Toxins: Even a Little Bit Can Be Too Much

Toxin exposure is a big deal for our pets. It’s important that we keep them protected from things that can harm them. The following e-mail has made the rounds on the internet and through e-mail, so you may have seen it. If you haven’t, take a look and we’ll add our $0.02 at the end. (Tip of the hat to Kayla & Murphy’s mom for the topic suggestion.)

If you have a dog … PLEASE read this and send it on. If you don’t have a dog, please pass along to friends who do.

Written by:
D. Veterinary Clinic
D. , OH

This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, 5 yr old male neutered lab mix that ate half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday. He started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1 AM on Wednesday but the owner didn’t call my emergency service until 7 AM.

I had heard somewhere about raisins AND grapes causing acute Renal failure but hadn’t seen any formal paper on the subject. We had her bring the dog in immediately. In the meantime, I called the ER service at MedVet, and the doctor there was like me – had heard something about it, but… Anyway, we contacted the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center and they said to give IV fluids at 1 & 1/2 times maintenance and watch the kidney values for the next 48-72 hours. The dog’s BUN (blood urea nitrogen level) was already at 32 (normal less than 27) and creatinine over 5 (1.9 is the high end of normal). Both are monitors of kidney function in the bloodstream. We placed an IV catheter and started the fluids. Rechecked the renal values at 5 PM and the BUN was over 40 and creatinine over 7 with no urine production after a liter of fluids. At that point I felt the dog was in acute renal failure and sent him on to MedVet for a urinary catheter to monitor urine output overnight as well as overnight care.

He started vomiting again overnight at MedVet and his renal values continued to increase daily. He produced urine when given lasix as a diuretic. He was on 3 different anti-vomiting medications and they still couldn’t control his vomiting. Today his urine output decreased again, his BUN was over 120, his creatinine was at 10, his phosphorus was very elevated and his blood pressure, which had been staying around 150, skyrocketed to 220 … He continued to vomit and the owners elected to Euthanize.

This is a very sad case – great dog, great owners who had no idea raisins could be a toxin. Please alert everyone you know who has a dog of this very serious risk.

Poison control said as few as 7 raisins or grapes could be toxic. Many people I know give their dogs grapes or raisins as treats including our ex-handler’s. Any exposure should give rise to immediate concern. Onions, chocolate, cocoa, avocadoes and macadamia nuts can be fatal, too.

Even if you don’t have a dog, you might have friends who do. This is worth passing on to them.

On the list of toxic things pest shouldn’t be around, chocolate, anti-freeze, rat poison, some types of plants, and fertilizers often come to mind with our owners. We also frequently receive calls from owners concerned that their pet has eaten some type of human medication, and this is also a concern. But there are also other potential toxins that pet owners may or may not realize can harm their pets. The following list is from the ASPCA’s Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2010. After we share the list, we’ll share our own “take-home” thought about toxins and pets, so even if you don’t want to read the entire list, make sure to scroll to the bottom!

1. Human Medications – OTC medications such as ibuprofen & acetaminophen as well as antidepressants and ADHD medications are the most common

2. Insecticides – flea control medications used in ways other than labeled directions account for the majority of these concerns

3. Rodenticides – rat & mouse baits can cause seizures, internal bleeding or kidney failure

4. People Food – Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are commonly ingested by our pets. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs, while onions and garlic can cause anemia if enough is ingested. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol used to sweeten sugar free gums and mints, can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. 

5. Veterinary Medications – especially flavored medications; contact us if your pet takes anything more than the proper, labeled dose

6. Chocolate – contains methylxanthines, which act as stimulants to our pets (as if you drank a bunch of Starbuck’s Espressos in one sitting); the darker the chocolate the more dangerous; agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and death are possibilities

7. Household Toxins – cleaning supplies, batteries and liquid potpourri are corrosives to a mouth, esophagus and stomach

Do not ignore a
possible toxin exposure
or decide to
“give it a day or so.”

8. Plantshouse plants and outdoor plants can be problems, especially lilies (life-threatening kidney failure in cats) & sago palms (liver failure in dogs and cats); have a question about a plant in your house or yard?

9. Herbicides – often salty and tasty to pets

10. Outdoor Toxins – antifreeze, fertilizers and ice melts should be securely locked sheds or on high shelves where pets cannot get to them

“Take-home” message from Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic: Do not ignore a possible toxin exposure or decide to “give it a day or so.” Some pets may not be bothered by a particular toxin exposure while another pet could die from the same exposure. Any potential toxin exposure should be brought to our attention (330-929-3223) and appropriate baseline laboratory tests and symptomatic treatment should be addressed.

We want our patients to experience the best quality-of-life. If something happens that can jeopardize the best quality-of-life, we want to address the problem and correct it as soon as is possible!

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