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Cats - Toxicology - POISONING



When the toad is bitten it releases a toxic venom (or poison) through glands located in the back of its head.  This poison is sticky and white.

The poison is absorbed through the animal’s gums and lips.

Signs of cane Toad poisoning can occur if your pet bites or mouths a cane toad.
Toad poisoning develops within minutes and death can occur in as short a time as 30 minutes.


  • Lots of saliva pouring out of the mouth and drooling.
  • The gums and underneath the lips go very red.
  • They may have convulsions, vomiting, go stiff or have spasms.


Wash the animal’s mouth out with cool, running water (a hose) for at least 10 minutes.  If your pet won’t allow running water, then wipe their gums with a damp cloth, rinsing thoroughly after each wipe.

This is very important.  What you are doing is washing away or wiping away the poison and preventing any more from being absorbed.

 If, after you have washed its mouth out, your pet starts vomiting, spasming or becoming rigid instead of returning to normal, you will need to take your pet to see a vet right away. 

You will need to keep your pet quiet and observe him or her for at least 2 hours.

Poisonous Snakes

When an animal is bitten by a snake it is generally bitten on the nose (from sniffing around in the undergrowth) or in the paw area.

The main ones we see in this area are:

  • Brown snakes - normally paralyse the animal (no tone in the muscles)
  • Black snakes - normally cause haemorrhage and blood loss
  • Green tree snakes - normally paralyse the animal


What signs do you see?

General ones are drooling; trembling; paralysis; collapse; vomiting; dilated pupils.

What do you do?

  • Minimise the animal’s movement.  The more the animal moves around the faster the poison moves around the body.
  • Ignore the bite wound - don’t try and suck or squeeze the venom out.   
  • Bandage the whole limb if it has been bitten on the leg so as to immobilise the leg and slow the spread of poison.
  • Apply an ice-pack to the area and firmly bandage it in place.  This will slow the spread of the poison.
  • See a veterinarian immediately - when treated properly with anti-venom and other medications, further complications can be prevented and lives can be saved.

Note - With poisonous spiders (e.g. redbacks) they normally cause intense pain at the site the animal is bitten, but may cause vomiting or convulsions.

Tick Paralysis

These ticks are very dangerous and can kill your pet.

They kill them by injecting a poison (toxin)
, which is in the tick’s saliva, into your pet when it bites the skin.

The poison, once injected, causes paralysis which spreads throughout the body and eventually to the chest area and the animal dies from being unable to breathe.

Paralysis ticks are normally found on bandicoots.  Bandicoots like living in the bush and like water, so we get a lot of cases here on the east coast of Australia, mostly in Spring and Summer - i.e. the warmer months.

The ticks attach to the outside of the skin.  They do not burrow in underneath the skin.

They start off small, about the size of the end of a pen but, once they have been on there 2-3 days, sucking up blood, they swell up to be much bigger.

They might fall off once they have sucked enough blood so you don’t always find a tick on the animal even if it is showing the normal clinical signs, but usually you do.

It normally takes 2-3 days from the time a tick attaches until the time your pet dies, though sometimes it can take only 24 hours.

What signs do you see?

Once a tick attaches you normally see clinical signs within 24 hours.

They cause paralysis which usually starts in the throat region causing difficulty in swallowing (may cause retching or vomiting after eating or drinking) and a change in voice. The paralysis then starts to affect the hind end of the dog or cat causing them to become wobbly in the hind legs and then unable to stand then walk. The paralysis then  works its way forward to the front of their body and causing breathing difficulties.

There are four recognised stages -

  • Stage 1: The dog or cat appears wobbly on their back legs.  There may be a change in their bark or meow.
  • Stage 2: The dog or cat is paralysed in their back legs and can’t use them at all.  They may start vomiting.
  • Stage 3: They are unable to set and they lie on their side.  The chest muscles are now affected so they may have laboured breathing.
  • Stage 4: They are very close to death.

99% of animals that show any of the above stages, even Stage 1, WILL DIE  if not treated by a veterinarian.  Only occasionally will they recover once Stage 1 signs are seen.

What do you do?

  • Contact your vet immediately and take your pet to be examined as soon as possible
  • If you cannot get to your vet straightaway remove the tick using a tick remover and observe your pet closely for any of the above mentioned signs. When you do take your pet to the vet take the tick you removed with you.

Bites and Stings

Stings from insects (e.g. bees, wasps, hornets, ants) usually cause pain just at the site the animal is bitten and usually just harmless reactions.

However, some pets may have more acute (quick) and life-threatening reactions that will need immediate veterinary treatment.

What signs do you see?

A. Local reactions:

  • Pain
  • Itchy
  • Redness and swelling in the area that has been stung
  • Hives (little lumps over the skin)

B. Severe reactions:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Shock/collapse/coma

What do you do?

Local reactions:

    When possible remove the embedded stingers.  This can be done with tweezers or by gently scraping the area with a flat edge, e.g. a credit card.


    Apply a cold pack to the swollen area

Stings in the mouth:

    Usually causes swelling of the mouth and often the animal will “paw” at its mouth.

    Try and remove the sting and then apply an ice-pack.

General reactions that are severe (see B)

It is best to seek veterinary attention immediately, especially if they are stung in the throat area and have trouble breathing.



  • e.g. eating/chewing flea collars   
  • e.g. using too much or too strong insecticidal flea/tick preparations   

What signs do you see?

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Usually constricted (small) pupils
  • Muscle twitching
  • Initially excited then depressed, uncoordination, convulsions

What do you do?

  • Make your pet vomit if possible.

    You can do this by placing 1 or 2 small sized crystals of washing soda on the back of the animal’s tongue.  Hold the mouth closed until the crystals are swallowed.  Vomiting should follow within 5-10 minute

    Or mix two teaspoons of salt in a small amount of water so as to make a paste, then place on the tongue at the back of the animal’s mouth.

    But don’t make them vomit if the animal is uncoordinated, collapsed or convulsing.
  • If the poisoning is due to contact with the skin, wash or rinse your pet’s coat.
  • Keep your animal quiet.
  • Seek veterinary treatment immediately

Metaldehyde Poisoning

  • e.g. snail bait (say Defender - usually anything with a green dye)

What signs do you see?

  • Uncoordination, usually large (dilated) pupils
  • The animal is upset and agitated
  • Convulsions, fast breathing

What do you do?

  • Make your pet vomit.
  • If your pet is only showing early signs give a cup of liquid paraffin or sunflower or peanut oil.  This will slow down the rate that the poison is absorbed.
  • Transport your pet to a Veterinary Surgeon for immediate assessment.

Anticoagulant Poisoning

  • e.g. rat bait (Ratsak, Talon)

What these do is interfere with the blood’s ability to clot.  So, when rats eat them they eventually bleed to death.  The problem is - so can dogs and cats.

This poisoning is a little different from some others in that the pet does not show signs for some time, from a few days to a few weeks.

What signs do you see?

  • Blue or green dye (whatever colour the bait is) in the faeces.
  • Bleeding (from gums, penis, anus)
  • Lethargy
  • Haematomas, bruising
  • Lethargy

What do you do?

  • If you see the pet eat rat bait, make them vomit.
  • Get them to a vet immediately.


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