Browsing tag: poisons

Don’t Panic! – What to do in a Vet Emergency

Don’t Panic!

Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS

Thankfully, medical emergencies don’t happen very often with our pets, however, when they do occur they can be very frightening and it is easy to panic when a beloved animal is seriously ill. This article will hopefully help you by explaining some common emergency situations and what to do.

Firstly, all vets have to provide an emergency service out-of-hours, so you will always be able to contact a vet if you need one. Some practices run their out-of-hours and others will use a separate, dedicated emergency clinic. It is useful to know your vet’s arrangements before you need them but usually a quick call to the surgery will give an answer-phone message with the instructions you need (so remember to have a pen close to hand if you call!) The best place for a sick pet to be seen is the surgery and although sometimes your vet may be able to visit, it is likely you will need to take them in, so make sure you have some arrangements in place, especially if you have a large dog who you might not be able to carry if they collapsed.

Cuts and bleeding wounds are a common problem, particularly in dogs who don’t aways look before they leap! Firstly, identify where the wound is, and if it is bleeding, stem the flow with constant, even pressure using a clean towel. If the blood is oozing from the wound it is unlikely in the short term there will be significant blood loss but if it is dripping quickly or pumping out, then pressure application is vital, even if your pet resents it. Resist the temptation to check if the bleeding has stopped, just keep the pressure on and pick up the phone! If the wound isn’t bleeding badly your vet may advise you to wait until normal opening hours but to keep it covered so your pet can’t lick it and don’t apply any wound powders or gels as these can make stitching the skin more difficult.

Dogs having epileptic fits are a frequent reason for calls to the out-of-hours services (they can occur in cats but are very rare). When they happen they are usually unexpected and very frightening to watch. However, they normally only last a minute or so and usually by the time you get in touch with a vet, your pet is already coming round. During a classic fit, the dog will fall on their side, shake violently and sometimes lose control of their bowels or bladder. The best thing you can do is turn off the lights, TV or radio, stay calm and move anything your pet could hurt themselves on. You can hold them gently but be aware some dogs are very disorientated when they come out of the fit and may snap at you. Continue to keep the environment dark and quiet and then call for more advice.

Road traffic accidents are extremely scary and often cause very painful injuries. If you see it happen, make sure your pet is under control (when they are frightened and hurt, animals have a tendancy to run away if they can), keep them warm with a coat or blanket and get them to the vet as soon as possible. If you have to lift or move them do so as gently as possible, keeping the body level and avoiding any obviously damaged areas. It is a very good idea to tie something dogs noses, like a scarf, or cover cat’s heads before moving them as pets who are in pain have a tendency to lash out, even towards people they know.

A very common opener to a call to the emergency vet is ‘I’ve just realised my pet has eaten………’, and again it is usually dogs! Unfortunately there are many things around our houses and gardens which are toxic to our pets. If an animal has eaten something they shouldn’t, even if you are not sure it is poisonous, the best approach is to call the vet straight away and make sure you keep all the packaging so you can tell them exactly what it is and it’s active ingredients.

Upset tummies are a regular occurrence at any time but many pets wait until the middle of the night before vomiting or having diarrhoea all over the carpets! In many cases they can be safely left until morning but if they are passing blood (from either end), are vomiting continually, or you know they have swallowed something solid (such as a toy, stone or bones), you should call the vets immediately for advice.

Other problems which should definitely trigger a call to your vets regardless of the time of day include any animal which is collapsed, has very pale gums, a rapidly expanding stomach, especially in large breed dogs, being unable to stand on a leg and any bitch giving birth who appears to be struggling.

Hopefully an animal emergency will never happen to you but if it does remember, keep calm, take steps to ensure both your pet and yourself are as safe as possible, stem any bleeding with pressure, keep them comfortable and ring your vet as soon as possible. Even if it isn’t an obvious emergency, it is never the wrong decision to call for some advice, you won’t be charged and while you may just need your mind putting at ease, you might just be saving your pet’s life!

If you are unsure if you are dealing with a genuine emergency you can use this free interactive pet symptom checker written by UK vets.

Cats and Christmas

Yes, it’s true, Christmas is upon us yet again.  A time of fluffy white snow, happy children, beautifully wrapped gifts and exceedingly large meals.  Or, if you’re a cat owner, a time of missing ornaments, broken baubles, toppled trees, and shredded wrapping paper.  The antics of the family cat can be a welcome distraction when the discussion gets a bit too heated around the dinner table, but just as cats enjoy all the new toys there could be some hidden dangers too.  Here are some things to think about this holiday season.

