Veterinary medicine has changed drastically since our clinic opened its doors 40 years ago—gone are the days when you roused your vet out of bed for a middle-of-the-night emergency. Today, many veterinary medicine specialists are available to help your family veterinarian investigate difficult medical cases. 

One veterinary specialty field that we use often at the Pet Emergency Clinic is veterinary toxicology. Veterinarians who specialize in toxicology, which is defined as the study of poisons, have various career options in research, food safety, and clinical practice, all with the goal of keeping animals safe from toxins. 

We see many toxicosis cases at our clinic, from curious cats who ate their owner’s prescription medicine to playful pups who have eaten human food toxic to dogs, and veterinary toxicologists save the day—or night—for us more times than we can count. Homes are filled with toxic substances, and sometimes the best medicine we can give pets in trouble is enlisting the help of veterinary toxicologists. 

Pet-poison hotlines

At the Pet Emergency Clinic, we strive to provide the best medical care possible. When your pet ingests a toxic food, we will rely on a toxicology expert’s advice to provide that care. When you report that your pet has ingested something toxic, we typically will encourage you to first call a pet-poison hotline, for these reasons:

  • Pet-poison hotlines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Pet-poison hotlines employ expert veterinary toxicologists
  • Veterinary toxicologists are better equipped to answer questions, give advice, and devise the best treatment plans for your pet

As emergency clinicians, we know a lot about about common household toxins that curious pets may ingest, but we cannot possibly know everything about every toxin. So, we turn to veterinary toxicologists, whose expert knowledge will help us provide the best care for your pet. 

Why calling a pet-poison hotline works

If your pet has ingested a potentially toxic item and you think he needs medical care, call us first, and we will let you know if his situation warrants a veterinary toxicologist’s review. If so, we will ask that you call a pet-poison hotline before you come to us. This extra step may seem frustrating when all you want is to get your pet to the emergency hospital, but we strongly believe it is best for your pet, for these reasons:

  • When your pet ingests a potentially toxic substance, you are the best person to relay the details to the pet-poison hotline, because you best know your pet and his current situation.
  • We do not want information to get lost in translation between what you tell us and what is relayed to the hotline, so we ask you to call, for accuracy’s sake. When you call, we ensure that the toxicologists get first-hand the best information about your pet’s condition. 

Be aware that when you call a pet-poison hotline, they likely will charge a fee, which may bother you, but the information your fee covers is priceless. Once you’ve relayed all your pet’s details, such as what he ate, how much, and how long ago, and his weight, you’ll be given a medical case number. Then, you should head to our clinic.

Teaming up with an expert

Your one phone call will get the ball rolling and, as you travel to our clinic, a toxicology expert will devise a treatment plan specific for your pet—all pretty amazing, we think. Veterinary toxicologists help us practice the best medicine possible, which translates into providing the best care to your pet. When you’re in the middle of an emergency, making one more phone call may be the last thing you want to do, but your pet’s best outcome may depend on that call. 

Once you arrive with your pet, we will call the same pet-poison hotline, provide your pet’s case number, and then speak directly to a veterinary toxicologist, who will give us step-by-step instructions for your pet’s best treatment, including tests we should run, whether or not we should induce vomiting, medications we should give and avoid, length of treatment, and your pet’s prognosis. 

If you think your pet has ingested something toxic, call us, and then call the pet-poison hotline right away, if we deem it necessary. Don’t wait for your pet to show clinical signs, because time is often of the essence in poisoning cases. Also, never give your pet a home remedy or induce vomiting without a veterinarian’s recommendation. We will tell you if you can do anything at home that will benefit your pet—other than calling a pet-poison hotline.