Sunday, November 8, 2009

Loosing Your Lunch

Did you know?
Unfortunately, animals can eat the darndest things at the worst possible times! Say for instance your cat eats your nylons, one of your dogs eats a tennis ball, and the other dog gets into some chocolate. Yikes! I certainly understand that you might want to avoid a veterinary bill and choose to turn to the internet to look for ways to make your pet(s) vomit without having to leave your home. You may find a solution, but it may not be the wisest choice.

Let me tell you why.
Most veterinarians will not routinely recommend at-home use of emetics (medicines to cause vomiting). The time it takes to find the substance, corral the animal, and administer the dosage may take as long, or longer, than the ride to the vet. Plus, at-home administration may just prolong the proper medical care the animal needs.

For one thing, when an animal swallows an object it might be dangerous to have it come back out the way it got in. For example, take the scenario of your dog eating a tennis ball. Causing him to vomit could lodge the ball in his esophagus and cause him to choke. Or, if an animal eats a particularly sharp object like a broken chicken bone, a pencil, or a piece of glass, the object has the potential of inflicting more harm on the animals body on the way back out. The solution for that type of ingestion could be to have the animal eat a lot of fiber (canned pumpkin, rice, bread) to "bulk up" and wrap around the object so it comes safely out the other end. Either way, call your family veterinarian first to find out if vomiting up the substance, or object, is safe for the animal.

Also, you may not know that it is very difficult to get a cat to vomit. Even with emetic medications available to veterinarians cats are a finicky bunch about regurgitating their lunch. Dogs are a bit more amenable, but I've seen a few dogs also unphased by the medications to make them sick.

The internet is abundant with recommendations for using hydrogen peroxide, ipecac syrup or salt as a means of causing an animal to vomit, thereby removing the toxic or dangerous substance he or she has ingested. Let's examine each of these substances for their pro's and con's.

Hydrogen Peroxide: The most common recommendation is to use 3% hydrogen peroxide (H202) in a dose of 1 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight for the animal. If it is successful, hydrogen peroxide should cause vomiting within 10 minutes. Never administer the dose more than twice in a row. Overdosing with hydrogen peroxide can have the unfortunate affect of making the dog vomit excessively; which could lead to dehydration and land the animal in the hospital for fluid therapy and administration of an anti-emetic to stop the vomiting. At best, hydrogen peroxide is effective as an emetic 50% of the time. So you could administer the dose and still need to bring the animal to your veterinarian for care since the toxic substance or object is still inside.

Ipecac Syrup: Most parents of small children have Ipecac syrup in the medicine chest for emergency use, so you may have some on hand. But, it is similar to hydrogen peroxide in causing the desired outcome - it works about 50% of the time. It is also difficult to administer because of the bitter taste. Most notably, if the animal does not vomit, the syrup still needs to be removed because of the potential for negative cardiovascular side affects. Ipecac syprup should induce vomiting within 10 - 30 minutes, although it can be delayed up to an hour.

Table Salt: The use of table salt as an emetic in dogs and cats is generally frowned upon because of the potential for causing more harm than good. The maximum dosage in dogs and cats is 1 to 3 teaspoons and usually induces vomiting within 10 to 15 minutes. However, if the salt does not cause vomiting the increased sodium levels can cause acute swelling of the brain and even death. Not a good outcome!

Veterinary Emetics: Veterinarians usually use one of two medicines to make animals vomit - Apomorphine or Xylazine. The apomorphine can be used for dogs or cats while the Xylazine is used only in cats. Apomorphine (Apo) has about a 90% success rate in dogs. Veterinarians also have another drug to counter the effects of the Apo to stop the vomiting if needed. The percentage of success in cats tends to be lower. Fortunately cats are less likely to get into toxic substances that requires them to vomit.

About 20 minutes after the animal has vomited, activated charcoal is administered for patients who got into a toxic substance. The activated charcoal helps to absorb more of the toxin since on average only about 70% of the toxin is vomited up - another reason to at least end treatment with your veterinarian if you choose to try one of the at-home remedies.

Overall, a trip to the vet is still the wisest choice. You may get lucky by administering one of these at home remedies and have a great outcome, but our veterinarians don't recommend you take the chance.

The moral of the story...hope you weren't eating lunch

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