Archive for the 'Pet Poisoning' Category

Common Holiday Pet Hazards

Don’t forget about your pets this holiday season and I am not talking about gift giving. The holidays are a time for good food and treats, but when it comes to giving food and treats to your pet, be cautious.

This years list of most common holiday hazards for pets are feeding problems, foreign-body ingestion and accidental poisoning according to Gina Spadafori at

Tricks or Treats?

You may be tempted to give your pet something special like a piece of turkey skin or a little bit of aunt Sue’s secret dip, but please resist. Fatty foods like this can be too rich or spicy and can trigger something minor like an upset stomach or serious inflammation of the pancreas or intestines that could mean a life-threatening medical emergency.

How can you avoid this problem? Beef or poultry won’t hurt your animal, but remember to steer clear of the skin, which contains more fat.

If you would like to treat your pet to a special bone, stick to knuckle bones for large dogs and oxtails for small ones. These treats can be found at the meat counter and are inexpensive. Poultry bones and turkey bones are prone to splintering and can drive shards through your pet’s intestines. Always remember to supervise your dog’s chewing. If you have a dog that prefers to eat the bones rather than chew, make certain these bones aren’t causing internal problems like, constipation or blockage.

While the Christmas tree is a great decoration, it can hazardous for your pets. Ornaments and ribbon can be very appealing for cats and kittens. If ingested, the ribbon, string or yarn can twist up the intestines. The water under the tree contains secretions that can at the very least cause a stomachache. Cats have also been known to climb the limbs of trees. To avoid any problems, make the tree inaccessible to your pets.

Truth or Myth?

Which holiday plants should you decorate with that are not toxic to your pets? Mistletoe and bulbs of the amaryllis plant may seam harmless, but they are toxic. Surprisingly, the maligned poinsettia is a safe plant to have around this holiday season, even though it has been thought of as the poster child for holiday pet poisoning.

Please remember to use common sense when treating your pets this holiday season. Now you have it, the top reasons you don’t want to visit your vet in the next few weeks.


Common Medications Can Poison My Pet?

Did you know that things you consider to be safe can be very dangerous to your pet? According to the VPI Pet Insurance company, poisonings cost dog and cat owner policy holders almost $7 million over a four-year period between 2005 and 2009.

The number one cause of poisoning was accidental ingestion of medications, human and pet. Wow! The very thing that we take to make us feel better – can hurt our pet. The truth is, with just a little bit of care, this can be prevented. Put all medications up and out of reach from pets (yes, just as you would from little children), keep all lids on the medications. Last year alone, the ASPCA handled over 45,000 calls regarding prescription and over the counter drugs that pets had ingested!

According to the ASPCA, the most common human medications that cause poisoning are the following:

  2. Antidepressants
  3. Acetaminophen
  4. Methylphenidate (for ADHD)
  5. Fluorouracil (for Cancer)
  6. Isoniazid (for Tuberculosis)
  7. Pseudoephedrine
  8. Antidiabetics
  9. Vitamin D derivatives

10.  Baclofen (muscle relaxant)

If you think that your dog or cat has been poisoned, contact the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Poisoning with Ethylene Glycol (Antifreeze)?

What? You may not have heard of this, but it is more common than you may think.  It is a very deadly and silent killer. Ethylene glycol is a sweet, odorless chemical ingredient found in antifreeze.

According to the Forsythe County News in Cumming, GA there is a case where a lady by the name of Lynn Turner (now deceased) was convicted in 2007 for the poisoning of her boyfriend by using Ethylene Glycol in 2001 and sentenced to life without parole. At the time of her conviction she was already serving a life sentence for using antifreeze to murder her husband in 1995.

According to Tulsa World, Cooper who was a 3-year old German Shepherd in Bartlesville recently passed away from antifreeze poisoning. Cooper was a drug dog with the Bartlesville Police Department. His partner and trainer, Officer Troy Newell kept Cooper in a carefully monitored environment. No one knows for sure whether this was intentional or not however there are rewards being offered for anyone with information.

The important thing to remember is that it only takes a small amount to make a deadly difference to our pets and loved ones. Please make sure to clean up any spills that you may see to avoid this happening to your pets and loved ones. There are tests that can be done; however they must be done very quickly and treated immediately.

Story on Lynn Turner –

Story on Cooper –

Summer is Here…Protect Your Pets!

