What to Expect When Your Pet is Treated for Poisoning

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If your cat or dog has come into contact with a poisonous substance, it's important to get them to an emergency vet as soon as possible. Here's what to expect during the appointment.

1. Your Pet Will Be Assessed

When you arrive at the emergency vet clinic, the first thing your veterinarian will do is assess your cat or dog's symptoms. In particular, they'll focus on four areas: breathing, heartbeat, consciousness and urination. Difficulty breathing, a fast or slow pulse, loss of consciousness and bladder obstruction can all be fatal if left untreated. So, if your pet is having trouble with any of these, the vet will use specialist equipment to stabilise them before continuing with treatment. 

2. The Vet Will Talk to You

Once your pet is in a stable condition, the vet will begin to discuss your pet and the poisoning incident with you. They'll want to know your pet's medical history, including any health conditions they have and the medications they're taking. Naturally, they'll also ask you about what your pet has been poisoned with. If you know the source of the poisoning, you'll need to tell the vet when it happened, when symptoms started and how much of the poison your cat or dog ingested. Ideally, you should bring the product that poisoned your pet with you to the appointment so the vet can get more information. If you don't know what poisoned your pet, the vet will try to ascertain what products in your home could've caused the problem.

3. Your Pet Will Be Decontaminated

While you're discussing the poisoning, the vet will most likely be 'decontaminating' your pet, if possible, so they won't absorb any more poison. The decontamination process varies depending on the type of poison and how your pet was exposed to it. Possible procedures including flushing your pet's eyes, bathing your pet or inducing vomiting using an oral or injected drug. If inducing vomiting doesn't work, your pet may need to be put under anaesthesia and intubated to pump their stomach. In the case of certain poisons like zinc, the vet may need to perform surgery to remove the toxicant. Note that if your pet didn't ingest much poison and currently isn't displaying symptoms, your vet may skip this step.

4. The Vet Will Give Your Pet Activated Charcoal

Once your pet has been decontaminated and symptoms have subsided, the vet will often administer an oral dose of activated charcoal. This helps prevent your dog or cat's body from absorbing any more of the poison that may still be in the body. Some pets will happily eat activated charcoal if it's mixed into food, while others may need it administered with a syringe.

5. Your Pet Will Receive Fluid Therapy

Many poisons can be 'flushed' out of your pet's system in their urine. If the poison your pet was affected by is one of them, the vet will give your pet fluid therapy to help force them to pee. This will usually be administered through an IV.

6. The Vet Will Monitor Your Pet

Finally, once all the treatments have been performed, the vet will want to monitor your pet for any further symptoms or signs of toxicosis. For minor poisoning cases, you will often be able to take your pet home the same day. The vet will let you know what to look out for in case you need to bring your pet back to a vet. If the poisoning was severe, you may need to leave your pet at the vet clinic overnight for closer monitoring.

If you have a vet emergency, then contact a veterinarian. 

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