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April 15, 2011 > Veterinary & Pet News: Common Pet Poisons

Veterinary & Pet News: Common Pet Poisons

Cases of pet poisons are more prevalent during Spring months. Thousands of pets suffer needlessly each year from household poisons and chemicals including snail bait, pesticides, houseplants, and people food. Many poisons can be fatal and result in death. The following are the most common poisons that we see in this area:

Pyrethrin toxicity
Frequently we are presented with a case where a pet owner has put a topical flea control medication available over the counter. The most severe fatalities occur when flea control for dogs is applied to cats by accident. Pyrethrin compounds are different from newer chemicals in that they are non-selective in their action; they can affect insects, animals, and humans. The chemical is usually applied to the back of the neck and is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. It then creates havoc causing neurological symptoms such as tremors, twitching, and eventually seizures. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to such chemicals, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. If treatment is instituted early, there is a good chance for a full recovery.

Snail Bait
Unfortunately, snail bait comes in pellets that mimic dog food and is often flavored so that pets find it quite tasty. Very little poison needs to be consumed (less than 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs) to cause severe symptoms. We are often presented with pets that have ingested this poison exhibiting uncontrolled tremors, shaking, and sometimes seizures. Old-time veterinarians would call this illness, "Shake and Bake syndrome." This name arose due to the body systems affected by this toxicity. Initially pets would have seizures; excessive muscle activity would cause very high temperatures. If ingestion of this deadly toxin is suspected, a visit your veterinarian is imperative. This poison also affects the liver and can cause long-term liver problems.

Marijuana Toxicity
Pets will frequently be exposed to marijuana when consumed in baked products, marijuana cigarette buds, or somebody's "stash." Unfortunately, diagnosis is usually only made after careful questioning and a reluctant confession that the pet may have found their friend's drugs. Almost all pets will exhibit neurological signs such as hallucinations, depression, seizures or even coma. If treated and recognized quickly, most animals recover completely.

Chocolate Toxicity
Chocolate poisoning is common in dogs. The poison also affects cats, birds, rodents, and reptiles. It is important to keep chocolate goodies away from your pets. If your pet ingests chocolate, please visit your veterinarian for treatment. Clinical signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, hyperactivity, seizures, and death.

Rat Poison
Mankind has been fighting rodents for centuries and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, the most common rat poisons are highly toxic to pets. The poison makes the rat hemorrhage ("bleed out") into their body and the same happens to pets when they ingest these deadly chemicals. Unfortunately, symptoms are not obvious and noticeable when the pet becomes weak and/or cold. If your pet is ill and rat poison is used in your house or yard, immediately inform your veterinarian. Treatment is successful if diagnosed early and treated aggressively.

Pet poisoning is a common issue facing pet owners. Over 90% of poisoning cases occur in or around the home. Thousands of cases of pet poisoning are seen every year, and increasing awareness is the only way to minimize cases and prevent major illness or fatal outcomes. We will continue discussion of poisons in our next article to further educate pet owners and raise community awareness.

Dr Raj Salwan is a second generation Veterinarian and has been around Veterinary Medicine for over 23 years. His interests include Internal Medicine, Surgery, Emergency/Acute Care, and general small animal practice. He currently works at American Animal Care in Fremont and can be reached via email at or

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