While poisonings are typically seen either at the family veterinarian or local emergency clinics, if the pets deteriorate, they are often referred to us for intensive care, monitoring and follow up tests in our laboratory.

I was struck in the past few weeks by how many toxicities we have seen recently. One of of them was an extremely sad story as it had a fatal outcome.

One was a lovely toy poodle which ingested poison in a North Vancouver park (Princess Park) this week-end. The other dogs in the household were also sick but, given the patient’s small size, the amount of poison he consumed, he did not survive. His presentation was extremely unusual case as the antifreeze (ethylene glycol) was laced with something else which made the detection more difficult. We were told by the family that poison is at times put out in the parks of North Vancouver for dogs and wildlife (bears, coyotes or raccoons). While we can not think who would be so misguided as to do this, we wish to warn the pet owners in that area.

We recently saw a cat who had been exposed to minoxidil (Rogaine). It is known to cause irreversible heart failure in cats. Whether there is some left on hands after applying it, or even if they like to nuzzle (or lick) the treated area or the bottle itself, they become exposed. 

As more compounds are available for topical treatments (to lessen side effects to humans), we must remember that the reason these work is that they can be absorbed from the skin. As most cats and dogs are much smaller than humans, being exposed to or ingesting such products can cause them to absorb enough to get very ill.

A small dog was exposed to the perimenopausal hormonal cream the owner was using; the cream was sometimes put at the bend of the elbow where the dog liked to sleep. That dog had serious side effects from high estrogen levels.

In another ingestion of medicated creams, a terrier ate some cream used to treat psoriasis. The medication increased the dog’s calcium levels so much that it can cause rapid kidney failure and for calcium to deposit in some organs. It was treated with specific medication to prevent further stores of calcium in the bones from being accessed and supportive care to help the kidneys flush out the calcium.

A cat was exposed to moth balls which made his blood cells more fragile and affected his kidneys.

We also saw a young lab whose family had witnessed him ingest something in an off-leash park in Richmond. They rushed over to see what he was eating and found some odd looking kibble (with blue-green marks) buried under the grassy area. The dog almost died and needed several transfusions to save his life. The kibbles were suspected to contain rat poison.

We can not protect our furry friends from all catastrophes but this is a reminder to keep all medications away from pets (whether prescribed or over the counter) and we recommend that you do not use human medications in animals without consulting your family veterinarian.

Should you want more information, we recommend you visit the Animal Poison Control Centre website.

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