The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

HELP! MY PET IS IN TROUBLE

Australian­s consider their pets family, and a new animal poisons helpline aims to help concerned pet owners in an emergency

- Story ELISSA LAWRENCE

used to having pets around. Medication­s might be left in bags on the floor, there are wrapped lollies, tidbits of food may be given out under the table.

“At any time, we get a lot of calls about rat bait, chocolate, cats getting flea treatments that are meant for dogs, well-intentione­d pet owners who might try to give human pain relief medication to their pets, especially if their vet is closed on the weekend.

“We do get quite a number of calls from Queensland about cane toads with questions like, ‘My dog has licked a cane toad and is drooling from his mouth, what do I do?’” (Peacock says to use a wet cloth to wipe the slime from inside the mouth).

But it’s not just cats and dogs. Calls are received about all creatures great and small – birds, lizards, snakes, goats, cows, horses, donkeys and, yes, red pandas.

“One of the most interestin­g cases was about a red panda from a zoo,” Peacock says.

“It had accidental­ly been given an incorrect higher dose of its flea medication. To decontamin­ate the panda, it needs to have a bath but the panda won’t allow you to simply bathe it, it would have to be anaestheti­sed to do so.

“So its keepers were hoping to avoid that stress if possible.

We did a risk assessment based on the literature that was available on pandas and we determined for them that we didn’t think it would be problemati­c. It all turned out fine but I don’t think the panda had any fleas that month.”

There has also been advice given to a woman from Wamuran, in the Moreton Bay region north of Brisbane, about her 15 donkeys that had been grazing in a paddock containing the poisonous flowering plant Crotalaria spp.

Then there was Shortcake the cat, from Ferny Hills, which knocked the contents of a wick diffuser over herself and possibly licked some of it.

There was Honey, the cavoodle, from Hamilton, which bit into a nasal spray containing a corticoste­roid; Basil, a crossbreed dog, from Ipswich, found with a block of rat bait in his mouth with about a quarter of it missing; and Manny, the staffy, from Bald Hills, which ingested a packet of cold and flu tablets.

There have been other cases of dogs ingesting a variety of weird and wonderful items including dirty nappies, a lead pipe, mercury thermomete­rs, cement, landscapin­g glue, lipstick and entire kebab skewers (meat and stick).

Peacock estimates that the phone assistance given can eliminate the need to visit a veterinari­an in person in about 70 per cent of cases.

“I’ve worked in emergency for a long time and when you see a delayed presentati­on for poisoning, it’s often because the owners didn’t seek advice soon enough because they were concerned about the cost involved,” she says.

“We didn’t want to create any barriers for people accessing the timely informatio­n. In poisoning, time is absolutely of the essence. As soon as an exposure occurs, the clock is ticking.

“Having a free service where owners don’t need to worry about paying anything to get timely advice can help prevent a lot of poisoning from progressin­g further. That not only saves lives but reduces the cost of treatment for owners.”

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