Cats are curious by nature and will want to investigate the tree at least!The Christmas tree

  • “What could be better?” says the cat.  “The joys of the outdoors in the warmth of my living room!”  Christmas trees are a cat’s dream come true.  Many cats, especially kittens, find climbing the tree irresistible and will stop at nothing to try to make it to the top.  You can try all sorts of deterrents, including aluminium foil around the base (cats hate walking on it) and keeping a water spray bottle close at hand, but it usually won’t stop them trying at least once.   Many cats also hate the smell of oranges, so some people say keeping orange peels under the tree can help deter climbing.  If your cat is particularly curious, you may simply have to lock them out of the room altogether.
  • The ornaments are another endless source of feline entertainment.  Make sure all expensive, fragile or potentially dangerous ornaments are placed at the top of the tree out of easy reach.  This includes glass baubles, things that look like small furry creatures, and anything that has a string or ribbon on it.  Make sure all wires and clips are attached tightly to the branch, and try not to have any ornaments that swing from side to side where the cat can see them.
  • Where possible don’t provide your cat with a launching ramp (i.e. keep the tree away from the sofa or other furniture).
  • Beware of electric cords and light bulbs, and watch your cat carefully to make sure they do not take a rather shocking interest in them.

Poinsettia and many other favourite Christmas plants are poisonous to cats.
Deck the halls, carefully!

  • As mentioned above, any decoration that swings or is otherwise attractive to the cat should be placed out of reach or avoided altogether.  Sharp, pointy decorations or those with small parts that could fall off should also be placed carefully.
  • Ribbons and string can be fatal to cats, so if you must use either in your decoration or whilst wrapping presents, make sure it’s well out of their reach and clean it up immediately after use.
  • The eating of pine needles should be discouraged whenever possible.  Citronella, Tabasco sauce, or bitter apple spray can be used on the bottom branches to discourage chewing.
  • Some plants including mistletoe, holly, lilies and poinsettias, are toxic to cats and cause serious problems if eaten so keep them out of reach or better yet, simply admire them in the homes of others.  The same goes for fake snow – best to avoid it altogether.
  • Make sure all human food is kept out of reach of your cat – they don’t need it and it could make them sick!  But if you absolutely must share, be careful with what you give them to sample as some foods such as chocolate are toxic to cats.  Never give cats (or dogs!) turkey bones as they could cause serious problems if eaten.

A joyful yet stressful time for all

  • You aren’t the only one who dreads the arrival of the in-laws.  Cats will not only pick up on your stress and act out accordingly, but can also be thrown off by all the extra activity in the house.   
  • Some cats will deal with this stress by displaying charming behaviours such as urinating on your carpet or guests’ luggage, scratching up the sofa, or becoming generally unpleasant and aggressive.  Others may spend the whole time hiding under the bed or outdoors.
  • To help ease your cat’s stress levels (and perhaps your own too!), try to spend a few moments with your cat alone each day and provide a quiet, calm area to which they can retreat if needed.  Make sure food and water bowls are well stocked and easily accessible to even the most timid kitties.  Calming pheromone sprays or plug-ins such as Feliway can be tried to help keep the peace.
  • Remember, some cats are particularly prone to urinary tract problems (such as infection or even blockage) during times of stress and cold, so monitor your cat for frequent or difficult urination.  They’re also more likely to pick up a case of the sniffles and go off their food, so ring your vet immediately if you have any concerns.   

But aside from the dangers, Christmas can be a wonderful time to share with your cat.   Some of your best photos will be of your cat interacting with the Christmas tree or popping their head out of a pile of wrapping paper.  A few devoted owners even give their cats their own stocking to open on the big day.  Do remember, however, that when buying your cat a gift, Murphy’s Law clearly states that the more expensive the gift the less interested they will be in it and the packaging is almost always more fun than the toy itself!Cat-in-the-wrapstocking-sleep

 

 

 

 

Many of the points above also apply to dogs. Also, you might want to take a look at the related blog published last Christmas entitled “The nightmare before Christmas” for more tips on keeping your pet safe at this time of year. 

If you are worried about the health of your pets over Christmas, talk to your vet or use our Interactive Symptom Guide to check how urgent a problem may be.

“No! Not on the carpet!” – Vomiting in Cats

I knew it was going to be a rough day when I walked in and saw that three of my ten morning appointments were vomiting cats.  Second only to the chronically itchy dog, vomiting cats can be one of the most frustrating things we have to deal with as vets because there are so many possible reasons why it can happen.  Anything from what the cat had for dinner last night to metabolic diseases that may have been brewing for years could be the cause, and distinguishing between them can take a lot of time, money and effort.  And that’s just for the vet – as the owner of a cat that vomits frequently myself, I understand how unpleasant it is to walk downstairs in the middle of the night and step in a pile of cat sick.  Be it on the new white carpeting or the beat up old sofa, it’s not pretty.  It may be a harmless hairball, but it can also be a sign of serious illness in your cat so it’s definitely worth getting it checked out by your vet.  If you are unlucky enough to have a vomiting cat, here are some things you may want to consider.

