Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

The Benefits of Toxicology Hotlines for Pets

A hand dialing a phone number on a phone, toxicology hotline, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ingested a toxic item, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.

Due to the high patient volume in our ER, we prioritize pets based on urgency. Unstable pets requiring immediate attention will be seen first, which may result in a stable dog who ate a bunch of chocolate to have to wait even though toxicology cases benefit from treatment sooner rather than later.  

So, we want pet parents to be aware of how to utilize pet toxicology hotlines whenever a pet gets into something toxic like human foods, medications, toxic plants such as lilies, antifreeze, and rodenticides – just to name a few! These hotlines are staffed with board-certified veterinary toxicologists who can help you make well-informed and timely decisions about your pet’s health. Keep reading to learn the advantages of consulting with a toxicologist and how seeking their advice can not only expedite your pet’s treatment, but also potentially reduce in-hospital expenses and provide clearer expectations for your pet’s care 

A gray cat at the veterinary clinic having an exam with the veterinarian's gloved hands on the cat.

1. Your Pet Can Receive Treatment Faster 

Decontamination is most effective when initiated promptly, ideally while the pet is still stable and not displaying clinical signs. But when the ER is busy, prioritizing unstable pets can cause delays in addressing toxicology cases immediately. Unfortunately, this means that the toxin has more time to absorb into the pet’s system. 

Calling a toxicology hotline and having one of their board-certified veterinary toxicologists on the case can significantly save time for our team. Here’s why: 

  • Toxicologists have access to extensive databases with information that isn’t available to non-toxicologist veterinarians.  
    • This eliminates the need for our team to spend valuable time looking up information and configuring toxin calculations – especially with uncommon toxins or an uncommon species of animal. 
  • Their toxicologist will communicate with our team so we can: 
    • Provide your pet antidotes faster
    • Start inducing vomiting sooner if deemed safe and necessary 
    • Administer life-saving medications to counteract side effects  

Gloved hands holding a blood work tube, benefits of toxicology hotlines, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

2. Can Save You Money 

It’s most cost effective for pet parents to call a toxicology hotline from home rather than having veterinary personnel call once your pet is at our ER. The toxicologist can: 

  • Decide if home monitoring is appropriate based on the circumstance – such as the type of toxin, the amount eaten, and your pet’s weight. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to be told your pet doesn’t need to rush to the animal ER?  
  • Give pet parents information regarding anything they can do at home to start the decontamination process. In such a situation, a trip to the ER vet may still be warranted, but can sometimes lead to less time needed for the pet to spend in the hospital.  
  • Many toxins affect different organs at different doses and at different timeframes since the toxin was consumed. Toxicologists will consider these variables and your pet’s weight to tell our team what symptoms to expect within a specific amount of time. Such information narrows down which tests we need to run which will save both time and money! 
    • For example, if the toxicologist tells our ER team only certain blood values need to be monitored, we can use the smallest (and most inexpensive) blood panel to get this information. 

A doctor sitting at a table holding papers with a stethoscope on the table and folded hands of a pet parent over the table. Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

3. Can Better Manage Your Expectations 

Toxins affect various organ systems differently depending on various factors such as: 

  • The amount consumed 
  • The amount of time that has passed since your pet consumed the toxin 
  • Your pet’s species and weight 

As an emergency veterinarian, my goal is to treat any current illness and symptoms, as well as prevent further damage to your pet. In many cases, looking for organ damage starts with screening bloodwork. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned, so we often do broad bloodwork due to the many different organ systems that could be damaged by toxins.   

Toxicologists know the intricacies of all the toxin interactions and can tell us: 

  • Specific dose recommendations for antidotes 
  • How often we need to recheck bloodwork depending on how long the toxin typically lasts in a pet’s system 
  • Symptoms to watch for 

This information means we can give you, the pet parent, clear expectations on: 

  • How long your pet should stay in the hospital 
  • How long symptoms could last 
  • When and how often we need to recheck bloodwork 
  • When your pet is “out of the woods”  

A woman hugging her dog. Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

We hope you don’t find yourself in the position of needing to utilize a toxicology hotline, but if you do, ASPCA Animal Poison Control and Pet Poison Helpline are often used by local pet parents. Your emergency veterinarian will work with their expert toxicologists to provide faster care for your mischievous yet loveable pet.  

Remember, the best way to prevent a toxicity incident is to pet-proof your home and keep all pet toxins out of your house or in a secure location out of your pet’s reach. 

More Reading: 

Paige Gardas Anderson, DVM photo and graphic that reads "Meet the Author" with the following text: PAIGE GARDAS ANDERSON, DVM Paige Gardas Anderson, DVM, graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor of science degree in microbiology. Prior to veterinary school, Dr. Gardas Anderson worked as a veterinary assistant and client service representative in an animal emergency hospital in Fargo, North Dakota. She is most passionate about patient pain and emotional management to keep our animal family members comfortable while in the ER and ICU. Outside of work, she loves gardening and pretty much any other outdoor activity! Dr. Garda Anderson’s personal pets include Howard, an orange tabby domestic long hair and Vassili, a flamepoint Siamese mix.

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet

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