Symptoms and treatments of specific poisonings

Pet Corner


Several weed killers, rat baits and insecticides contain arsenic and a chemical called metaldehyde, both of which are highly toxic substances.

I am not sure about the quantity of such substances (if any) being imported into Guyana, but I have been informed that they are deemed ‘hazardous,’ and I understand special fees are attached to the importation of such chemicals, irrespective of whether they come in as pure elements/compounds or as additives or rat baits, etc.

I have already explained how easy it is for dogs (especially young, inexperienced, playful, curious puppies) to ingest toxic chemicals which have been made attractive to the real target victim (pests of all types, especially rats).

The problem with arsenic/metaldehyde compounds is that they are so lethal that, when ingested, the animal can die even before any symptoms are expressed and observed.

This cute and sturdy female (spayed) dog is available at the GSPCA for some kind person to adopt her.

If the quantity ingested causes ailment instead of instant death, then we do see symptoms.
These will include:

· Excessive excitement

· Increased yearning for water

· Increased urination followed by no urine discharge at all
· Drooling

· Incoordination of movement (staggering gait) followed by partial paralysis of hind limbs
· Intense abdominal pain

· Cramps/muscle tremors
· Diarrhoea

· Weakness of limbs leading to paral
· The dog’s breath smells of garlic
· Fast and feeble pulse
·   Subnormal temperature (lower than 37°C)

As usual, the first thing to do is induce vomiting. We had already described how to do this (one to three teaspoonsful of three per cent hydrogen peroxide every 10 minutes, or one half to one teaspoonful of salt placed at the back of the tongue) in a previous Pet Corner publication. Rehydration is a must as supportive therapy.

In the case of a pure arsenic poisoning, a specific antidote is available, but it requires professional intervention. The care and handling of the sick dog is the same as described for the treatment of strychnine poisoning (see January 16). Similarly, it would take skilled veterinary intervention to wash out the stomach thus decreasing the amount of arsenic there.

In passing, I should mention two things associated with poisonings in general: (1) Cats, although potentially exposed to the same poisons as dogs, are less frequently affected – possibly because of their fastidiousness and selective eating habits. However, when poisonings do occur, signs observed are comparable to those in dogs (see above). (2) Other poisonous compounds have supplanted arsenic and strychnine as the major causes of toxicity in companion animals. Such chemicals include anti-coagulants (chemicals preventing the blood from clotting) and organophosphate compounds (like supona and others which are used to get rid of ticks, fleas, lice and other parasites). Also, organophosphates are used to treat crops; as a result one finds such poisonings taking place in rural/farming areas. We will be dealing in more detail with this group of poisons (organophosphates) next week.

Enjoy your week.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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