Teaching moments and happy endings with ‘Toxin Tails’

Mav, a 9-year-old Labrador, had eaten hundreds of dietary sleep supplements while his owner was away. When the owner returned home, he found an empty pill bottle and his dog foaming at the mouth. The owner rushed the dog to the veterinary clinic. By the time they arrived, Mav was unconscious.

On the drive to the clinic, the owner called the Pet Poison Helpline on the advice of his veterinarian. Toxicology specialists analyzed the ingredients in the sleep supplement and determined Mav had ingested a toxic dose of 5-HTP, a compound that raises the concentration of serotonin in the brain.

Mav ultimately survived the potentially fatal case of serotonin syndrome, described in detail in the January 2022 article in the series “Toxin Tails,” which has been published monthly by the Pet Poison Helpline since 2021.

Orange tabby cat looking at medicine capsules beside a open pill bottle

Pet Poison Helpline is a Minneapolis-based animal poison control center available 24/7 for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require help treating a potentially poisoned pet.

Veterinarians with the help line, including board-certified veterinary toxicologists, provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species.

“Toxin Tails” recounts actual cases handled by staff members as a way to educate pet owners and the veterinary community about the toxic threats pets face inside and outside the home.

“We try to highlight a combination of common and unusual cases, which may include toxins that we don't normally get a lot of calls on,” explained Dr. Renee Schmid, senior veterinary toxicologist and manager of veterinary medicine and professional services at the Pet Poison Helpline.

Each account includes the poison source, signs of toxicosis, and how the veterinary staff saved the animal’s life.

Dr. Schmid noted every “Toxin Tails” ends with the pet’s recovery.

“We hear so much about burnout within the veterinary profession, and this is just a way we can celebrate the heroic efforts of the veterinary team that saved that animal’s life,” she said.

The Pet Poison Helpline’s website also includes information about toxic substances, including signs to watch for, as well as Top 10 lists of the most common toxic plants and seasonal threats.

Pet Poison Helpline is available in the United States and Canada by calling 800-213-6680. The help line’s fee of $75 per incident includes follow-up consultations for the duration of the poison case.