New Toxins Present Risks for Your Pets
Just when you think you’ve covered all the bases, a new threat comes literally over the fence that risks your pet’s health.
We had a recent patient that began acting strangely while on a walk with the owner. Just prior to the walk, the dog had been hanging out in the backyard, which had an alley behind.
By the time the pet got to the hospital, he was poorly responsive mentally, shaking and started to have some vomiting. Later testing was positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The only thing missing for this patient is one of the most common post-marijuana ingestion side effect – dribbling urine.
No marijuana – in either original or compounded edible forms or hemp products – was a part of the owner’s household. So our biggest suspicion is that either a human or animal dropped something in the yard that was tasty to the pet. He has recovered fully, but his case serves to highlight growing risks to pets as the marijuana and hemp derivatives become more commonly used in Denver homes and parks.
There is a place for these products for human use. But great care must be taken to protect pets from inadvertent overdoses. Please, keep your used buds, gummy treats, brownies and other forms of marijuana and hemp products out of reach of pets, as well as children.
We know that nicotine is a danger to pets as well. We used to have to worry about ingestion of nicotine-containing products such as cigarettes and gums. But now high-tech electronic cigarettes and vapes offer a new hazard for pets, especially since many have tantalizing flavors such as chocolate, milkshake, etc. The packaging may be childproof, but does not stand up to chewing.
E-cigs and the liquid nicotine used with them can contain highly variable levels of nicotine. The liquid formulation means a rapid absorption time, meaning clinical signs can come on more quickly and leave less time for decontamination. And, some products may contain diethylene glycol, which can cause acidosis and lead to kidney injury.
Nicotine toxicity can impact the nervous system, cardiovascular system and the gastrointestinal tract. Clinical signs can begin with excitation, increased respiration rate, increased salivation and tears, vomiting and diarrhea. These early clinical signs can be followed by muscle weakness, twitching, depression, increased heart rate, decreased respiration rate, collapse, coma, cardiac arrest and death.
Moving rapidly up the toxicity charts due to increase usage by humans, both appropriately and illicitly, come opioids and opiates. These drugs are designed to offer pain relief for both humans and animals. They include fentanyl, heroin, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet and methadone, to name just a handful.
If ingested in oral or patch form, opioids absorb rapidly. Signs of opiate poisoning include pinpoint pupils in dogs and dilated pupils in cats, sedation, wobbly walking and decreased respiration rate. Untreated and based on dose, the respiratory and heart rate can slow and the patient could go in to a coma and respiratory arrest.
Treatment can include rapid decontamination, if appropriate, and if the patient is not already showing symptoms, reversal with naloxone and supportive care and monitoring of heart/respiratory rates.
Be cautious and careful, and never hesitate to call or go to your veterinarian or nearest veterinary emergency facility if you see if any concerning clinical signs.
Dr. Margot can be reached at parkhillvet.com