Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Common Household Hazards for Dogs and Cats - Part 3

Sharon Gwaltney-Brant DVM, PhD Jill A. Richardson, DVM

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Continued - please scroll back for the other 2 segments of this important article

9. Bread Dough

Raw bread dough made with yeast poses mechanical and biochemical threats to animals ingesting it. The warm, moist gastric environment stimulates yeast growth, resulting in expansion of the dough mass, resulting in gastric distention, which if severe, can result in respiratory and vascular compromise. Perhaps more significant is the release of alcohol from yeast fermentation, resulting in profound metabolic acidosis, CNS depression and death.

Nicotine Products:

Nicotine Content


3-30 mg per 1 whole cigarette

cigarette butts

5-7 mg


15-40 mg

moist snuff

4.6-32 mg/ gram

dry snuff

12.4-15.6/ gram

chewing tobacco

2.5-8 mg/ gram

nicotine gum

2-4mg per piece

transdermal patches

15-114 mg per patch

nicotine nasal sprays

10 mg per mL

nicotine inhaler rods

10mg per cartridge

Early clinical signs may include unproductive attempts at emesis, abdominal distention, anddepression. As alcohol intoxication develops, the animal becomes ataxic and disoriented. Eventually, profound CNS depression, weakness, recumbency, coma, hypothermia may occur.

Management of exposure includes decontamination and treatment for alcohol toxicosis. Because emesis is often unsuccessful, gastric lavage is initially recommended. The veterinarian should be prepared to perform gastrotomy should the lavage fail to remove the bulk of the dough mass due to the glutinous nature of the dough. Treatment for alcohol intoxication should proceed as previously described.

10. Mothballs

Mothballs may be composed of either 100% naphthalene or 99% paradichlorobenzene. Naphthalene- based mothballs are approximately twice as toxic as paradichlorobenzene, and cats are especially sensitive to naphthalene. Naphthalene causes Heinz bodies, hemolysis, and, occasionally, methemoglobinemia in dogs with doses of 411 mg/kg or more (one 2.7 g mothball contains 2700 mg of naphthalene). Paradichlorobenzene primarily affects the liver and CNS, although methemoglobinemia and hemolysis have been reported in humans.

Signs of ingestion of naphthalene mothballs include emesis (early), weakness, icterus, lethargy, icterus, brown-colored mucous membranes, and collapse. Rarely, hepatitis has been reported 3- 5 days post-ingestion. Paradichlorobenzene mothballs may cause GI upset, ataxia, disorientation, and depression. Elevations in liver serum biochemical values may occur within 72 hours of ingestion.

Treatment of mothball ingestion includes early emesis, activated charcoal, and cathartic. Treatment for hemolysis or methemoglobinemia (blood replacement therapy, methylene blue, etc) may be necessary. Intravenous fluid diuresis should be maintained in cases with hemolysis in order to minimize the risk of hemoglobin-induced renal nephrosis. Evidence of hepatic damage, based on biochemical values, would indicate that symptomatic therapy for general liver failure (oral antibiotics, lactulose, dietary management, etc) should be instituted.

11. Moldy Food (Tremorgenic mycotoxins)

Tremorgenic mycotoxins produced by molds on foods are a relatively common, and possibly under-diagnosed, cause of tremors and seizures in pet animals. Because of their relatively indiscriminate appetites, dogs tend to be most commonly exposed to tremorgens. These toxins are produced from a variety of fungi, however tremorgens produced by Penicillium spp. are the most commonly encountered. These molds grow on practically any food, including dairy products, grains, nuts, and legumes; compost piles may also provide a source of tremorgens. Tremorgens have a several different mechanisms of actions: some alter nerve action potentials, some alter neurotransmitter action, and while others alter neurotransmitter levels. The overall affect is the development of muscle tremors and seizures.

Clinical signs include fine muscle tremors that may rapidly progress to more severe tremors and seizures. Death generally occurs in the first 2 to 4 hours and is usually secondary to respiratory compromise, metabolic acidosis or hyperthermia. Other signs that may be seen include vomiting (common) hyperactivity, depression, coma, behavior alterations, tachycardia, and pulmonary edema.

Asymptomatic animals exposed to moldy foods should be decontaminated via emesis or lavage followed by activated charcoal and cathartic. In symptomatic animals, control of severe tremors or seizures has priority over decontamination. Seizures may respond to diazepam, however others have had better success with methocarbamol (RobaxinÃ’; 55-220 mg/kg IV to effect), especially in seizuring animals. Barbiturates may be used in animals that are unresponsive to other anticonvulsants. Supportive care should include intravenous fluids, thermoregulation, and correction of electrolyte and acid-base abnormalities. In severe cases, signs may persist for several days, and residual fine muscle tremors may take a week or more to fully resolve. Testing of stomach content, suspect foods, or vomitus for tremorgens is available through the Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Michigan State University (517-355-0281).

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