Spring is upon us—when warm, breezy evenings abound with choruses of spring peepers and intermittent barred owl hoots. I find myself outside earlier in the morning and later in the night this time of they year with two of my beloved canine companions, Bruno and George, tagging right along. They are running and exploring every new tuft of grass and chasing the occasional bugs already out and about. And when they do, I find myself thinking about concerns for their well-being.
Spring cleaning often starts in the garage, where all sorts of potential poisons or other toxic agents are likely to surface. One major concern is the exposure of our pets to anti-freeze (or ethylene glycol), which is sweet-tasting and thereby attractive to Fido or Felix’s palate. It is common for pet owners to unconsciously drain the anti-freeze out of their cars’ radiators—and sure enough, in just a split second, our pets are upon it, lapping it up and away. The chemical attacks the kidney and its impact is both dose- (volume ingested) and time-dependent. In the event of any potential ingestion, it is best to rush to your vet or to any available after-hours emergency service. You can expect that your pet will be hospitalized and monitored with blood and urine samples over the following days. Your expeditious response is the best way to assure a good outcome. If you wait to see symptoms, which may very subtle, then you truly are putting your pet at risk.
Another significant class of poisons commonly found in and around the home garage are mouse and rat poisons, collectively called ‘rodenticides.’ These come in all sorts of forms: gels, pellets or other palatable designs. There are at least four chemical groups of rodenticides readily found on the market. Always be cognizant of the following information labeled on your rat poison product. This proves essential when attempting to treat a known or suspected ingestion of such poisons. And, not all of the four types can be treated with vitamin K, which is the assumed first action to take. Toxicity of these mouse and rat poisons is based on the amount of product ingested, the active ingredient and the concentration of the product. If you plan to use these dangerous items around the house, then be sure to keep label information at hand in the event of a suspected or true exposure. Unfortunately, too many such poisonings are only found out after the fact, when your pet presents with signs as generalized as sudden weakness, or more evident signs of bleeding from one or more body openings without a history of physical trauma. Also, note that owners will place such poisonings in crevices or other out-of-access locations, but do not realize that rats and mice can carry those into open areas frequented by your household companions.
Fertilizers often contain chemical compounds like organophosphates and pyrethroids that are insect-killing, but potentially toxic to animals. Their signs may be intestinal or nervous system in presentation, showing vomiting and diarrhea for the former, and nervous irritability or even seizures in the latter. Common sense tells us to keep all these products away from our pets. But animals are born to explore by using their nose and sense of taste to check out the world around them. Let’s act responsibly this spring and protect our pets as we do protect our children. In these cases, an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
Dr. Doug Pernikoff practices at the Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic/Veterinary Pet Rescue. For more information, visit clarksonwilsonvet.com.