by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
Veterinary hospitals are frequently called by pet owners, concerned that their pet has, or may have, ingested a poisonous or toxic material. There certainly is no shortage of materials in our environment that may be dangerous to ourselves or our pets, if ingested.
When called for advice, veterinary staff may suggest the owner call the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) operated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The APCC is the premier animal poison control center in North America. It is an allied agency of the University of Illinois and is the only facility of its kind, staffed by 40 veterinary professionals, including 9 board-certified toxicologist/veterinary toxicologists, 10 certified veterinary technicians and 16 veterinarians. The ASPCA announced earlier this year that the APCC handled more than 116,000 calls to its hotline in 2006. From information supplied by the ASPCA, acquired from these calls to the APCC, here are the top ten hazards encountered by our pets.
For the past several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA's list of common hazards. This continued to be the case in 2006 when 78,000 calls involving drugs used for humans were managed by the APCC. Painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements were the most common kinds of human medications involved. It is important that medicines used for people should never be given to pets unless directed by their veterinarian. Some very common medications can be toxic or even fatal if given to your pet. Certain veterinary medications that are commonly prescribed for pets, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines should never be combined with aspirin or other human non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Medications should be stored in secure cabinets above the counter and out of the reach of pets. Remember pets may be able to chew through containers regardless of how safely the lid may be on. Pet owners should exercise equal vigilance to avoid taking any medicines intended for their pet.
The APCC handled more than 27,000 cases pertaining to insecticide products used to kill fleas, ticks and other insects. With any insecticidal agent used for pets it is important to read and follow exactly label instructions. Never use any product not specifically formulated for the species of your pet. Some products that are safe and effective for dogs may have serious side-effects or even cause death if given to cats. Once again it is vital to consult a veterinarian before using any such materials for your pet.
In 2006, the APCC assisted with 12,000 cases that involved animal related veterinary medications. The most common types of medications that caused concern were non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements. Again it is important to stress the need to read and follow directions for any medication dispensed for your pet. Do not think that giving more of the medicine than directed will help your pet get better faster or more completely. Some medicines may not be safe to use in all species. Different dosage may be necessary for different species. Do not give medication sent home for one pet to another pet without consulting with your veterinarian. Owners who have any drug allergies themselves should advise the veterinarian of this, in order that other medications can be considered for the pet.
I have run out of space in this column, but unfortunately have not run out of pet hazards. I will list the remaining top 7 hazards, according to the APCC, next time. Meanwhile, may I remind you to seek the immediate advice of a veterinarian if your pet becomes injured, is showing signs of illness or may have ingested a substance which you suspect may be harmful to their health. For more information on potentially dangerous substances or to reach the Animal Poison Control Center you may call 1-888-426-4435 or visit www.aspca.org/apcc . The center takes calls from Canada or the United States. A $55 US charge per call applies.