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Articles by Dr. Tesluk


Dr. Stephen Tesluk, DVM


“I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I was worried so I brought her right down.  I’d be the first to admit she’s the excitable type, but this is just plain wrong.”

            Mr. Mount pointed at Sally, his yellow lab, as she bustled about the exam room, panting frantically. We both could see the spastic flicking of the muscles in her legs, trunk and neck.  Sally was clearly growing more anxious with each successive tremor.

            “Sally’s got the shakes”, he said, almost under his breath.

            “She sure does - how long has she been like this?” I asked.

            “She was fine this morning when I left the house but when I got back this afternoon, I found her like this.”

            “Was she in the house the entire time?”

            “No, she can get out to the yard through the back door.”     

            “Sally must have got into a toxin that is causing those tremors,” I told Mr. Mount.

            “Could she have gotten into any medication at home?”

            “No we keep all that up”, he said.

            “Does anybody smoke – could she have eaten any cigarettes?”

            “I don’t smoke” he replied.

            “Does Sally have access to any type of chocolate, coffee or moldy cream cheese?”

            “No, no and no.”

            What about pesticides, bug spray and the like?”

            “No, nothing like that,” he said.

            That covered the list of toxins found inside the house that could cause tremors, so I asked Mr. Mount about the toxins found outside the house that could be involved.  I asked him if he used snail bait, rodenticides, herbicides, or pesticides in his yard.  No was the answer to each quarry.

            “Any walnut trees on your property?”

            “Why yes, there is an old walnut tree back there.”

            I explained to Mr. Mount that a particular fungus could grow on rotting walnuts when they are wet, and that fungus produces a toxin that can cause tremors when it is ingested.

            We treated Sally with intravenous Valium and muscle relaxors and made her drink two bottles of activated charcoal to absorb any toxin that was still in her intestine.  By the next morning Sally was back to her old self, and Mr. Mount informed me that he had picked up “every last one of those damn walnuts.”        

            Toxins, whether man-made or naturally occurring, can be found almost anywhere in our pets’ environment.  Exposure to toxins often results in abrupt onset of symptoms related to the specific organ systems affected by the toxins. Neurological signs such as tremors or seizures, gastrointestinal signs like vomiting or diarrhea, cardiovascular signs like weakness or coughing, and signs associated with kidney failure like increased water consumption and depression are some of the common problems seen in pets exposed to toxins.

            If an owner suspects their pet has come into contact with a toxin, they should call their veterinarian immediately.  The veterinarian will need to know the type and severity of the signs have been present, and any information about the possible toxins involved.

            If the name of the toxic material is known, the National Animal Poison Control Center, (800) 548-2423, can provide information on the toxicity and treatment protocols for a small fee.

            Owners can do much to lower the risk of toxin exposure in their pet’s environment.  Always read labels and follow their directions regarding the safe use and storage of toxic products.  Have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide at home to induce vomiting if your veterinarian recommends it.

            Prompt intervention is key to achieving a good outcome in poisoning cases – so owners should have an emergency plan in place to avoid costly delays in obtaining treatment.

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