Hi, I don't often write journals these days, but as this is a public forum I thought this piece of information would do well to be publicised.
You may or may not know that I'm a veterinary surgeon in general practice in the UK. The last couple of months I have been dealing with a depressingly large number of cases of accidental poisonings of dogs and cats with mundane and common household foods and substances.
With one notable exception none of these cases made it sadly, but what has struck me though is the fact that the owners of these animals were largely unaware of the dangers of these products which usually lack the necessary labelling.
Some of the poisonings I have seen include these seemingly harmless substances:
1. Raisins, sultanas and grapes - all are harmful, but especially raisins and sultanas, and especially to dogs. The fatal dose is surprisingly low, and the symptoms may not be seen for UP TO A WEEK after ingestion. The toxin destroys the kidneys, and there is no effective treatment for this. Most of the damage is done within 24-48 hours but may not show for a while after; symptoms include vomiting and lethargy early on and even at this stage it may be too late to treat effectively.
2. Antifreeze and car windscreen wash - these products contain ethylene glycol which is extremely toxic in very low quantities to all animals, especially cats. The compound has a sweet flavour so is often readily consumed. Toxicity causes abnormal behaviour, vomiting, a drunken appearance and irreversible kidney damage due to crystals forming in the urinary system. Treatment is very unrewarding.
3. Lilies, Hyacinths, Cyclamens, Alstrumeria flowers and Poinsettia plants - these flowers and plants (which are all common in supermarket bouquets) all contain compounds which cause an effect similar to antifreeze poisoning above. Cats are most at risk, especially kittens who can show symptoms after their natural inquisitiveness leads them to chew leaves and flowers. If you're a cat owner I would recommend you clear your house of these flowers and politely discard bouquets you may be given.
4. Chocolate - this one is a little better known; the higher the cocoa content the greater the risk. Dark and cooking chocolate is especially toxic, and in particular European brands. Theobromine, though relatively harmless to people, causes damage to the heart and liver and can cause seizures in dogs and cats. Small breed dogs, such as greedy terriers, are most at risk. With prompt treatment most cases are easily treatable. Delayed treatment makes the likelihood of survival much lower.
5. Paracetamol (Acetaminophen/Tylenol), Aspirin and Ibuprofen (Advil) - these human painkillers are lethal to cats and dogs. Cats are most susceptible to paracetamol and tiny quantities are needed to kill; I have seen a cat die from licking the inside of a used packet of Lemsip (a lemon flavoured drink for cold and flu relief). Dogs are more prone to Ibuprofen poisoning - a couple of times owners have given Ibuprofen to their dog because they seemed stiff or arthritic - DON'T BE TEMPTED TO MEDICATE. Veterinary painkillers are safer and more effective. Toxicity is mainly in the liver which is often completely destroyed. Cats can show early symptoms in paracetamol poisoning as the drug prevents the blood binding oxygen; this turns the gums and areas around the eyes brown initially and then blue. Treatment is difficult and usually unsuccessful.
Please, in any and all cases where you think your pet may have eaten or been exposed to something potentially harmful take them to your vet immediately - and I mean immediately. Most of the cases I have seen recently could have done a lot better had they been seen straight away. Treatment is always more effective the earlier it is started.