Toxic plants and chemicals
KEEPING our dogs and cats safe from potentially toxic plants and chemicals require us to know what to look out for. The following are just a few common plants and chemicals used in the garden.
Foxglove and oleander contain cardiac glycosides, a toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and death. In the case of oleander, the toxin remains in the leaves and branches long after clippings have dried and in some instances poisonings occur as the plant no longer has any odour or taste. Garlic, onion, leeks and chives all contains various amount of organosulfoxides, toxic to cats and dogs. Clinical signs vary depending on whether ingestion occurs in small amounts over long periods or large amounts in the short term. They include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, weakness, anaemia and exercise intolerance. Daffodil contains alkaloids and oxalates, the bulb being the most toxic part of the plant. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, oral irritation, drowsiness and convulsions. Lilies are toxic to cats when ingested and cause acute renal failure, which can lead to death very quickly and often requires prompt and aggressive veterinary intervention. Unfortunately treatment is not always successful when trying to restore kidney function and long term kidney damage is of major concern. Grapes are toxic to dogs. 40 grams of fresh grapes consists of a toxic dose causing kidney damage. Acute renal failure and irreversible kidney damage can occur. Sago palm is toxic to dogs when ingested. It can cause vomiting, lethargy and diarrhoea. In its most severe form it can lead to neurological signs, jaundice, spontaneous bleeding and liver failure. More severe clinical signs can take weeks or months to occur and it is associated with a 50 per cent mortality rate.
Snail bait typically contains metaldehyde, however there are some products on the market that use different chemical compounds and checking the active ingredient on the packaging will shed light on the type of chemical used. Metaldehyde toxicity following ingestion causes severe uncontrollable muscle tremors and hyperthermia (overheating). Clinical signs ensue 1-3 hours after ingestion and there is no antidote. Treatment consists of decontamination of the gastrointestinal tract and supportive care whilst the absorbed toxin is cleared from the body. Cases of toxicity are often severe and can be fatal. If you witness your dog or cat ingesting snail bait, contacting your vet immediately is strongly advised. Pyrethroid based insecticides are toxic to cats. Contact with the skin and ingestion cause excessive drooling, agitation, vomiting, incoordination, tremors, seizures and difficulty breathing. Exposure can be fatal and prompt veterinary intervention is required following exposure. If you are concerned your pet may have been exposed to a toxic plant or chemical it is best to ring your vet for expert advice.