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Pets and poison: Help is a phone call away

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Many substances can be poisonous or toxic to pets. There are a wide variety of items – plants, chemicals, and other substances commonly found in or around our homes – that can be harmful, or even fatal, if ingested by a cat or dog. Some of these are obvious toxins, such as insecticides, antifreeze, rat and mouse baits, and mothballs, to name just a few. But would it surprise you to know that the common lily can be highly toxic to cats and that ingestion of even a small amount can result in serious kidney damage? Or that the most common variety of avocado found in stores contains a toxin that can produce serious gastrointestinal illness in dogs?

The list of common substances that can be toxic to pets is a long one. The consequences to your pet of ingesting one of these substances can range from brief, relatively mild discomfort to severe and, in some cases, fatal reactions.

Who to call?

So, what do you do if your pet has eaten something that is – or may be – toxic, and veterinary help is not immediately available? There are poison control centers – both local and national – that you can call 24 hours a day to obtain expert emergency advice if a person has ingested something toxic. But a comparable service is available – for a fee– to provide the same kind of advice in case of suspected animal poisonings.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains an Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) staffed by animal toxicologists who are available to provide around-the-clock emergency advice to pet owners whose pets have – or may have – ingested a poisonous substance. The service may be accessed 24 hours a day by dialing 888-426-4435. The APCC has a staff of nine board-certified toxicologists, 15 veterinarians, 11 certified veterinary technicians, and 12 veterinary assistants.

The Center also maintains an extensive collection – more than 850,000 – of case records involving pesticide, drug, plant, metal and other exposures in animals, as well as extensive toxicology databases. When a pet owner calls with a poisoning emergency, the staff can access these resources immediately in order to provide the most up-to-date advice available.

The Center is a not-for-profit enterprise. However, because of the costs involved in maintaining a service of this kind, there is a fee for a consultation, which may be paid by credit card.

Protect by preparing

By using the APCC Web site as a source of information, you can access information that will empower you to reduce the odds that your pet will be exposed to toxic substances. But if such exposure should occur, it’s good to know that help is a phone call away.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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