Valentine’s day is just around the corner and that means love is in the air. Soon your pets will be exposed to many flowers, candies, and chocolates! The following is a list of 5 toxins to watch our for this Valentine’s day:
Threat to pets: Although roses don’t often cause serious poisoning beyond gastrointestinal upset, there’s risk for trauma to the mouth and paws from the thorns. Additionally, if a large enough portion of the rose head or stem is ingested, a bowel obstruction may result.
Signs: Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain or discomfort, drooling, and reduced appetite.
Therapy: Check the pet’s mouth and paws for signs of trauma from thorns. Depending on severity of signs, subcutaneous (SQ) or intravenous (IV) fluids or anti-emetic drugs may be needed. In cases of notable trauma, pain medications, and antibiotics may be necessary. Prognosis: Excellent with supportive care.
What’s in them: The toxin, which remains unidentified, can be found in the petals, leaves, pollen, or even the water in the vase.
Threat to pets: These lilies are extremely toxic to cats and cause acute kidney failure within one to two days of exposure. If not treated, the exposure will likely result in death. The ingestion of just one to two leaves or petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure. Even ingesting small amounts of pollen from a cat’s fur is considered toxic. Dogs don’t develop kidney failure but may have mild gastrointestinal upset.
Signs: Within a few hours of exposure, cats may display salivation, vomiting, reduced appetite, and lethargy. These signs progress to polyuria/polydipsia and azotemia. The urine may contain protein, glucose, and tubular epithelial casts. Within 18 to 30 hours, severe and debilitating dehydration develops. Within 30 to 72 hours cats may become anuric (stop producing urine) and become gravely ill.
Treatment: Timely decontamination can include inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, and bathing (if there’s pollen on the fur). IV fluids are the cornerstone of therapy and are used to protect the kidneys. Cats also need frequent monitoring of their blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, and electrolyte concentrations and urinalysis results. Other treatment options, such as dialysis, are available.
Prognosis: The rapid onset of treatment is imperative for a good outcome. If treatment is started after the kidneys have stopped producing urine, the prognosis is poor.
Threat to pets: “Dark equals dangerous.” The darker or more concentrated the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains. Therefore, the most dangerous chocolates are baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates. White chocolate has very little theobromine and won’t cause chocolate poisoning in pets.
Pets that ingest a few M&Ms or one to two bites of a chocolate chip cookie are unlikely to develop chocolate poisoning. For milk chocolate, any ingestion of more than 0.5 ounces per pound of body weight may put dogs at risk for chocolate poisoning. Ingestions of more than 0.1 ounces per pound of body weight of dark or semi-sweet chocolate may cause poisoning. Due to the large amount of fat in chocolate, some pets may develop pancreatitis after eating chocolate or baked goods containing chocolate.
Signs: Ingestions of small amounts of chocolate may cause mild vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive urinating and drinking. Larger amounts can cause severe agitation, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and collapse. Treatment: Induce vomiting, and give multiple doses of activated charcoal to decontaminate. IV fluid therapy helps animals excrete theobromine. Sedatives and specific heart medications may be necessary to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Additional treatments include anticonvulsants for seizures and antacids (such as famotidine) for stomach discomfort and diarrhea.
Theobromine may be reabsorbed across the bladder wall, so a urinary catheter or frequent walks are needed to keep the bladder empty.
Prognosis: Excellent in pets with mild signs of poisoning, such as mild stomach upset or slight restlessness. Poor in those with severe signs of poisoning, such as collapse and seizures.
4. Chocolate covered raisins
Don’t forget that grapes also fall into this same category of toxins. Threat to pets: These fruits cause acute kidney failure in dogs. There’s speculation that they may cause kidney failure in cats as well. While not all dogs will develop kidney failure after eating grapes or raisins, it’s impossible to know which pets will be sensitive to these fruits. Therefore, all pets (especially dogs) that ingest grapes or raisins should be monitored closely and treated appropriately.
If a small dog eats just a small number of grapes or raisins, this is considered an emergency. Signs: Vomiting within hours of ingestion. Within one to four days of ingestion: increased urination, increased thirst, lethargy, and reduced appetite. Treatment: Induce vomiting, and administer activated charcoal to decontaminate. In most cases, other treatments such as IV fluids (to protect the kidneys), frequent monitoring of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine concentrations, anti-vomiting medication, and in-hospital care are recommended. Prognosis: Excellent if animals are treated before signs begin. Once they have begun to go into kidney failure, the prognosis is worse.
5. Chocolate covered macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts come from trees indigenous to Madagascar and Australia but are now also found in Hawaii and California. The nuts, which are sold commercially and available in most grocery stores, can result in poisoning in dogs if ingested. This type of poisoning hasn’t been reported in cats.
What’s in it: The toxin in macadamia nuts hasn’t yet been identified, but the mechanism may involve motor neurons, neuromuscular junctions, and muscle fibers or neurotransmitters.
Signs: Within three to six hours, dogs exhibit lethargy, vomiting, and hyperthermia. Within six to 12 hours, hind limb weakness, hind end weakness, and tremors occur. Additionally, there may be signs of abdominal pain, lameness, joint stiffness, and pale mucous membranes.
Treatment: Appropriate decontamination should be performed if the dog ingested more than 1 g/kg of nuts. As there’s no antidote, supportive measures such as in-hospital monitoring, IV fluids, and anti-vomiting medications may be necessary.
Prognosis: Good. Recovery generally occurs within 24 to 48 hours.
Our practice is unique in that we provide medical care to multiple species in the greater Tucson area. Three of our veterinarians specialize in the care of dogs and cats and the other three veterinarians specialize in the care of horses and livestock.