Close supervision and understanding what can be a toxin, will prevent most pets from accidental poisoning. However, I know quite a few dog and cat individuals in our neighborhood who seem hell-bent on living dangerously, and in this post, I will try to summarize the best way to proceed when circumstances beyond our control lead to a toxic exposure or poisoning.

I am not proud to admit that my current canine companion, Tyson, required no fewer than 4 emergency trips to Animal Kind for eating something toxic in his first 6 months of living with me. I still wonder if ASPCA Poison Control has flagged me in their database for calling them so many times about my own dog.

Just the facts.

My friend Tyson between attempts to eat toxins.

As soon as you recognize that your friend may have been poisoned, it is crucial to gather as much information as possible about the toxin involved. If it is a plant, besides its name, try to estimate the amount eaten and which parts of the plant. For food or anything with a package, how much may have been swallowed and a list of ingredients are invaluable. If your pal ate the wrapper as well as the contents, the Internet can usually save the day.

The other facts to have at your fingertips are a reasonable idea of your friend’s weight, a list of the medications they receive if any, and an estimate of when the toxic exposure occurred.

When in doubt, ask the experts.

If your creature friend seems sick, head to Animal Kind right away, or if it is after 10 PM, the emergency clinic. Time is of the essence. But if you think they may have eaten something inappropriate and they seem unperturbed, it is worth taking a few minutes to call the ASPCA Poison Control. Sometimes, it is not as bad as you think. Other times, knowing the right thing to do early on can make a big difference.

Established in 1978 as the Animal Poison Control Center, today’s ASPCA Poison Control is a group of veterinarians and technicians specializing in the nature, detection, and effects of poisons on animals. Their call center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their ongoing collection of data about animal poison exposures enables them to provide the most accurate and current information available to pet owners and veterinarians. They also have a cool website.

You or your veterinarian access ASPCA Poison Control by calling 888 – 426 – 4435. There is a charge of $65 payable by credit card for each case. When you call, you will first speak to a technician who will collect as much basic information as possible; toxin involved, when your friend may have been exposed, your pet’s species, age, and weight. The more specific you can be, the better. Shortly after that, a veterinary toxicologist will speak to you and give personalized advice on treatment. Each call initiates a new case file and you will be given a case number. Follow-up calls, should they be necessary, produce no additional charges. In my opinion, this is one of the most easily accessed and valuable consulting services any veterinarian or caregiver can use.

So now you are at the vet…

Animal Kind is well equipped with a large, experienced staff and a modern veterinary hospital to manage and treat a wide range of poisonings or toxin exposures. Medication to induce vomiting (despite the fact that most cats seem like olympic vomiters when left to their own devices, it is surprisingly difficult to make them puke when you want them to) and activated charcoal can decrease the amount of toxin in the body. Blood pressure monitoring, body temperature support, intravenous fluids, and 24 hour a day nursing care can make all the difference. Drugs to bind heavy metals for excretion, antidotes to counter rat poison, or anticonvulsants to relieve the effects of insecticide toxicity are available to your Animal Kind veterinarian.

What we cannot do here is what you, your friend’s caretaker, can do best. That is to recognize the problem, stop any further exposure as soon as possible, and to seek help. Modern veterinary advances in poisoning treatment would be useless without a knowledgeable and engaged caretaker at home. It is lucky for a veterinarian like me to practice here in Brooklyn where so many people regard their four-legged-friends as members of the family, just like I do.