Its hot and pets want a cool drink, don’t leave toxins around that they can get into. There are many household items that can actually harm our pets and we want to protect them. ExperTox can test for pet poisoning. Read more about one common type of poisoning at

National Poison Prevention Week March 14-20, 2010

The Southeast Texas Poison Center (SETPC) invites you to participate in this year’s National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW) starting March 14-20, 2010.  During this week, poison centers across the United States partner with various organizations such as  local pharmacies, physician offices, businesses and schools to help raise awareness about the dangers of poisons, ways to  prevent poisonings and how to access the toll free 24 hour emergency  help line at 1-800-222-1222.  We try very hard to reach all communities, but cannot reach everyone.  To make sure your community hears about the poison center, please assist in distributing our phone number 1-800-222-1222 and our website address:

Jon Thompson, Director of the SETPC, comments, “Poisoning is a public health problem-unintentional poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in Texas and nationwide. Poison centers are our nation’s primary defense against injury and deaths from poisoning.”

The SETPC is a 24-hour poison information and emergency treatment resource for the public and healthcare professionals in 28 designated counties of southeast Texas. Located on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, it is certified by the American Association of Poison Control Centers as a regional poison center, and is one of six poison centers comprising the Texas Poison Center Network established in 1994 by the Texas Legislature to provide poison prevention and treatment information to Texas residents and healthcare providers. By dialing 800-222-1222, callers have access to a network of health care professionals: nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and physicians who have extensive education, training and expertise in the field of clinical toxicology or poisoning. This free access number works similarly to 911 in that all calls are directed to the designated regional poison center, and it has the capability to translate calls in a variety of languages, including Spanish. The SETPC also conducts public education activities for teachers, students, and other groups in an effort to create safer environments for Texas residents. Funding for the poison center is provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources, and through public and private donations.

NPPW is only one week per year, but poison prevention is a 52 week, year-round activity. Be poison smart and call the poison center at 800-222-1222 anytime of day for answers to any question about poison. Thank you for your support of the poison center.

Jon D. Thompson, Director, UTMB Southeast Texas Poison Center

We would like to thank the UTMB Southeast Texas Poison Center for all that they do year-round  to support poison prevention and especially Jon Thompson and Wendy Allen, Community Education Specialist, for the information on National Poison Prevention Week.

Arsenic Poisoning – Beyond Medieval Political Assassinations

I began getting Google News Alerts using the keyword “poisoning” about five months ago.  I am amazed at all the news articles that share stories of intentional poisoning, from a neighbor adding antifreeze to a pet’s water in “in revenge”, to the woman who mixed up a special margarita cocktail to poison her boyfriend.  And then there is the case of the arsenic-tainted coffee at a university.  The list goes on.  Couple these local news events with the inquiries we receive in the laboratory and you might be baffled at the prevalence of poisoning suspicion.

One of the most common “poisons of choice” is arsenic.  Arsenic has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes to political assassinations.  There is an interesting, fact-filled article on the use of arsenic throughout history.  However, arsenic is not fun – it is dangerous.  This heavy metal is now most commonly seen in certain occupations that include but are not limited to:

  • Smelting
  • Wood preservation
  • Glass production
  • Electronic semiconductor manufacturing
  • Working with pesticides

Certain areas of the world, including the United States, have water sources that are known to naturally have high concentrations of arsenic.  And then there are the incidences of attempted murder – spouse poisoning spouse; boyfriend tainting the food or drink of a girlfriend; child poisoning a parent; an act of revenge.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning?  You may at first think you have the flu or a virus, but then the symptoms don’t go away and get worse over time.  Watch for:

  • Violent stomach pains
  • Clammy sweats
  • Garlic smell on your breath or sweat
  • Sweat may have an orange tint
  • Excessive saliva production
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Dryness and tightness in the throat
  • Thirst
  • Hoarseness and/or difficult with speech
  • Convulsions

If you suspect you are being poisoned, you can contact your local Poison Control Center, such as our friends at the Southeast Texas Poison Control Center.  You will also want to visit your doctor and share your concerns and symptoms with him or her.  If all else fails, call us – we can test both biological specimens as well as liquids, food (including pet food), or items with residue for a particular poison or through an unknown poisons and toxins analysis.  Tests can be conducted using blood, urine or even hair when suspected exposure is more long-term.

Toxicology Testing – You’re Thinking, “Wouldn’t It Be Cool If There Was an App For That?:

I was reading a blog written on PI Newswire about the difference between reality and perception when it comes to testing, such as toxicology testing for things like drugs, alcohol, poisons, chemicals and toxins.  Shows like CSI and Forensic Files even keep us on pins and needles; however, give the perception that intricate, scientific tests can be completed in one hour, even with commercial breaks.  Wow, the anticipation of a break every 15 minutes….

 This thought then led me to think about how our customers feel once they make a decision to have a test performed.  It is sort of like the holidays when we were children.  First, you knew the holidays were coming as soon as Halloween passed.  You began scouring the department store catalogs and making  lists upon lists of things you wanted from Santa, changing your mind every other day.  Thanksgiving arrived, possibly the first snow and you mailed that final list to Santa.  Anxiety immediately kicked in, causing heart palpitations as you sat on Santa’s lap, made Christmas cookies, held the final holiday party at school where you exchanged gifts.  You just couldn’t take it anymore!  Now it was time to bug the parents – Christmas should have been there by now.  “Mom, when is Santa going to come?”  “Why is it taking soooooo long?”.  You get the drift.  The child’s reality began the moment a twinkling of the holidays showed its face.  For the parents, it is usually a few days before as they rush to complete their shopping, wrap and hide gifts and prepare for the family get-together.

 This is not unlike making the decision to have a test performed.  Different emotions are tied to situations unique to the person who may be requesting a test.  These emotions may be:

  • Urgency – by an employer to get a candidate onto a job site
  • Fear – by a parent that may find out their child is using drugs
  • Anxiety – by a job candidate who needs to earn a paycheck as soon as possible to take care of his or her family
  • Dread – by a young woman who believes she was given a date rape drug at a party

 For the person living their situation, waiting is the last thing they want to do.  Their reality starts the moment they decide to proceed through the testing process.  It is easy to forget that time passes when research is done to figure out where and how to test something; a specimen must be collected or packaged; shipped; then received  by the laboratory.  What is heard is, “your test should be completed in XX days”…. blocking out the remaining part of this sentence, “from the time of sample receipt at the laboratory.”   This is quite understandable, a decision has been made and now the challenge lies in waiting for an answer.

 Believe it or not, laboratory personnel understand these feelings.  They hear the stories every day, which is actually why they continue to do what they are passionate about – sharing their scientific expertise to provide answers and solutions.  Yes, we want the test to be as quick as possible to relieve our customers’ fears and frustrations.  However, at the forefront is ensuring the results produced are accurate and dependable.  No one really wants to trade an incorrect test result for speed.

 So, how can perceptions be managed?  First of all, if you are having a test performed, ask what the turnaround time is, keeping in mind what must happen before the lab can start their technical work.  The specimen must be packaged, collected, and shipped before one bit of testing is started.  Add two to four days onto your expectation to take the pre-work into account.

 Secondly, know that not all testing cases are alike.  Specimens like urine, hair and pills are standard – the laboratory receives these types of samples every day and should be able to provide you test results by the time committed.  However, know that unusual specimens may take longer.  What is unusual?  The list is too long but includes degraded body tissue, stomach contents and old vials of blood.  Yes, we agree – this sounds gross.  But these are some of the unusual samples we do receive.  The point is this – just because a person orders an unknown poisons and toxins analysis does not necessarily mean test results for all types of specimens will be ready in ten business days, ExperTox’s turnaround time for this particular test.  Standard specimens are not a problem.  With unusual samples, the lab may need to try different methodologies just to get the specimen to work, taking extra time.  Some laboratories take several weeks and months for the unusual stuff!

 Third, relax.  Once a sample is submitted, it is out of your hands and placed in ours.  Our reputation relies on getting you test results as quickly as we can, while balancing accuracy and quality.  You will know that once you receive the result, you have a firm, dependable piece of evidence for which to make your next decision going forward.  If you just need some reassurance, we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.


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ExperTox® is a recognized forensic toxicology laboratory, combining advanced technology and science with a human heart.

We use our scientific expertise to provide our customers answers to their substance abuse, use and exposure questions.

We focus our personal character on supporting, caring for and understanding what our clients are going through as they contemplate and proceed through the testing process.

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