Toxins on the Farm Affecting Dogs and Cats

Whether living in the city or out in the country, our dogs and cats add meaning to our lives. Sometimes, that meaning is as simple as companionship. Other times, it means working dogs who help manage the herd or barn cats acting as pest control. Regardless of the role they play in your life, they can easily create trouble for you and themselves as they roam.

With dangers from rodenticides, chemicals, varmints, metal scraps, and minerals, there is plenty to be aware of when letting your dogs and cats roam. While this is not an exhaustive list of toxins potentially found on the farm, it does cover some that are commonly reported.

One of the most frequently reported is rodenticides. There is a variety of active ingredients found in these baits meant to kill rats, mice, and even gophers. Depending on the active ingredient and amount ingested, pets may develop internal bleeding, brain swelling, severe neurologic signs or kidney damage.

Often underestimated is the ingestion of horse manure containing Ivermectin. This is very commonly reported in farm dogs resulting in vomiting and seizures. Ivermectin products that are directly ingested by your pet pose the same risk.

Insecticides and herbicides are commonly used on agriculture products to lure off unwanted bugs and vegetation. Your pet may consume these products straight from the bottled source or by chomping on tasty crops that have been sprayed. Organophosphates in particular pose a significant risk for gastrointestinal signs (salivation, vomiting, diarrhea), cardiovascular signs (slowed heart rate), difficulty breathing and neurologic signs (tremors, seizures, weakness).

Mineral blocks and injectable mineral products may be concerning if too much is ingested by your pet. Minerals including zinc, iron, and copper are a few of the more common mineral poisonings that we see in small animals. These may be corrosive, cause severe gastrointestinal signs including ulcers, anemia, and liver or kidney damage.

Lead from batteries and junk piles lying around is another source of poisoning in animals that are indiscriminate eaters. Old car batteries may cause severe gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia) and neurologic signs (lethargy, blindness, seizures).

While uses of feed additives such as ionophores (Rumensin, Bovatec, Maxiban, etc.) help our livestock grow big and healthy, for small animals they can be a cause for severe neurologic signs such as paralysis of the hind limb muscles and sudden death.

Fertilizer for our crops, pickling brines and curing brines may contain nitrite which is a toxin that affects all domestic species. Nitrites diminish the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells leading to severe neurologic signs including weakness, lethargy, coma, and death.

Lastly, don’t forget to lock up your garage, barn, or shed that contains products such as anti-freeze, gasoline, kerosine and other fuels, paint thinners and paint strippers, disinfectants, and adhesives such as gorilla glue. All of these can be extremely harmful to your pets.

Even when taking these precautions, our pets often find ways to access toxins and harmful products. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with something potentially poisonous, please call Pet Poison Helpline or seek immediate veterinary care.