Prevention & First Aid for Absorbed Poisons - PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Prevention & First Aid for Absorbed Poisons

by MetLife Pet Insurance
3 years ago

In addition to poisons that pets may inhale, ingest or that are injected into them, dogs and cats can be poisoned by toxins that are absorbed into their bodies. 

The skin, the protective covering on our furry friends and ourselves, is the largest organ of the body providing considerable surface area for harmful things to enter. Although it is largely covered by coat on our pets, toxins can still be absorbed into even the furriest regions, if they reach the skin. The paws and nose are primary areas of contact, but your pet may absorb toxins through his ears, eyelids, belly and any place there is skin.  An additional danger caused by substances that get on pets is that they may be ingested once the animal licks and grooms.

Should you notice something on your pet that should not be there, wash the area thoroughly, and quickly get to your veterinarian to prevent long-term effects and discomfort.

Decontaminating Eyes

If your pet comes into contact with poisons in the eyes, be sure to consider the following:

Check the label and keep in mind that if it will burn the skin, it will certainly burn and likely damage the eyes!  If a product is labeled Caution,” it is likely an irritant.  Flush eyes for 10-15 minutes at home to see if irritation resolves.  If the product label reads Danger,” the product is corrosive!  Flush for 10-15 minutes at home (on the way if someone else can drive), and get to your veterinarian for additional treatment.

When flushing a dog’s or cat’s eye, use eyewash (purified water), bottled water or saline solution, in that order of preference.  Do not use eye drops, such as Visine®, or contact lens solutions to flush toxins. 

Decontaminating Skin

If your pet comes into contact with poisons on the skin, be sure to consider the following:

For toxins absorbed through your pet’s skin, be sure to have gloves, goggles or other protective gear yourself to prevent injury.  Irritants (Caution labels) will cause mild redness in most cases, so rinse the animal in a warm bath and apply topical Vitamin E or pure aloe vera if suggested by your veterinarian.  A vet visit may be advisable if any of the toxins were ingested. 

If the toxin was corrosive (Danger label), rinse pet for 15 minutes then bathe with dish soap or pet-specific shampoo to degrease.  Scrub gently as burns may have occurred and will require vet care.  If the animal is in pain, he or she may not cooperate with you and may need to be sedated at your veterinarian’s office in order to bathe, so act promptly. 

For oil-based toxins (petroleum products), use a gentle dishwashing liquid or shampoo before flushing with water. 

If the poison is a dry powdery substance (such as sink scrubs or granulated swimming pool chlorine), gently brush with your gloved hand or vacuum away before washing the area — if you add water to a dry toxin, you will activate it ON your pet’s skin! If the irritant is in your pet’s eye, carefully flush the eye with purified water as mentioned above.

For pollens, bathe pet quickly (especially depending on the plant – i.e. lilies can be fatal to cats!), especially if pollen is on fur, mouth and any part of the body, keep the cat warm and get to the vet for treatment.  Never attempt to induce vomiting at home on a feline! A complete blood count (CBC), Chemical Panel and UA (urinalysis) will be conducted along with fluids given to your pet liberally for 48 hours or until symptoms no longer evident.

Two toxins, particularly problematic for cats are:  

Pyrethrin, an insecticide derived from the Chrysanthemum flower, and Pyrethroid, its man-made form are particularly problematic for cats.

You may find Pyrethrins in flea control products (concentrations greater than 3% can cause problems) and cats are particularly sensitive to them as felines lack the ability to break toxins down into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted by the kidneys.  This means that drugs stay in the feline system longer than they do in canines and act as if in a higher dose. Always take care to use cat-specific products on your kitty, and if your cat cohabitates with a dog, make sure she doesn’t rub against or lay in the same bedding if pyrethrin has been applied to the canine.

Additionally, Essential Oils sometimes contain terpenes that can be rapidly absorbed causing irritation and lesions to the tongue, mucous membranes, and throat.  Tea Tree Oil is a common culprit that can result in low body temperature, twitches or seizures, slowed hear rhythm and liver damage. 

Oils to make particular note of include:

  • Oil of Wintergreen and Sweet Birch (methyl salicylate) convert to aspirin causing GI & respiratory issues and anemia
  • Citrus Oil (d-limonene) may cause hyper-salivation, tremors, abnormal muscle, and eye movements, coma
  • Pine oils may result in neurological and renal issues 
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Peppermint Oil can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizure
  • Cinnamon Oil upsets the gut

Oral decontamination includes diluting by administering water flavored with tuna juice to encourage drinking, pain meds, antibiotics, soft food or a feeding tube if the mouth and pharyngeal ulcers present, as well as oxygen support in severe cases. 

Products safe for humans are not always safe for our furry family members. Do your best to keep toxins out of paws, claws, nose, skin and tongue reach!  Additionally, remember that cats are not small dogs and toxins affect them differently, so know the differences, read labels and be prepared to help by learning Pet First Aid.

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets, even while under strict supervision. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.

1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

 Denise Fleck is the Pet Safety Crusader™ having personally taught more than 20,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better.  Her mission is to help YOU make a difference in the life of an animal through Pet First-Aid, Senior Pet Care and Disaster Preparedness classes, her “The Pet Safety Bible,” and the dozen other books she has penned.  Learn more at

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