The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center is My New Best Friend

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I know better.  But in the frenzy of Christmas preparations, I left a bag of Hershey’s Kisses in the spare room upstairs, and someone forgot to close the gate that keeps our dog Garth downstairs.  I found Garth in the spare room with the shredded remains of the bag, but no Kisses or foil wrappers to be found.  Garth just wagged his tail and wiggled.  For the first time in his life, he had scored some chocolate, and he was feeling pretty good about it.

Garth seemed fine, but I was terrified.  I knew chocolate is toxic for dogs, but I didn’t know how toxic — if I should make him vomit immediately, take him to the emergency vet, or just watch him closely.  Our vet was closed, so I called the closest emergency vet, expecting them to tell me to bring him in immediately.  But the emergency vet’s office told me to first call the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline.  They said if I brought Garth in, the first thing they would do is call the hotline for advice.  It didn’t occur to me that the Poison Control Center might have more experience and expertise with pet poisoning than an emergency vet.

So I called the Animal Poison Control Center.  After a short time on hold, I spoke with a veterinarian who asked a number of questions about Garth and what he had eaten.  I estimated that he had eaten about 6 ounces of Hershey’s Kisses, because the 11 ounce bag had been about half full.  The hotline vet did some calculations using Garth’s weight and the amount and type of chocolate he had eaten, and reassured me that a dog his size could likely handle that amount of milk chocolate without serious problems.  Based upon his calculations, the hotline vet believed a trip to the vet was unnecessary, and it wasn’t necessary to induce vomiting.  He told me what to expect (increased drinking and urination, vomiting and diarrhea), and what to look out for (hyperactivity, bloody stool, diarrhea not resolving within 24 hours, symptoms of pancreatitis 24-72 hours later).  He advised me to give Garth a slice of bread that night and one with breakfast and dinner the next day to “bulk up his stool” and he told me to call back if I had any questions or problems.

The call cost $65, but it was worth every penny.  I wouldn’t have hesitated to take Garth to the emergency vet, but I didn’t want to spend a few hours at the emergency center and $150+ if it wasn’t necessary.  The Animal Poison Control hotline gave me all the information I needed and left me feeling confident about the situation.  After speaking with them, I knew what to do, what to expect, and what required a follow-up call and/or trip to the vet.  Our case turned out to be minor – Garth barely had symptoms – but I learned that I need to be more careful, and I learned that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is your best friend when your pet eats something they shouldn’t.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides advice on animal poisoning related emergencies to pet parents and veterinarians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Their toll-free number is (888) 426-4435.  They charge a $65 consultation fee which includes follow-up calls.  The center is staffed by 30 veterinarians, including 11 who are board-certified in general and veterinary toxicology.  Using their database including over 2 million cases involving pet exposure to hazardous substances, they provide up-to-date information on the potential effects of poisons and advice on how to manage poison exposures.

Rebecca Randolph is a blogger, writer, artist, and attorney, but most importantly, a dog mom.   She assists her lab Garth with his blog The World According to Garth Riley.

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