Dogs and cats can be poisoned in a number of ways. Contamination of the digestive system can result from the direct ingestion of a toxic substance, ingestion of poisoned prey, or from grooming contaminated fur. Some toxins can even be absorbed through the skin of the pet (particularly the paws), and a few can gain entry by inhalation.
The clinical signs are very variable and will depend on the particular poison concerned. Many toxins produce gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhoea), others produce neurological signs (tremors, incoordination, seizures, excitability, depression or coma), respiratory signs (coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing), skin signs (inflammation, swelling), liver failure (jaundice, vomitting) or kidney failure (increased drinking, inappetence and weight loss). Some toxins act on more than one body system, and so can produce any combination of the above signs. It is important to remember that while most cases of intoxication will cause acute problems, chronic intoxication can also arise, and often proves even more difficult to recognise and treat.
If you suspect your pet has had access to a poisonous substance, particularly if it is looking at all unwell, it is important that it be taken to the vet as fast as possible. If it is a cat then it is usually best to wrap in a towel and put in a carry basket to prevent it from hurting itself or you. This also prevents the cat from ingesting further coat contamination. It is NOT advisable to try and make a cat sick, for example by giving salt or washing soda, since none of these compounds work effectively in cats. It is best to call the vet to warn them of your arrival and give them plenty of time to prepare any treatments that your pet may need.
Many every day items are potentially hazardous and if you are aware of these you can help to prevent an accident.
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