The Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) is a 24-hour telephone emergency service providing information on the management of actual and suspected poisoning in animals. It provides direct support to veterinary professionals and now to the general public. The VPIS is a division of Medical Toxicology and Information Services (MTIS) which was established in 1963 as part of Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust. The service was launched in 1992 and has since assisted with more than 200,000 cases.
Each poisoning case is handled by a veterinary information scientist and includes a risk assessment for the toxin and species, the anticipated clinical effects and the ideal treatment protocol with prognostic advice. Information is amassed on a case database of more than 200,000 cases and extensive resources obtained by researching published data. The VPIS provides also CPD training for vets, vet nurses and undergraduates in addition to online CPD training. Collaboration with many other veterinary associations, animal welfare groups and veterinary industry partners provides research insight, leaflets and other publications on poisoning themes with the aim of increasing animal welfare and awareness of potential poisons.
The pilot for the VPIS pet owner service was launched on September 5th, 2016 to handle enquiries on all poisonings including drugs, household products, plants, agro-chemicals and venomous bites and stings. Initially, it will be available from Monday to Friday from 9.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs. The emergency number is 020 7305 5055, Option 2. This connects to an automated payment system; the cost per enquiry is £30. There is only be one charge per case, even where there are multiple calls from the owner or a vet. If in the opinion of the VPIS, the pet requires treatment, a vet is welcome to call for further advice at no charge.
When calling the VPIS, please have as many of the following details as possible ready:
- Breed, age, weight, sex and name
- The drug or product name or brand name
- Location of the incident
- Method of exposure (ingested, inhaled, walked through)
- The amount taken
- When it happened
- Whether it is a one-off event or has happened
- Whether the pet is unwell.
Prevention is always better than cure. Owners should ensure that they know what common household items, foods and plants etc are toxic and keep them out of reach. However, accidents do happen and it is not possible to control the outside environment. It is reassurting to know that the expertise of the VPIS is now available to owners as well.