Shelter Health

Ten Top Toxins of 2013

Insecticide and laundry detergent led the list of top 10 toxins during 2013, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reported. In order, the exposures that caused the most reported deaths* during the year were:

1: Permethrin
Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical that is widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. Despite the fact that APCC did not get reports of dog deaths attributed to permethrin in the past year, it is the overall leading cause of death because so many cat deaths were connected with the chemical. The deaths were mostly because of exposure to dog products.

2: Laundry Detergent
Large exposures to liquid laundry detergent or the new individual detergent packs can cause GI signs and aspiration in dogs and cats. Death is typically due to the severity of the respiratory signs.

3: 5-FU
Exposure to the topically-applied chemotherapeutic agent 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) can cause severe GI upset, seizures, cardiac arrest and bone marrow suppression. Seizures are the most common cause of death, and they are refractory to even aggressive treatment.

4: 'Hot' Carbamates
These insecticides include aldicarb and methomyl. Aldicarb is illegal in the United States, but we will see individuals who illegal import it from other countries. Many cases die acutely, and it is common to see these cases die on the way to the vet hospital.

5: Ivermectin
Severe cases involving this antiparasitic medication typically involve inappropriate use of large animal products in cats and dogs.

6: Hops
Severe hyperthermia and then death can be seen very quickly after ingestion of hops, or humulus lupulus. Hops, commonly used in beer brewing, is a flowering plant native to North America.

Deaths from these exposures are typically seen when pet owners wait to seek treatment until the pet is already in acute renal failure – or if there is a large exposure to ibuprofen and the CNS signs (depression, coma, etc.) that can't be reversed with naloxone.

8: Caffeine
Products containing caffeine, such as caffeine pills, can cause severe CNS and CV stimulation and hyperthemia that can be very difficult to treat, even with aggressive care.

9: Anticoagulant Rodenticides
Death is common when owners don't seek treatment until the pet is already showing advanced signs of coagulopathy.

10: Alpha Lipoic Acid & Fluoroquinolones
The antioxidant alpha lipoic acid has gained popularity for human use, but ingestion of the supplement by animals can lead to hepatotoxicity, hypoglycemia, and CNS signs.  High doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics fluoroquinolones can cause severe CNS signs, such as seizures.

*This list is based on reported deaths to APCC; sometimes a pet death, especially at home, may go unreported. The APCC does follow-up calls about some products, such as permethrin or methomyl products, so there may be a reporting bias. 

Poison Prevention Video

This video, featuring the APCC's own toxicologist Dr. Tina Wismer, shows how pet owners can put together a safety prevention pack at home. Share it on your Facebook page and let your clients know about it!

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