ASPCA poison control takes 3 millionth case

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An animal poison control service has taken calls from 3 million clients in the past 40 years.

Rosita in the arms of a clinic staff member
Rosita is shown during treatment for carprofen ingestion at a veterinary hospital (Courtesy of Amanda Fernandez)

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Animal Poison Control Center reached 3 million cases in late April, when the service advised the owner of a cat that had eaten a flavored NSAID, carprofen, pill intended for a dog. The cat recovered after treatment.

Amanda Fernandez, a veterinary technician, called when her 10-month-old Sphynx cat, Rosita, ate about three-quarters of a 100-mg chewable carprofen pill, according to an APCC announcement. The drug is administered to dogs for arthritis and other joint diseases.

Rosita found the drug after Fernandez had placed it on a counter while preparing her pets' meals, the announcement states. She and her boyfriend saw Rosita was eating something and were able to take away part of the pill.

Rosita had no clinical signs of illness, but she received treatment to prevent ulcers and renal damage and spent a weekend at a veterinary hospital, according to the announcement and Dr. Tina Wismer, the center's medical director.

Dr. Wismer said the poison control center had eight veterinarians and seven support staff members when she started working there about 20 years ago. It now has 22 veterinarians and 50 support staff members, who are registered veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants.

The University of Illinois started the service that would become the APCC in 1978 as an in-person consulting service for large animal clinics near the central Illinois campus. In 2017, the service received about 250,000 calls on 200,000 cases, about 90 percent of those cases involving dogs.

Dr. Wismer said the 3 million-case total shows that an unfortunate number of animals have been in danger. But the calls also have given the center data that can be used to assess the risks of various poison exposures and help determine whether a particular animal needs emergency medical care.

Veterinary products were the fourth most common source of pet toxins connected with calls to the control center in 2017, accounting for 9 percent of cases, according to an ASPCA announcement from March. The top three poisoning sources were prescriptions for human medicine, over-the-counter medications, and foods other than chocolate, which was the fifth most common.