Intoxications: Phone Conversations

We frequently field phone calls from owners who are concerned about their pets being intoxicated or having access to a toxic compound. These are the list of questions I ask always owners:

  • What is your pet doing?
    • The main reason I ask this question first is to determine if the pets life is in danger. If the pet is seizing, collapsed, neurological, bleeding or having difficulty breathing then they need to come down immediately.
  • What lead to the suspicion of toxic exposure?
    • This can help provide useful background information.

  • What is the product?
    • In some situations owners can tell you accurately over the phone what they think they have been exposed to.
    • Asking them to bring the packaging and whatever is remaining of the toxin down with them can help determine a possible dose that they have been exposed to.
  • When did this occur?
    • Timeline and when they think the pet could have been exposed to the toxin is critical as it can help put presenting clinical signs into perspective.
    • I always ask if they could have had prior exposure to the toxin. An example where this may be important is with rodenticides.
  • What have you done in response to this?
    • They may have tried to address the situation themselves with information gained from the internet.
    • Attempts to induce emesis can make pets incredibly ill and also result in neurological signs.
  • Have they passed faeces or vomitus with the toxin?
    • If so ask them to bring it down. This can help identify the toxin, some baits are coloured and can easily be seen
    • These samples may even be able to be sent away for further testing
  • Do they have any other pets that may have also had access to the toxin?
    • If there are other pets that may have had access then they need to be brought down as well. A classic example is a multidog household and one pet is the scavenger and the others are not. Owners may neglect to inform you that their other pets may have been the culprits but did not as they assume it was the one with the history of being a scavenger.

Next week we will cover what decontamination owners can do at home.

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