Continued from last week
Last week, we made some general comments on the treatment of poisonings. We had indicated that there were four immediate steps that could be taken in order to counteract cases of poisoning, irrespective of whether one has identified the specific poison involved.
Elimination of the poison from the stomach by inducing vomiting was the first. However, even after expectoration, some residue of the poison might still be in the stomach/gut. We must now try to negate the effect of the poison, especially if we could not create the vomiting reflex to expel the poison totally or in part. Let’s look at the other three possibilities.
We can attempt to delay the absorption of the poison in the animal’s body. The best way to do this is to administer a substance that would coat the lining (mucous membrane) of the stomach and intestinal wall, so as to decrease the membrane’s capability to absorb the poison. Together with this action we should direct our efforts at binding the poison, thus making it relatively impotent. How can we achieve this?
Firstly, we can use activated charcoal. Capsules which contain activated charcoal can be obtained from any good pharmacy. It also is sold loosely in powder form. You should mix one gram of the charcoal (if it is a 500 mg capsule, you would use two) with one teaspoon of water. You will then give orally one teaspoon for every 2 pounds of body weight; you should follow this up, 3 minutes later, with some Milk of Magnesia at a dosage rate of one teaspoonful per 5 pounds of the animal’s body weight. If you don’t have the Milk of Magnesia, you could use Glauber’s Salts (sodium sulphate) at one teaspoon to 10 pounds body weight.
You may not have either of these two medicines at hand. In such cases, you can coat the stomach with evaporated milk and/or egg white. I don’t usually advise the usage of vegetable oils. But if push comes to shove and you have none of the preferred substances at your disposal, then use a teaspoonful of corn oil or whatever oil you have available (not rancid coconut oil). After all, you are trying to save your animal’s life.
Speeding up passage
Another possibility which we have already mentioned in the fight against the poison is to speed up the passage of the poison through the intestines by increasing the motility of the gut. In this way, as the poisonous substance shoots through the intestines, there is less time for absorption to take place. In other words, we are creating a mini-diarrhoea by using a gentle laxative (preferably a natural one like castor oil). Some veterinarians (my old professor included) even advise that a plain warm water (not soap water) enema could be introduced. This is a bit messy though.
Use of an antidote
I had mentioned earlier that, in most cases, the poisons are either neurotoxic (they attack the nervous system), or they are haematotoxic (the poisons destroy the blood cells and disturb those mechanisms which are associated with the formation of the blood or which prevent haemorrhaging). In the former instance, (toxic to the nervous system), the antidote of choice if the poison is of the organophosphate group – is atropine. It is unnecessary for us to discuss the physico-chemical workings of atropine vis-à-vis this and other poison types.
In the case of poisons which negatively impact on the blood, especially the clotting mechanism, one is advised to use the K vitamins. It is always important for you to attempt to identify which poison we are dealing with, so that the correct antidote can be introduced. Sometimes the label of the chemical substance, which you have administered, will advise on the appropriate antidote.
As always, try to seek advice from your veterinarian before introducing, willy-nilly, the antidotes.