November 2022

Small Animal Toxins for Fall and Winter

By Steve Ensley, DVM, PhD and Scott Fritz, DVM, DABVT

Several small animal toxins are more common this time of year.

Antifreeze - this is the time of year when antifreeze is more available because of the approaching winter season. This is sweet and will be readily consumed.

Alcohol - small animals do not tolerate alcohol well. The body size difference between our pets and us is too large.

Avocado - cardiovascular damage in rabbits and birds.

Caffeine and Chocolate - dark chocolate is the most dangerous. Both caffeine and chocolate contain stimulants that can cause toxicosis. Either one can cause problems but together they are a problem.

Compost piles that contain tremorgenic mycotoxins. Garden composite can heat up and cause penicillium molds to grow. Penicillium molds produce penitrem and roquefortine. Both of which are tremorgenic.

Grapes and raisins - renal damage in dogs. Unknown mechanism and not all dogs are affected. For our canine friends grapes and raison are not on the menu.

Macadamia nuts and walnuts - muscular paralysis in dogs. A temporary paralysis can occur, but dogs will recover. This is quite dramatic when paralysis is observed, and most people would not associate this with consumption of macadamia nuts or walnuts.

Mushrooms like the fall weather also. Ingestion of any mushroom can be problematic.

Onion, garlic, chives and leeks - damage RBC’s. Can cause anemias serious enough to have to treat. A good stew is a winter staple, but not for dogs.

Rising bread dough - will rise in the stomach and cause pain and blockage. The yeast will also produce alcohol.

Rodenticides are a problem year around, but everyone is interested in keeping small rodents out of the house as the weather gets colder. The active ingredient in the rodenticide is key to treatment. There are a variety of different active ingredients, but they can have the same name. If your animal consumes rodenticide they need to be seen by a veterinarian.

Moth balls - the ones that contain naphthalene are most dangerous. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, and progress to seizures and severe blood loss.

Turkey skin, bones and brine - salt toxicosis. Especially when over consumption and limited drinking water is involved. We call this a salt toxicosis.

Xylitol - artificial sweetener in many products. Causes hyperglycemia and can result in serious liver damage. Our animal friends are very sensitive to this artificial sweetener.

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