Why do cats vomit so much?

Amber prowl cropVomiting in cats is extremely common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s normal.  Some cats are simply prone to hairballs, especially long-haired cats or those that groom excessively.  Others are particularly sensitive to the kinds of food they eat and may not be able to tolerate a particular protein such as beef or additive such as wheat gluten.  Intestinal worms can cause vomiting sometimes, and you may even see them wriggling around after they come up!  Poisonings are rare (cats have a much more discerning palate than dogs) but do occur.  Sometimes playful kittens will swallow things such as pieces of string which can be very dangerous indeed.  Metabolic disorders such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and liver problems can all cause vomiting too as can tumours of the intestinal tract such as lymphoma.  Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, an organ which secretes digestive enzymes) or inflammatory bowel disease are other common causes which can present themselves in a wide array of confusing ways.  And of course there is one of my favourite terms, “dietary indiscretion”, which can describe the ingestion of anything from rancid rat remnants to last week’s chicken chow mein from the bin.  With such a huge range of possibilities, it’s easy to see how difficult it can be to find the underlying cause.

What should I do if my cat vomits?

Amber-drinkAs with any medical condition, the best thing to do is contact your vet.  They may tell you to simply starve your cat for a few hours (cats should never be starved for long periods of time though, and should always be brought to the vet if they go more than 24 hours without eating, as this can lead to other serious problems) and reintroduce a bland diet such as plain boiled chicken, as this may fix many acute cases of vomiting.  As always, fresh water should be available at all times.  Or, if your cat is displaying other symptoms such as lethargy, inappetence or diarrhoea they may recommend you bring him straight down to the clinic.  The vet will do a physical exam and take a detailed history, so try to remember as many details as you can about your cat’s behaviour in the past few days.  They may take a blood test or check the urine to rule out metabolic diseases.  Depending on the symptoms they may also choose to take some x-rays of the abdomen to look for anything that the cat may have swallowed, or perhaps perform an ultrasound scan to check for any tumours or other problems with the internal organs.  Because there are so many possible causes for vomiting, sometimes many different tests will be needed so it can become quite expensive at times.  Yet another case where pet insurance is a real plus!

How is vomiting treated?

As previously mentioned, if your cat is otherwise well, you may be asked to feed him something bland such as chicken or white fish with no flavourings or fats added.  Although dogs often appreciate rice or pasta mixed with their meat, cats usually do better without the addition of a carbohydrate.  Or, if you’re not up for cooking, there are a number of prescription pet foods available that can help as well.  If hairballs seem to be the problem, there are special pastes and foods that will help them pass through the body instead of being vomited up.  A worming tablet or liquid may be prescribed if there is evidence of worms.  An anti-emetic (medication that stops vomiting) can be given to help calm things for a bit, and sometimes other medications such as antibiotics or steroids are used as well.  If a foreign body is found (in other words, your cat ate something that got stuck), surgery will be performed to remove it.  Surgery can also be used to remove some types of tumours, or to take biopsy samples of different parts of the intestinal tract to help diagnose the problem.

Some cases of vomiting will resolve on their own, while others can require weeks of intensive diagnostics and treatments.  If left untreated, excessive vomiting can make the cat very ill and you also risk missing any underlying medical problems so make sure you talk to your veterinary surgeon right away if you are at all concerned.  But please be patient with your vet if they can’t fix the problem right away – and remember that we can be just as frustrated by it as you!

If you are worried about your cat vomiting, talk to your vet or use our interactice Cat Symptom Guide to check how urgent the problem may be.

Lily poisoning in cats

Lilies - the stamens can easily be removed but ALL parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten

Lilies - the stamens can easily be removed but ALL parts of the plant are poisonous to cats if eaten.

Lilies are beautiful flowers, exotic in appearance and heavily scented. They are often included in bouquets and floral arrangements, but cat owners need to know that they are extremely poisonous if eaten, or even if pollen is accidentally swallowed whilst grooming after brushing against a lily.

It is thought that all parts of the lily flower and plant are poisonous to cats if eaten, and the effects are very serious and very fast. Only a very small amount needs to be eaten to cause devastating effects. Unfortunately kittens are most susceptible, not only because of their size but also because of their natural curiosity and tendency to investigate everything.

The poison acts mainly on the kidneys and is absorbed very rapidly. The first sign is usually severe vomiting but cats may also show loss of appetite, depression, salivation, twitching or collapse. Sadly, a high number of them will die due to irreversible kidney damage. Others will survive but have permanent kidney damage. Only a lucky few will survive without long-lasting effects.

