I love learning of the good deeds done by fellow veterinarians that have spent some of their veterinary educational process at my alma mater, the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. I first became familiar with Dr. Justine Lee when I came on board as one of the writers for PetMD’s The Daily Vet.
Dr. Lee is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. I find the subject of veterinary toxicology to be one of the most fascinating aspects of practice, so Dr. Lee’s work with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has great relevance to the message of responsible pet care I share with my clients and readers.
Dr. Lee recently contributed to Consumer Affairs’ Danger Foods tool and has a variety of other interesting educational projects in the works for both veterinarians and pet owners, so I jumped at the opportunity to interview Dr. Lee for this column.
Q: How did the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center come to be?
A: The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is the oldest and most well respected animal poison control centers in the world. It was founded back in 1978 and is the only non-profit animal poison control center in North America. It is available 24/7 for both pet owners and veterinary professionals. You can read more about the history here. As an emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is my go-to for life-saving advice for treatment of the poisoned dog or cat.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center was the first to discover that lilies caused acute kidney injury in in cats and that grapes and raisins were deadly to dogs. Thankfully, they were able to detect this based on their extensive knowledge and database and have helped educate veterinary professionals on all these poison dangers. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has also published over 250 articles and book chapters in the last 25 years and given countless hours of continuing education to veterinarians, veterinary staff and pet owners. They are a lifeline for veterinarians and pet owners alike!
Q: What are the most common causes of concern for pet toxicity that ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center sees in its consultations?
A: One of the top poisons that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center sees is human medication poisoning in both dogs and cats. In fact, human medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) make up approximately 50 percent of the poisoning calls.
The most common medications include antidepressants, ADD/ADHD amphetamine medications, sleep aids, NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen), Tylenol (e.g., acetaminophen) and heart medications.
Q: What is the most unusual pet poison case on which you’ve consulted for ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center?
A: One of my more usual cases was a 2-year-old beautiful black Labrador retriever who ingested 11 ounces of raisins. The owners weren't aware it was poisonous and unfortunately this dog went into severe acute kidney failure. Thankfully, with aggressive fluid therapy and supportive care, we were able to save this dog, but it ended up requiring five days in the hospital, fluid diuresis and $14,000 in treatment and care.
Q: What are the most dangerous times of year for pets to suffer toxic exposure?
A: Since all our North American holidays seem to be associated with chocolate (e.g., Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.), the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center sees a TON of chocolate poisonings on the days surrounding these holidays. When in doubt, pet owners can keep their pets safe by making sure to pet-proof their house, especially during these stressful times of the year.
Another big danger? Easter. That's because Easter lilies are more prevalent; people are bringing these beautiful, fragrant plants home from church and are unaware that as little as two to three leaves or petals can result in severe, life-threatening acute kidney injury.
As an emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist, I always tell people that they can help prevent pet poisonings by doing the following:
- Keep all medications stored out of reach (e.g., in the bathroom cabinet)
- Crate train your dog appropriately
- Download the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's free app for information on over 200+ poisons around the house.
- Pre-program your cell phone with the ASPCA's 24/7 phone number(888) 426-4435 so you have it on hand in case of emergency. Make sure to add in your veterinarian and emergency veterinarian too!
Q: What’s next for you and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center?
A: I'm excited to be lecturing throughout the world in the next few months at all the major veterinary conferences, where I'll be teaching both veterinarians and veterinary technicians on poisoning/toxicology. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center will also be exhibiting at all these conferences too.
Here are a few projects that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is excited about:
- Educational podcasts for veterinary professionals, which you can read about here.
- Educational podcasts for pet owners, which you can check out here.
A new educational tool for mouse and rat bait poisoning for veterinarians is also coming soon.
Thank you Dr. Lee for contributing to this interview. I look forward to learning of your educational platforms to help keep my owners educated about toxic exposures potentially facing their pets. Has your pet ever incurred a toxic exposure?