Avoid decontamination pitfalls

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To celebrate National Poison Prevention Week — March 19-25 — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals National Animal Poison Control Center reminds veterinarians of the importance of appropriate decontamination procedures. The ASPCA NAPPC offers the accompanying tips to help prevent common decontamination errors.

The NAPCC is the only 24-hour poison control hotline for animals in North America. Veterinary professionals are available around the clock, every day of the year. Veterinarians and pet owners needing advice reach a staff of 20 veterinarians, including five board-certified toxicologists, and seven certified veterinary technicians. An allied agency of the University of Illinois, the center is also a member of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

For consultation services, call (888) 4ANI-HELP. To receive a free hotline informational packet, call (217) 337-5030, ext 115, or e-mail, jaratnapcc [dot] aspca [dot] org (jar[at]napcc[dot]aspca[dot]org). Visit the Web site.

Decontamination Dos
  • Treat the patient, not the poison.
  • Stabilize the animal before attempting decontamination procedures.
  • Get a complete history of the animal and the exposure data.
  • Keep the ASPCA NAPCC phone number handy in your clinic: (888) 4ANI-HELP

Decontamination Don'ts
  • Bathe an animal that is suffering a seizure; always stabilize the animal first.
  • Use salt as an emetic agent.
  • Induce emesis:
    —in an animal that is suffering a seizure, is extremely stimulated, or is hyperactive.
    —in an animal that is vomiting.
    —in a severely depressed, lethargic, comatose, or debilitated animal.
    —in an animal that has recently had abdominal surgery.
    —in an animal that has a mega-esophagus.
    —with a corrosive ingestion.
    —with a hydrocarbon/petroleum distillate ingestion (in most cases).
    —on a bird, rabbit, rat, horse, or ruminant.
  • Use apomorphine as an emetic in the cat. (This is controversial.)
  • Administer xylazine or apomorphine as an emetic in a severely depressed animal.
  • Administer activated charcoal for most heavy metals, corrosives, or petroleum distillates; to an animal that is vomiting; or to an animal that has ileus or a gastric obstruction.
  • Administer a cathartic to a dehydrated animal or one with diarrhea.
  • Use a magnesium sulfate cathartic in a renally compromised animal.
  • Use premixed enema solutions such as hypertonic phosphate solutions.
  • Perform a gastric lavage without using a cuffed endotracheal tube.