Pets Eat the Darndest Things

Pets are awesome, filling our lives with enjoyment and love. They make us laugh, provide us with comfort and protection, and are playmates for our children. But…they can be naughty and mischievous – particularly when it comes to eating things they aren’t supposed to. When dietary indiscretion, AKA “what in the world did my pet eat” occurs it can be scary and overwhelming. Dietary indiscretion can include objects such as clothing, toys, rocks, home decor, plants, and baby items (dirty diapers, pacifiers, and bottle nipples). Pets also love to raid counter tops, pantries, and trash cans which all contain foods that can make them very ill. Other household items that can put pets at major risk can be found in purses and book bags, cleaning closets, garages, medicine cabinets, and garden sheds.

Another source of dietary indiscretion can occur when pets are accidentally administered the incorrect medication or offered toxic people food unknowingly. Sometimes good intentioned pet owners can cause harm mistakenly. A good rule of thumb is to NEVER administer medications without first discussing with a veterinarian, especially human medications, and to ensure you are aware of all ingredients in food products.

Did you know that tylenol, human non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen for example), and kaopectate are extremely toxic and often fatal when administered to cats? A well-meaning pet owner may choose to give their cat one of these medications if their veterinarian is closed with the intention of helping.

Did you know that xyliotol is a sugar replacement that can cause acute liver failure in dogs? Did you know one brand of gum, or different flavors of the same brand may have 4-5 times the amount of xyilotol in a single stick? Did you know that xyliotol is now being used in some peanut butter? A pet owner may innocently offer peanut butter to their dog as a treat not knowing xylitol is present or the pet may help themselves to gum found in a purse or backpack.

The good news is most cases of dietary indiscretion and toxicities are treatable, especially when treated quickly and correctly. It is important to notify your veterinarian immediately if you suspect anything unwanted has gone “down the hatch”. Treatment often includes decontamination with induced vomiting and/or charcoal administration, medications to counteract toxic side effects, and supportive care and monitoring.

What do you do when you suspect your pet “ate the darndest thing” after normal business hours? If your pet seems in distress go directly to a pet ER. Your veterinarian will have listings of pet ERs on their voice mail and website. Always feel free to Facebook message Compassion Veterinary Center after hours, and we will always do our best to respond and guide you. During business hours, you can reach CVC at (240) 341-4964.

I also encourage the use of two other excellent resources available by phone that specifically deal with pet toxicities.

Internet sites provide valuable information on common pet toxicities. Both help lines are open 24 hours a day and staffed with veterinary toxicologists that provide consultations and directions on what to do from home, what to monitor for, and when to seek veterinary care. This case number will be used by your local veterinarian and toxicology specialist to develop a treatment plan and provide valuable information on prognosis. Consultation with one of these hotlines could save you a trip to the ER or more importantly save the life of your pet.

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