Animals' poisoning – first aid guide

Animals' poisoning – first aid guide for public

(One of the sources was also the web page of the Toxicological Information Centre – publication of Prof. Pelclova & others: Guidelines for First Aid in Cases of Exposition to Chemicals, and  Peterson and Talcott, Small animal toxicology, Elsevier Saunders, 2006)

In case an animal has been poisoned, contact your veterinary doctor (or the nearest one available). You will be given step-by-step advice how to help to save your animal's life before seeing the vet and you will give the vet all the information he needs to know before you arrive to the surgery. Thus he can prepare properly for your arrival, obtain the medicines and if necessary, arrange for the assistance of his colleague vets.

All pet owners should have their vet's phone number (advisably a mobile phone number) in their mobile phone. In case the vet is not in charge at that moment he should provide you with the phone number of the nearest emergency veterinary surgery or a 24-hour service where your pet can be hospitalised. It is recommended to save these phone numbers as well. It is highly stressful to look for the numbers only after the poisoning or injury of your pet. Having a phone number ready also gives you time advantage which often saves lives.

If the vet is not sure about the right procedure, does not have enough information about the toxic chemical or in case of unusual symptoms, your vet can use this special database. Alternatively, you or your vet can use the non-stop helpline of the Toxicology Information Centre, Na Bojišti 1, 120 00 Praha 2: tel. 224 919 293, 224 915 402.

If your pet has been poisoned, keep any possible material which could help to make the diagnosis of the poisoning.

Manufactured chemicals – packaging, label, rest of the solution/granules/paste etc.

Medicines – preferably the whole package with the rest of the medicine including the packaging and the information leaflet or at least the rest of the pills, ointment etc.

A useful sample of the plant which the animal has eaten – a twig of the bush or tree with leaves, if possible also with blossom or fruit, the whole plant, its rest and preferably also another undamaged plant of the same kind.

A sample of saliva, vomit or diarrhoea faeces of the animal which already has some health problems.

When phoning a vet or the toxicological information centre provide the following information:

Time of the accident and details about the animal – it's species and breed, sex, age and weight. If the animal is an adult female, say whether or not is she pregnant.

Also mention if the animal is suffering from a chronic or acute illness and if it is taking any medicine at the moment.

If you know the cause of the poisoning, give as many details as you can. In the case of manufactured preparations read all the important information from the label, especially the composition or at least the use of the chemical. In other cases give a detailed description – state of matter, colour, type and colour of the packaging and where the toxic chemical was found (garage, home etc.).

Say how much of the chemical the animal has eaten.

Describe the animal's symptoms, say when they first appeared and what measures have been taken.


First Aid

 When giving first aid, make all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the animal and the person giving first aid. Bear in mind that the poisoned animal can contaminate or hurt you as the poison affects the animal's nervous tissues and can cause unexpected movements or behaviour, e. g. spasm, anxiety, uneasiness and aggressiveness.


1. Assessing the situation:

It is always necessary to act in such a way so that you do not risk your or the animal's safety.

Be especially careful in case of gas poisoning. Only enter the contaminated area with appropriate protective equipment. CAREFUL! Remember that all badly ventilated spaces are likely to be contaminated!

If the animal has been spattered with a poisonous substance only manipulate with it using gloves or other protective equipment.

When the animal has eaten poison, remember that its vomit can be toxic and can harm the rescuer.


2. Equipment:

The following equipment should always be within reach to ensure effective first aid:

- a substantial amount of water

- blankets to prevent the animal from hypothermia

- first aid kit – check the expiry date of the medicines and medical equipment. The kit should above all contain scissors, tweezers, a thermometer, surgical gloves, a syringe, hydrogen peroxide, medicinal coal, sterile bandages or gauze etc.


3. First aid according to the type of toxic chemical

3.1. Corrosive substances and irritants

3.1.1. In case the animal has inhaled chemicals leading to lung swellings

· quickly and with regard to your own safety take the animal to fresh air, do not let it walk!

· in some situations it is recommended to irrigate the mouth or nose with water

· prevent the animal from hypothermia

· immediately transport the animal to the vet

3.1.2. In case the animal's eyes have been affected by a corrosive substance

· immediately start washing the eyes under fresh water, open the eye lids (even if you should use force). Never try to neutralize the affected place!

· continue with washing for 10 – 30 minutes, proceed from the inner to the outer corner of the eye so that the other eye is not affected by the chemical

· search veterinary assistance as soon as possible

3.1.3. In case the animal's skin has been affected by a corrosive substance

· wash the affected places under fresh tepid water for 10 – 30 minutes, do not use brush or soap, do not neutralize the affected place.

· cover the burned parts of skin with sterile bandage, do not use any ointments or other medicines

· prevent the animal from hypothermia

· assess the seriousness of the situation and if necessary, search veterinary assistance

3.1.4. In case the animal has eaten a corrosive substance

· NEVER TRY TO MAKE THE ANIMAL VOMIT – this could lead to further damage of the digestive tract and oesophagus and to stomach rupture!

· IMMEDIATELY WASH THE ANIMAL'S MOUTH WITH WATER AND MAKE THE ANIMAL DRINK 200 – 500 ml of cold water. (soda or mineral water which could release carbon dioxide are not suitable. Drinking a larger amount of water is also not suitable. It could lead to vomiting and possibly to inhaling the corrosive substance into lungs)

· do not force the animal to drink, especially if its mouth or throat hurts

· DO NOT GIVE THE ANIMAL MEDICINAL COAL YOURSELF! (black colour of the affected place makes the examination of the digestive tract more difficult. Furthermore it does not have a positive effect on injuries caused by acids and lye)

· do not give the animal any food

· do not give the animal any medicine or food if it is unconscious or suffers from spasm

· immediately transport the animal to the vet

3.2 Other chemicals classified as toxic or highly toxic

3.2.1. In case of inhalation

· prevent further inhalation of the chemical and take the animal to fresh air

· prevent the animal from hypothermia

· always search veterinary assistance

3.2.2. In case the animal's skin has been affected

· wash the affected place with a larger amount of tepid water

· if the skin has not been hurt, it is advisable to use soap, a soap solution or shampoo (especially if the skin has been exposed to chemicals such as petrol, petroleum, paraffin, turpentine, thinner mixtures containing petrol etc.)

· always search veterinary help (the chemical can be absorbed by the skin and cause global problems)

3.2.3. In case the animal's eyes have been affected

· immediately start washing the eyes under fresh water, open the eyelids even if you should use force

· continue washing the eyes for at least 10 minutes

· immediately search veterinary assistance

3.2.4. In case the animal has eaten a toxic chemical

· IF THE ANIMAL HAS EATEN ANY HIGHLY TOXICAL CHEMICALS OR OTHER DANGEROUS CHEMICALS immediately call a veterinary doctor. He will asks for detail information about the chemical and might recommend to provoke vomiting. Vomiting cannot be provoked in horses.

Provoking vomiting: Only provoke vomiting if the animal is conscious and does not suffer from spasm. Do not provoke vomiting later than one hour after eating the chemical. Do not provoke vomiting if the animal has eaten glue or foam-forming chemicals.

To provoke vomiting mix 50 – 200 ml of water (depending on the animal's size) with a few drops of liquid soap and 2 – 5 tablets of crushed medical coal (the amount of coal again depending on the animal's size). A larger amount of water is not suitable. If it does not provoke vomiting, water-soluble substance will be absorbed more easily or worst it will push the toxic chemical further into the digestive tract. Vomiting can be also provoked by timid salty water or three per cent solution of hydrogen peroxide.


· immediately transport the animal to the veterinary doctor