The most important factor in treatment is seeking rapid veterinary help. Any cat which has been seen to eat part of a lily or is vomiting and has had possible contact with lilies, should be considered a veterinary emergency. There is no specific antidote to lily poisoning, but the chance of survival will be increased by giving fluid therapy as early as possible. By placing the cat on a drip, the kidneys are helped to eliminate the toxin and limit the damage to the kidneys. The rate of administration of fluids will be much higher than usual and will need to continue for several days if the cat is recovering. If a cat is presented very early, even before vomiting has occurred, it might be useful to induce vomiting to try to stop toxin being absorbed, or to lavage, or wash out, the stomach or to try to line the stomach with a charcoal substance to reduce further absorption. Other drugs may be given as well, particularly if there are neurological symptoms such as twitching, salivating or fitting.

I have seen several cases of lily poisoning in cats over the years, and sadly, at least half of them died or were put to sleep because the effects were so severe.

In my opinion, the warnings on lilies sold in some shops are not obvious enough. Some labels may carry a single line such as “Lily pollen is harmful to cats if eaten”, but this does not really convey the seriousness of the situation or advise the buyer that immediate action is needed. Some supermarket lilies have had the pollen bearing parts removed, but this does not change the fact that all parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten rather than just brushed against.

If you own a cat it is worth considering keeping lilies out of your house altogether, or at least out of reach. Bear in mind that a healthy curious cat can reach most things if it puts its mind to it!

If you are worried that your cat may have eaten part of a lily, or about any other health problems, please contact your vet immediately.

The nightmare before Christmas…

Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, all those presents and decorations, not to mention the yummy food!  However, there are problems we see commonly with pets around the holiday season that are directly connected with the festivities and this blog is about recognising and helping to prevent them.

Chocolate

chocolateChocolate is poisonous to dogs and there is often a lot more of it around at this time of year!  The basic rule is the posher the chocolate, the worse it is, as the more expensive brands contain higher percentages of cocoa solids.  The cocoa solids are ingredient which is dangerous and they can cause agitation, palpitations and damage both the heart and the kidneys.  If your dog has eaten chocolate and you are concerned, call your vet and keep the packaging, so you can tell them the cocoa solid percentage.  Chocolate poisoning is treated by making the dog sick, putting them on a drip and giving them sedatives.  Ensure during the festive period that all treats are kept well out of reach of dogs (don’t forget the ones on the tree!) and that the only chocolate they are given is especially for dogs.

christmas dinner
Christmas dinner

It is tempting, when we are tucking into a fabulous spread for Christmas lunch, to share this with our pets.  However, their bodies are less able to cope with unusually rich food than us and nobody wants to be clearing up vomit and diarrhoea on Christmas day.  If you do give your pet a treat, stick to small amounts of lean meat and vegetables, avoid rich gravy or dressings.   Also, NEVER feed cats or dogs turkey bones.  These can cause huge damage to the guts and sometimes require expensive surgery to remove them. Another thing to avoid is giving Christmas pudding or cake to your dog, as raisins are very toxic to dogs.

baubles
Tinsel and decorations

Cats find tinsel fascinating and will often play with it if they get the chance.  However, this can cause problems.  The way cat’s heads are put together means they are prone to getting things stuck around the back of their throat.  The small fronds of tinsel are just the right size to get caught here, especially if the cat has been chewing at them and they usually require an anaesthetic to remove them.  You should also take care to keep any delicate or glass decorations or baubles out of reach, as they could cause a pet significant damage if they are broken or eaten.  Sometimes, especially if your animals are young or lively, it can be best to dispense with the posh Christmas decs until they are older or calm down and stick to the ordinary plastic ones instead!

dog_sleeping

Visitors

Christmas is a time for socialising, which often means a regular supply of visitors to the house.  Most animals will cope with this fine and enjoy all the extra attention, but some will find this very stressful.  If you know your cat or dog dislikes having people in the house, ensure they have the means to escape from them and don’t force them to be sociable.  Also, stick as close to their normal routine as possible, which help them feel more settled.


fireworkFireworks

A great many pets find fireworks with their bangs and flashes very frightening and  they are commonly set off at this time of year.  It is important you deal with this fear correctly to ensure that you do not inadvertently make it worse.  Firstly, prepare a ‘den’ for your pet somewhere in your home where they feel safe.  It should be warm and cosy with a covered top as pets will feel most secure being completely surrounded.  Try using the DAP or Feliway diffusers to calm pets, these release comforting pheromones which can help your pet feel much more secure.  When the fireworks are happening, keep the curtains closed, play the TV or radio to drown out the noise and, hard though it is, try not to comfort them when they are scared as this will only praise the behaviour and can make them worse.  Finally, consider starting a desensitising programme to help your pet cope with the fireworks once the season is over, your vet will be able to advise you on this and provide CDs of firework noises to play.

If you have questions about this, or any other pet related subject, you should contact your vet.

Cat is the vet for petstreet.co.uk an on-line social networking site for pet lovers.

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