As a veterinarian, I find that most people are aware of the common toxic substances that we see. Antifreeze, chocolate, onions and grapes are well known to cause health problems in our pets. Unfortunately, animals don’t limit themselves to eating just the obvious poisons. Here are 3 lesser-known toxic substances that can prove problematic for our furry companions.
1) Toad Poisoning
The two species of toads that cause poisoning in the United States are the Bufo alvarius (Colorado river toad, pictured here) and Bufo marinus (Cane toad). The Colorado river toad is found primarily in the southwestern United States, while the cane toad is found mostly in southern Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. Both toads contain poisonous glands that create problems after being ingested (but exposure can occur through wounds as well). Symptoms can include salivation, nausea, vomiting, blindness, seizures, heart problems and death. Some studies report that mortality is near 100% in untreated dogs and can occur within 30-60 minutes after exposure. If you suspect your dog has been exposed to one of these toads, it is imperative to seek veterinary care immediately.
There are many different types of mushrooms that are potentially toxic to animals. In fact, there are potentially toxic species anywhere mushrooms grow throughout the United States. Because of this, I recommend a vet visit for any known mushroom ingestion, but especially if symptoms develop. The toxic mechanisms of mushrooms are broken down into several broad categories based on the problems they cause. The most common toxicities seen cause liver, kidney, neurologic, and intestinal problems. Since there are many types of toxins and mushrooms, we see many types of symptoms ranging from organ failure to acute vomiting. Most problems can be treated if veterinary attention is sought in an appropriate amount of time.
3) Chewing Gum
The actual toxic compound is not the gum itself, but rather a substance commonly found in gum called xylitol. Xylitol is also found in a variety of sugar-free candies and other products that use artificial sweeteners. When consumed by dogs, xylitol can result in insulin release that ultimately may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Animals that have hypoglycemia may seem disoriented, collapse, or have seizures. If blood sugar becomes too low for too long, death may also occur. In addition to causing hypoglycemia, xylitol may also cause liver failure. In gums sweetened with xylitol, 1 or 2 pieces is typically enough to cause problems in a 20 pound animal. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for xylitol in animals. Therefore, it is very important to seek veterinary attention immediately if your pet ingests any amount of xylitol.
Too often dogs will get into the most unexpected things. If you have any concerns about something that your pet has been exposed to, your veterinarian should be contacted immediately to determine the most appropriate course of action. Since some toxins can be potentially fatal, the sooner veterinary care is delivered, generally the better the outcome. As with many doggy ailments, toxin ingestion is unexpected and can become quite expensive with more serious cases. As a pet insurance enthusiast, I recommend having a care plan to help offset some of these charges and help ensure your companion receives the best possible care.
Has your pet eaten anything bizarre? Share your story in the comments below.