Poison Prevention Awareness Week: Why isn’t Animal Poison Control Free?

The month of March is Poison Prevention Month, and this week is Poison Prevention Awareness Week.  Why so much on Poison Prevention, you may ask?  Well, it happens more often than you would think.  Pets can get themselves in all sorts of trouble, especially when it comes to eating things they shouldn’t, but also when owners unwittingly give medicine or food that can be toxic to pets.

If your pet has ingested something it shouldn’t, the first thing to do is to call your veterinarian.  If it is outside the normal office hours, you can call a veterinary emergency facility.  If it’s something common, like chocolate, or garbage, the veterinarian will advise you what your next step is, but if it is a human medication, insecticide, pesticide or cleaning solution, more than likely, a call to animal poison control will be needed.  What many don’t realize, when they pick up the phone to call animal poison control, they find out there will be a charge (usually $50- $65) for their services.  Some owners may hang up, or at least question why so much for a phone call for information.  Well, here’s why Animal Poison Control is not free:

No Government Funding

Human Poison Control is free because of funding by the federal government, state government, hospitals and other sources.  According to an article on American Association of Poison Control Centers website, it takes about $136 million to fund poison control centers around the country, with $17 million coming from the federal government.  The two biggest animal poison control centers in the US, Pet Poison Helpline and ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center receive no grant money, or donations to fund their services.

Veterinary Specialists

Each animal poison help line has veterinarians and veterinary technicians on staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The veterinarians on staff, that will guide you, your veterinarian, or the emergency veterinarian through the proper treatment for your pet are veterinary toxicologists, internal medicine specialists, or critical care specialists.  They have the most up to date information on reactions, interactions, toxicity and treatment for all US manufactured drugs, chemicals, insecticides and pesticides.  Your regular vet usually does not have quick access to this type of information, and when dealing with poisoning, time is of the essence.  The amount you pay is minimal, considering the amount of information and expertise received from these help lines.  The good news is, that some manufacturers will cover the cost of the call to poison control, on a case-by-case basis, depending on the product and manufacturer.

Paying the Bills

While pretty much everyone in the veterinary field is here because they love animals, they also need to make a livable wage.  As much as we would all love to do this job just for the love of working with animals, our world doesn’t work that way.  Businesses need to make money to stay open,  pay employees and to keep the building lit, warm and supplied, to adequately care for their patients.  We wish the world ran on love alone, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Keep Your Pet Safe

Knowing what common medications, chemicals, and foods are potentially toxic to your pet can go a long way in avoiding that dreaded call to an animal poison control center.  Accidents can still happen, but the more prepared you are with information, the more you can prevent things from happening.  Pet Poison Helpline has a comprehensive list of poisons on their website.  ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center even has an app for your mobile phone.

What to do if Your Pet is Poisoned

  • Keep Calm
  • Immediately call your veterinarian, nearest veterinary emergency facility, or animal poison control, and have on hand as much information about the product/item involved as possible.  If heading to the vet, bring the packaging, product, wrapper, and any vomit sample with you.  The more information you can provide, the faster treatment can begin and the better outcome for your pet.
  • DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING UNLESS DIRECTED TO BY A VETERINARIAN OR POISON CONTROL .Some chemicals can cause symptoms to be worse, or can cause death to the pet or anyone in their proximity, if you make the pet vomit.
  • If care is needed, proceed to a veterinary facility immediately.  Time can be the difference between life and death.  For your pet’s sake, please don’t delay treatment.

Recommended Animal Poison Control Centers

  • Pet Poison Helpline (855)764-7661 ($59 fee)
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 ($65 fee)