Vets Corner: Harmful Household Items

November 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

By: Dr Landorf, Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital

In recent weeks several cases have happened that I would like to share as many people do not know the danger of these items.  We all like to feel that we have “puppy proofed” our home against most dangers.  It is amazing how many things that dogs put into their mouths and usually do not have a concern. Here are three things that I have seen only a few times in over 20 years of practice, but are very common.  One is a food that most of us have that we would never think of as dangerous, another is something considered lucky, and the third is known poison that has changed.


Sour Grapes

Lyla is a sweet mixed breed dog who decided to eat an entire container of raisins.  For humans grapes and raisins are completely safe except for the occasional upset stomach.  For dogs, for some unknown reason, eating grapes or raisins can cause severe acute kidney failure and in some cases be fatal.

Lyla was presented lethargic, with abdominal pain and vomiting after the owner noticed that she had eaten the raisins.  Blood work confirmed that she was in kidney failure.  She was treated for 3 days in intensive care with intravenous fluids and fortunately responded to treatment.  She was left with no permanent damage.  Unfortunately for Lyla and her parents she has no clue about what made her so sick.  The raisins are now on the top shelf of a closed cupboard!


Unlucky Penny

Another case we have recently seen involved a Shih Tzu puppy named Murphy.  Unknown to his owners, Murphy had ingested a penny.   Who would think that something so small and insignificant could cause a problem?  Many children swallow coins including pennies with no ill effects and they pass right through.  For some reason dogs retain them in their stomach allowing the stomach acid to dissolve them.  This releases zinc which is absorbed into the blood stream.  Zinc poisoning in dogs causes a severe anemia in which the red blood cells burst in the blood vessels.  In this puppy an X-ray showed the presence of the penny.  Note how the center of the penny has been eaten away by the stomach acid.  Endoscopy was performed to retrieve the penny.  Unfortunately after removal of the penny and a blood transfusion Murphy passed away.

rat poison

Mouse Bait (and switch)

Ingestion of rodenticides (Mouse and rat poison) are probably the most common toxicity that we see and has been for as long as I remember.  The poison is made to taste good for the rodent to eat, but also tastes good to our best friends.  The vast majority of these poisons have used an active ingredient that prevents blood from clotting and causes the animal to bleed to death internally.  Many years ago they included warfarin which is a short acting anticoagulant.  In recent decades the companies switched to a longer acting anticoagulant which required only one ingestion to cause death.  The substance remains active in the body for about a month.  The good thing about anticoagulant rodenticides was that they took a few days to cause illness and Vitamin K could be used as an antidote.

In the past year companies have changed the active ingredient in an effort to eliminate anticoagulant resistant rats.  The most common anticoagulant in recent years was named brodifacoum.  The new rodenticides include a toxin called Bromethalin.  Bromethalin poisons the central nervous system and can cause tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and death.  There is no antidote.  The treatment involves inducing vomiting if symptoms are not too severe, activated charcoal to prevent absorption, and supportive therapy with IV fluids to flush the pesticide out of the body.  The packaging and material looks exactly the same and there is no test for bromethalin, so it is critical if a pet in your care is exposed to rodenticide to find the packaging if at all possible and look for the active ingredient.

With exposure to any substance that might cause illness it is important to immediately contact the pets’ veterinarian or emergency clinic.  It is an excellent idea to have the number for the ASPCA poison control hotline in your phone.  They can give immediate life saving information over the phone. (There is a charge for this service)  The number is 888-426-4435.


Entry filed under: Dogs, Guest Posts. Tags: , , , , , .

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