death. Small doses can cause, paradoxically, bradycardia due to vagus nerve stimulation and peripheral vasoconstriction. Gastrointestinal disturbances result in salivation, emesis and diarrhoea. Vomiting may occur soon after ingestion because of chemoreceptor trigger zone stimulation.
Cigarette waste, tobacco, cigarettes, nicotine chewing gum and e-cigarettes and refills are all extremely toxic – to humans and dogs. Second-hand smoke affects animals as much, if not more, than it does humans. You may chose to smoke but the people and animals around you have no choice.
91 enquiries were made of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) regarding canine ingestion of e-cigarettes in 2015.
Don’t let your dog add to next year’s statistics.
Keep all drugs away from dogs. Better still, don’t use nocotine at all: it will be better for everyone, including your dog.
What To Do If You Suspect That Your Dog Has been Poisoned
Look in your dog’s mouth. If the gums or tongue are blue, purple, white, brick coloured or bright red, seek veterinary attention immediately. You can also do a “capillary refill time” test to determine if a poison is impeding your dog’s circulation. Lift the upper lip and press above a canine tooth with your thumb. Release your thumb then watch for the gum colour to change from white to pink. This should occur within two seconds. If it takes more than three seconds, call your vet.
Check your dog’s heart rate by placing your hand on the left side of the chest, behind the elbow and feel for the beat. Count how many heart beats occur in 15 seconds and multiply by four to obtain the beats per minute. A normal resting adult dog’s heart rate is between 70 and 140 beats per minute; larger dogs are typically at the lower end of the scale. If the heart rate is more than 180 beats per minute and you suspect poisoning, seek immediate medical attention.
If your dog is staggering, disoriented or dizzy, seek veterinary medical attention immediately. Watch for vomiting and diarrhoea. If your dog’s stool becomes watery, loose, yellow, green or deep black, contact your vet.
Heavy panting lasting for longer than 30 minutes may be a sign of respiratory or cardiac difficulty. If you can hear wheezing or crackles as your dog breathes, seek immediate veterinary medical attention. Count the number of breaths taken in 15 seconds by watching the chest movement and multiply by 4 to obtain the breaths per minute. The usual respiratory rate of a dog is 10-30 breaths per minute.
If your dog stops eating suddenly or displays a lack of appetite for more than 24 hours, contact your vet.
Write down your dog’s symptoms in detail. Note when they started. Try to identify the source by looking for upturned boxes, damaged bottles, spilled liquids or disturbed household chemicals. If you suspect that your dog ingested a poisonous product, check the label for warnings and inform the vet on the telephone so that they can call the veterinary poisons unit for advice whilst you are transporting your dog to the surgery. If possible, get someone to do this while you take the dog to the vet as time may be of the essence.
The Veterinary Poisons Information Service now has a public helpline on +44 (0)20 7305 5055. A pilot service has been running since September 5th 2016 from Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 17.00. The cost per enquiry is £30. There is only one charge levied per case, including multiple calls from a vet. Once you have made an equiry, your vet can call for further advice at no cost.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure.