Who Ya Gonna Call?

July 8, 2012

Most parents know to call the poison control hotline if their child accidentally ingests medication or a household cleaner. Most pet owners might not know that there is also a poison control hotline specifically for pets. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is an amazing resource for pet owners and veterinarians alike.

The hotline is staffed by veterinarians, some board-certified, who specialize in toxicology. The ASPCA Poison Control Center has an extensive database of toxic foods, medications and chemicals, and can determine if a toxic amount of a substance was ingested based on an animal’s body weight. When a pet ingests a toxic amount of something poisonous, the ASPCA experts provide us with detailed information about how to potentially prevent toxicosis, by inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal, which can bind toxic ingredients in the GI tract. They then give us invaluable advice about what other treatments and monitoring tests should be performed to keep Fluffy safe.

I’ve been using this wonderful resource for many years, and always marvel at how detailed and specific the ASPCA’s recommendations are. They have helped save many of my patients over the years! There are simply too many potential toxins out there for veterinarians to be knowledgable about all of them, so this is where the ASPCA Poison Control hotline plays an essential role.

Since the ASPCA Poison Control Center is mainly funded by donations, and does not receive any government funding (unlike the human poison control center), there is a fee charged to the owner whenever a new case is opened. In my experience, a phone call to the ASPCA Poison Control Center is worth every penny. (Speaking of pennies, those minted after 1982 contain mostly zinc, which is toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. If Fluffy or Fido ingests a penny, please call the ASPCA, then call your veterinarian for advice.)