Top 5 Tips for Treating Illicit Drug Exposures
It’s difficult enough to treat animals who have gotten into their owners’ medications, but when the drugs are illicit, the veterinary challenges are compounded.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center points out that owners may be reluctant to divulge what drug the pet ingested—and sometimes may not even know.
In a recent RACE-approved webinar, Dr. Kirsten Waratuke of the APCC covered signs of a wide range of drug exposures as well as various treatment plans. Here are five top tips from that lecture.
1. Use urine drug screens
Over-the-counter urine drug screens can be very helpful in cases where there is suspicion of an illicit drug exposure. Screens can test for benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, THC, ecstasy, cocaine and PCP.
While some reliability issues exist with THC testing, APCC says the reliability for other drug classes remains high.
2. Give owners assurance
Getting someone to talk about an animal’s potential illicit drug exposure can be tough. It may be easier to get accurate information if you let owners know your purpose is to help their pet, not to get them into trouble, and to provide the best possible treatment you need them to provide the most accurate information about the exposure.
Try not to prejudge the owner in these situations, as it’s always possible the pet may have picked up something outside, at a friend’s house or via a visitor to the pet’s home.
3. Use naloxone
Naloxone, an opioid antagonist, may be helpful when treating illicit drug exposures to heroin or carfentanil, a potent opioid. However, the APCC says that is not the only time naloxone may be useful—it’s also indicated pets exposed to fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenorphine or other legal opioids.
4. Try cyproheptadine
Amphetamines, methamphetamines, LSD and cocaine all affect serotonin receptors, causing an increase in serotonin and possibly leading to serotonin syndrome. Cyprohepatidine, a serotonin antagonist, may help alleviate signs of toxicity when amphetamines, methamphetamines, LSD or cocaine could be the cause of toxicity.
5. Treat the patient, not the poison
Despite your best efforts with a urine drug screen or conversation with an owner, it may not be possible to find out exactly what the pet ingested. Therefore it’s especially important to remember the No. 1 rule in clinical toxicology: Treat the patient, not the poison.
This means treat for the clinical signs your patient is exhibiting, regardless of what information you are able to obtain.
Want to learn more? Listen to the free webinar recording any time.
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