It Can Happen to the Best of Us
By: Ronald M. Kraft, DVM
Danger lurks everywhere if our pets are smarter than we are. Have I ever told you about Leonard? He is my 13-year-old yellow lab, a rescue from the SPCA. My wife and I spent the first few years learning to lock the pantry to keep him from opening the door. Whatever we tried, he learned how to defeat our locking system. Eventually, a five dollar baby lock finally did the trick.
Next came the refrigerator. Our new fridge had a wider gap between the door and the box. I should have measured the width of Leonard’s nose before buying the new one. He taught himself to “snout” open the door. Before we got our fridge locking techniques down, he managed to steal a pot roast, a slab of bacon, a tub of hummus, and a jar of peanut butter, but the ultimate was a 1-pound jar of cheese dip which he took up to his bed, unscrewed, and licked clean without leaving a mess. Somewhat remarkably, no vomiting or diarrhea followed.
Today he did something worse. For the first time ever, he got up on top of the butcher block, arthritis and all. I came home and found a chewed up sugarless gum pack on the floor. I read the label. It contained xylitol, a sugar substitute which is toxic to pets. Being a veterinarian, I knew immediately what to do. I called our 24/7 animal poison control helpline, the Pet Poison Helpline (800.213.6680).
Many products don’t print enough information on the label to tell you how toxic they are. Xylitol can cause life threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, and more. The phone toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline had all the information she needed at her fingertips. By saving the box, I could tell her that the maximum number of gum sticks he could have eaten was 18. After learning Leonard’s weight, she calculated his worst case dose. He could have eaten enough to lower his blood sugar for 12 -24 hours, but not enough to damage his liver.
OK, time to move. I rushed him to my veterinary hospital, started an IV sugar solution and got his blood sugar level stable. I also shook my finger at him. He was unimpressed with the finger shake. I gave him medicine to make him vomit. Included in the vomit was most of his dinner, many sundried tomatoes, and – thankfully – 15 sticks of sugarless gum still in their wrappers. By treating him so quickly, we did avoid any serious poisoning.
So you see, today was just another day in the life. Pets, even mine, can get into all kinds of things if they are smarter than we are. If you think your pet has come in contact with a poison, call your veterinarian immediately or call Pet Poison Helpline at 800.213.6680. Be sure to have the package handy to report exactly what the possible poison is. If you wish to check out some common pet poisons, click on www.petpoisonhelpline.com.
Every day Leonard reminds me why we have dogs: they make us laugh.