With many school districts continuing remote-only learning this fall, there’s a potential for pets in the home to be exposed to more school-related toxins.
Common school snacks and lunch items like grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs and may be more readily accessible to pets if they are loose and unprotected by lunch boxes. Exposed pets need to have vomiting induced at home or a veterinary clinic, and their renal values should be monitored. If a pet has an adverse reaction to ingesting grapes or raisins, they will often show spontaneous vomiting within 48 hours. These pets should be treated with IV fluid diuresis to help protect the kidney function.
School science projects may also bring additional concerns when done in the home. For example, volcano projects often use baking soda as an ingredient in the simulation of a volcanic eruption. Ingestion of large amounts of sodium bicarbonate can lead to GI irritation, abdominal distention/bloat, and vomiting and diarrhea. There are also concerns for elevations in sodium, decreases in potassium, and the development of alkalosis and hypocalcemia. These patients should be treated with IV fluids and acid-base status and electrolytes should be monitored and corrected as indicated by the blood values.
Common, homemade craft projects, such as play dough and salt dough ornaments, can lead to elevations of the sodium level in the pet ingesting them. Left untreated, we can see the development of tremors and seizures due to the electrolyte imbalance created by high sodium levels. These pets need IV fluid therapy with lower sodium fluids and warm water enemas to bring sodium back to normal levels. If this treatment is not pursued, death may result.
Students with ADD or ADHD may now be taking their medications at home, which is are another potential risk to pets. Medications such as Adderall®, methylphenidate, Ritalin®, Focalin®, and Vyvanse® are in the amphetamine family, and when ingested by dogs and cats, will cause significant stimulatory signs and serotonin syndrome. Treatment of this ingestion involves fluid therapy and the use of acepromazine and cyproheptadine to control the agitation and serotonin syndrome signs. Seizures should be controlled with Keppra and phenobarbital. These pets need to be monitored in the clinic for at least 6 to 8 hours after the clinical signs have resolved.
Pollen and Mold
Fall often means the potential for increased pollen and mold allergies. Many people with seasonal allergies rely on albuterol inhalers. Dogs often mistake these inhalers for chew toys, and when punctured, the dog can develop imbalances in electrolytes, elevated heart rate, and potential hypertension. Treatment of this toxicity requires fluid therapy and beta blockers such as propranolol, esmolol, atenolol or metoprolol to bring the heart rate down to normal levels. Imbalances in potassium and phosphorus may also need to be addressed.
Awareness of these school-related pet toxins on the part of parents and students may prevent emergency visits and keep pets safe while children are learning from home.