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Norwich Bulletin - 4/20/2008

Poison!

It's ten o'clock in the evening and your dog has just ingested the mouse poison your neighbors put out. Or perhaps your cat has chewed up that child safe pill holder and eaten all of your blood pressure pills. You are panicked - you do not have time to get to the emergency vet who is almost an hour away. What do you do? Who do you call?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals maintains an Animal Poison Control Center that save countless numbers of animal lives every year. It is the only twenty-four hour a day, every day of the year facility that dispenses emergency advice to pet owners and even to veterinarians all over North America as well as other parts of the world. This information has proven time and time again to be livesaving.

They have over twenty-five veterinarians who are experts in toxicology, along with certified veterinary technicians and assistants, standing ready to help in the case of an emergency poisoning. They also have numerous students from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, which is where the center began its life three decades ago.

This is not a state or federally funded service and so there is normally a charge of $55 to cover costs. It does not sound like very much money to me if my animal companion's life can be saved by the information they provide to me. They will guide you step by step on what to do, depending on what your pet has ingested. They also are great with follow-up, calling several times during a night and staying in contact with your vet or emergency vet afterwards, if necessary. It is a good value for your dollar.

The number of the poison control center - 888-426-4435, should be kept in a prominent location of your house and wallet, right along with your vet and the emergency veterinary hospital numbers. The Animal Poison Control Center has files on more than one million individual cases and more than 60,000 potential toxins, ranging from pills to pesticides to household cleaners and plants.

If your pet is poisoned, it is important to stay calm to keep your pet calm and be able to properly help. Make sure that you have whatever container that the product is kept in or the plant that was chewed. Do not hesitate to seek emergency aid - if you can get to your vet do it as quickly as possible. Waiting a few days because the animal appears to be fine can lead to kidney failure and there is a good chance at that point, your pet will die.

If you cannot get to your vet and you take advantage of the Animal Poison Control Center Hotline be ready with certain information. Your credit card number will be asked for. Also have the species, breed, age, sex, and approximate weight of your pet. Be able to articulate the animal's symptoms and give information about the potential toxin if you know what it is, the amount that your pet ingested and how much time has lapsed since it happened.

If you have the product container or packaging of the toxin, have it ready in order to answer possible questions. If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness or unconscious, having labored breathing and obviously in extreme distress, you need to get to the vet or emergency clinic, and drive quickly, and even then it may not be possible to save your pet.

There are some things that can be done to prevent the need for a call to the Center and that is to be aware of the things that are potentially lethal to animals. Pills and other medications, including prescription drugs, are extremely dangerous to your pets. Be cognizant of the fact that just because it is child proof, it will not be pet proof because those animal teeth will chew right through the plastic container.

And it is not just human medications that you need to worry about because too much pet medication can also prove hazardous. Summer is on its way and we tend to use more insecticides to kill both fleas and ticks on our pets, as well as other insects that may invade our house - these insecticides should be kept out of reach of not only children, but your pets as well.

Mouse and rat poisons should not be used at all in my opinion, but if they are, it should be in places that cats and dogs do not have access to. Household Cleaners, herbicides and home improvement products need to be in cabinets with a child proof lock - I have cats that can open my cabinets.

Fertilizers belong in the locked shed and everyone knows the dangers of anti-freeze. Know your plants if you love gardening and choose them carefully because your plants may not love your pets. And don't forget that the wonderful taste of chocolate belongs to humans only.

But despite how careful we try to be, there are always accidents and tragedies that happen and for that we have the Animal Poison Control Center. For more information please log on to www.aspca.org/apcc.

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