Household Toxins

Dr Bridget Andersen

There are numerous toxins in a typical household to which our pets could become exposed.  Toxic substances range from obvious hazards such as rat poison, to seemingly benign substances such as over the counter flea medications and raisins.  It is impossible to remember all of the potentially harmful household items, but there a few key facts that every pet owner should know.

EXPOSURE TO TOXINS? NOW WHAT?:

  1. Whenever a pet has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance but seems normal, call a poison control hotline for advice.  Animal Medical Hospital recommends the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435. Note: this service is included in the HomeAgain membership.    This organization has the most accurate and expansive database of toxins, and they will be able to calculate the toxic dose your pet received and advise whether or not your pet needs to be treated.
  2. If your pet is already showing signs of illness, bring him/her into the hospital and we can call the Poison Control Hotline once your pet arrives.    There is a fee for the hotline’s services but it is well worth your while and may prevent an emergency visit to the hospital.
    1. If possible, have the product label available during the phone conversation so that you can provide information as to the product ingredients, concentration, and quantity.
    2. Also, bring the container/product label to the veterinary hospital – including the quantity spilled and vomited.

TOPICAL EXPOSURE:

If your pet has had a topical exposure to a toxic substance (over the counter flea medication, household cleaners, 100% tea tree oil, antifreeze, etc) wash your pet immediately with mild dish detergent and copious amounts of water.  It is best to wear gloves in case the product is toxic to humans as well.   For powders, vacuuming the pet’s fur prior to bathing is ideal.   For eye exposure, immediately flush the eyes with water, or ideally saline solution prepared for eyes.  Then follow up with a phone call to Poison Control or Animal Medical Hospital.

INGESTION:

For ingestion of a potentially toxic substance it is best to seek advice prior to treatment.  If the substance is deemed non-caustic and the ingestion has occurred within the hour, it may be recommended to induce vomiting.  This is best performed at a veterinary facility with an intravenous injection because the injection is less irritating to the stomach lining than oral induction.   However, if unable to bring your pet to the hospital, vomiting can be induced at home using FRESH 3% hydrogen peroxide.  Feeding a small amount of dog food or bread prior to induction of vomiting is commonly recommended.  It is helpful to keep a turkey baster, bulb syringe, or large medicine syringe on hand in order to administer the hydrogen peroxide.

INGESTION OF CAUSTIC SUBSTANCES:

It is extremely important to contact your veterinarian or Poison control center prior to induction of vomiting because vomiting is contraindicated when the ingested material is caustic.  Caustic items are corrosive and cause mild irritation to necrosis/sloughing of the mucosal tissue of the mouth and esophagus.  Common caustic household items are alkalis (in cleaning products), turpentine, and petroleum products.   In these cases it is best to dilute the toxin by giving milk or water and head to the emergency facility immediately.

The list of toxic substances is very long and is often time dose dependent.  For complete lists of toxic substances, please go to www.ASPCA.org.

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Why spay or neuter?

Neutering is a sterile surgical procedure that involves removing both testicles from a male pet. Spaying refers to the operation where the ovaries and uterine horns are surgically removed from a female pet. It is recommended to spay and neuter your pets between 5 and 8 months of age, before they reach sexual maturity. This is for both medical and behavioral reasons. The only reason not to spay or neuter is if you are going to breed or show your pet.

For male pets, there are several medical reasons for neutering. The first is to eliminate the risk for testicular cancer, which is the 2nd most common cancer in unneutered male dogs. If the testicles are removed, they can’t get cancer there. Neutering reduces the risk for prostate cancer and prostatitis, and reduces the risks of diseases associated with hormones such as testosterone. As for behavior- there will be a decrease in the need for roaming as your dog will not have the urge to reproduce, as well as decreased aggression. It also decreases the urge to “mark” their territory, so inappropriate urination is less likely to be an issue.

There are medical and behavioral advantages to spaying your female pets as well. Medical reasons include the eliminating the possibility of false pregnancy, uterine infections known as pyometras, decreasing the risk of breast cancer and eliminating the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer. As with males, behavioral benefits include reduced aggression and other undesirable behaviors such as inappropriate elimination.

There are serious medical complications and behavioral issues that can arise from not spaying and neutering your pets, as outlined above. In addition to these, you will be preventing the risk of unplanned pregnancies. If you take away the urge to reproduce, they will be much more suitable as pets because they will no longer have to answer the “call of the wild.”

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Nutrition for Ferrets

Feeding your ferret a proper diet is extremely important.  Ferrets, like cats, are strict carnivores that are designed to eat whole, small prey animals.  In nature, ferrets would only encounter carbohydrates in the partially digested stomach contents of their prey.  The most common diet fed to pet ferrets in the United States is dry kibble, however these diets still contain high levels of grain.  The most important thing to look at when choosing a food for you ferret is the label.  The optimal diet contains 30-35% crude protein (high-quality meat sources) and 15-20% fat content.  The first three ingredients of a ferret diet should be meat products.  Dry diets can also be supplemented with:  fresh raw organ or muscle meat and raw egg.  Fruits should be avoided and fresh water should always be available either in a sipper bottle or a heavy crock-type bowl.  If a bowl is used it should not be easy to overturn.  Supplements should never be added to the ferrets’ water because they will degrade quickly.  Make sure to speak to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your ferret’s diet.

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