VPIS & winter poisons

Summerhill is a subscriber to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, which is an internationally renowned medical toxicology service which operates from Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital in London. It is an 24 hour helpline for vets, to give advice on the diagnosis and management of poisioned animals. They deal with over 25,000 cases per year. So you can rest assured that if your pet does come in contact with a toxin or poison we can access the information we need (at any time of the day or night), to ensure your pet is treated appropriately.

Possible winter poisons include;

ANTIFREEZE As the weather gets colder lots of people add antifreeze to their cars. Most antifreeze contains either methanol or ethylene glycol. Serious poisoning is rare with methanol, however the sweet tasting ethylene glycol is very toxic, especially to cats. Cats tend to lick it up, if it has been spilt or if it is dripping from a car’s radiator. Even small amounts can lead to fatal kidney failure, so if you have any suspicions that your pet may have ingested some, get in touch with us immediately. The first signs of anti freeze poisoning are wobbliness and weakness, progressing to a fast heart rate and convulsions. If treatment is started within 12 hours of ingesting ethylene glycol, there may be a chance of recovery.

CHOCOLATE It’s the time of year when we all tend to have a lot more chocolate in our houses. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can cause a variety of signs depending on how much is ingested. Dogs are the usual culprits, who tend to be more likley to steal food than cats! After ingestion dogs tend to drink and urinate more, and they may have vomiting or diarrhoea. If severe the signs progress to panting, muscle spasms and convulsions. Plain chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, and so even small quantites can be dangerous. As a general rule, a 10kg dog requires treatment if it has eaten 12.5g of dark chocolate and 90g of milk chocolate. (These values refer to actual chocolate and don’t include any sweet fillings.) A dog would have to eat twice it’s body weight of white chocolate before the theobromine caused a problem! Be aware of other products containing theobromine such as cocoa powder and garden mulch made from cocoa shells.

BATTERIES At Christmas time, we also tend to have more batteries lying around, for all those new toys! Again it’s dogs who tend to swallow them, with button batteries and triple As being the most commonly ingested ones. Most batteries contain either strong acids or alkalis, as well as significant metal content. Usually batteries pass uneventfully through the gastro-intestinal tract, however if they become lodged, they can either leak corrosive material, or cause a blockage.

CARBON MONOXIDE As the weather gets colder we all turn up our heating, and so cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are more common. Cats and dogs (as well as children) have a faster metabolic rate than adults and so are more susceptible to posioning, and may show signs first. Pets may be exposed by sleeping close to a faulty heating appliance. Signs include drowsiness, vomiting and wobbliness, and may progress to convulsions and coma.

If you are worried about your pet coming into contact with any of the above hazards please call the practice at any time for advice.