Keep your Greyhound Safe:

Dee Shuttlesworth, DVM
Animal Medical Center of Richardson

When many of us think of poisoning, we think of substances like cyanide, strychnine, arsenic or carbon monoxide gas. However, most companion animal poisonings are caused by substances commonly found in and around our homes. Dogs and cats can be poisoned by anti-freeze (ethylene glycol), chocolate, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Tylenol and other generic acetaminophen-containing products, rat poison, alcohol and marijuana, insecticides and spoiled food found in the garbage. Occasionally we see dogs poisoned by strychnine, but these are usually not accidental; someone purposefully sets out to harm the dog. One of the easiest ways to avoid problems associated with the ingestion of any of these products is to induce vomiting before the toxins are absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream. In veterinary medicine, we commonly use 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Hydrogen peroxide is readily available at any drug store or grocery store. A greyhound would need to swallow about two tablespoonfuls, or 25 to 30cc, to induce vomiting. If the dog does not vomit within 10 minutes, repeat the hydrogen peroxide dosage. It will cause them to foam at the mouth, but almost always works. Your veterinarian should be consulted to see if anything else needs to be done. If the poisonous substance was ingested more than an hour or two previously, some of the substance has more than likely already been absorbed, and you need to take your pet to the veterinarian or emergency clinic as soon as possible.

Anti-freeze (ethylene glycol) tastes sweet, so given the opportunity, dogs will drink it. Anti-freeze causes kidney failure, very quickly. Often, once the animal is showing signs of anti-freeze poisoning, it is too late to save them. Signs include staggering, depression, nausea, vomiting, drinking lots of water, urinating a lot, seizures, coma and death. Treatment includes aggressive intravenous fluid therapy and intravenous ethanol. Just 2cc, less than half of a teaspoonful, is enough anti-freeze to kill a small dog. There is a non-toxic form of anti-freeze readily available now at most automotive parts stores.

Chocolate contains both theobromine and caffeine, which are stimulants to the nervous system. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, hyperactivity, increased heart rate and respiratory rate, abnormal heart rhythms, restlessness, tremors, staggering and seizures. Chocolate toxicity is dependent on several factors: the type of chocolate, the size of the dog, and the amount ingested. The most toxic form of chocolate is unsweetened baking chocolate. It is almost ten times as potent as milk chocolate, which is the least toxic form of chocolate. If an adult greyhound ate an entire Milky Way bar, he would not get chocolate toxicity, though he might develop diarrhea or worse, pancreatitis. Coffee, tea and colas are also sources of theobromine and/or caffeine and should be avoided.

NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and a host of other drugs available by prescription. As a species, the dog is extremely sensitive to the gastrointestinal effects of NSAIDs. NSAIDs commonly cause GI erosions and ulcerations, causing nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In addition, NSAIDs can cause sudden kidney failure, by decreasing blood flow to the kidneys, which in turn leads to necrosis of a part of the kidney. NSAIDs can also damage the liver and decrease blood clotting. Treatment for NSAID toxicity is multi-faceted and should be administered by your veterinarian.Since greyhounds have such a low body fat percentage, most drugs and toxins tend to circulate in their bloodstreams longer, causing continual symptoms and organ damage. As little as one 200mg tablet of ibuprofen could be fatal to a small dog. Aspirin is sometimes prescribed by veterinarians, at a very low dosage. You should never give your dog NSAIDs without first consulting your veterinarian.

Tylenol and other brands of acetaminophen can also be toxic to pets. Signs of acetaminophen toxicity include depression, anorexia, vomiting, abdominal pain, liver damage, jaundice, weight loss and death. Acetaminophen in toxic doses causes destruction of red blood cells. Multiple extra-strength tablets would be toxic to a dog the size of a greyhound. Cats are even more sensitive to acetaminophen than are dogs. Treatment for acetaminophen toxicity should be administered at a veterinary hospital.

There are basically two types of rodenticides (rat poisons) that can be toxic to dogs and cats. The older types of rodenticides contain anticoagulants such as warfarin or coumadin. These products cause internal hemorrhage by decreasing the ability of the blood to clot. Toxicity is treated with Vitamin K-1 for several days to several weeks. The other type of rodenticide contains Vitamin D-3, or cholecalciferol, and causes kidney failure. Some common brand names are Quintox, True Grit Rampage and Ortho Rat-B-Gone. Signs of toxicity are general signs associated with kidney failure, including depression, anorexia, drinking a lot of water and urinating a lot, vomiting, weakness and seizures. Toxicity may also cause abnormal heart rhythms such as ventricular fibrillation, which usually leads to death. Treatment should be administered by your veterinarian and treatment may have to be continued for two weeks or longer.

Common sense would tell you never to give your pet any alcoholic beverages to drink, but I have had numerous clients over the years who thought it was funny that their dog liked to drink beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages. What you need to consider is that this is the equivalent to giving alcohol to a young child. The effects of alcohol are directly related to body size. Generally speaking, the smaller the body size, the less alcohol one has to consume in order to become intoxicated. The lethal dose of alcohol for dogs is about a teaspoonful per kilogram of body weight. (2.2 lbs. = 1 kg.) Treatment for alcohol toxicity consists of intravenous fluids and supportive care. Symptoms include staggering, depression, disorientation, recumbency, coma and death. Marijuana toxicity causes similar symptoms, but may also cause muscle trembling, excessive salivation, hair loss and itchy skin.

Bacterial food poisoning, also called Garbage Toxicity or “garbage gut”, is commonly seen in veterinary practice. This type of poisoning is caused by the ingestion of spoiled or rotten food, or dead animals contaminated with bacteria. Once ingested, the bacteria release toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, causing vomiting, bloody or watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and shock. Treatment consists of appropriate antibiotic therapy, intravenous fluid therapy and therapy for shock. Repeated episodes of garbage toxicity can lead to the development of pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease.

Insecticide sprays, dusts, dips, shampoos and garden products are a common source of poisoning from pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Symptoms of toxicity include excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, hyper excitability OR depression, seizures and trouble breathing. Treatment consists of giving drugs to counteract these symptoms, and supportive care.

The very best treatment for all toxicities is prevention. Limit your pet’s access to toxic substances when at all possible. However, if your pet should ingest any of these toxic substances, the first step in treatment (except for anti-freeze consumption) is to INDUCE VOMITING. Try to induce vomiting if you think your pet may have ingested something toxic, even if you are not sure. Then immediately contact your veterinarian to see if further treatment is needed. Most cases of animal poisonings can be saved if treatment is initiated soon enough.

                  Texas Adopt a Greyhound Society, Inc. ~ P.O. Box 180824 ~ Dallas, TX  75218-0824                   214-368-TAGS(8247)