Ask the Vet: Organophosphate and carbamate toxicity
By Matthew Kearns, DVM
Groundhog day has passed. Holtsville Hal and Malverne Mel have conflicting predictions as to whether we will have more winter or not. Either way, it’s time to get ready to plant and that includes the use of pesticides.
Certain pesticides can affect our four-legged family members. Organophosphates and carbamates are pesticides that are commonly used in the United States. Newer pesticides do not contain these chemicals but there are still plenty of them that do and some households may still contain older products that they will still use.
We see exposure to these compounds more in outdoor cats than dogs because they tend to wander through our (and sometimes the neighbor’s) gardens and properties.
These chemicals affect the central nervous system. Both chemicals can be absorbed through the membranes of the mouth or sinuses and can also be absorbed transdermal (through the skin). Therefore, it is very important to keep pets inside if you are spraying and check the label to make sure none of the components are organophosphates or carbamates. If you are not sure, the internet is a great source to check.
If the chemical is inhaled or ingested in lower amounts your pet will have what is called the classic “SLUDE” symptoms (Salivation, Lacrimation, Urination, Diarrhea, Emesis). Larger doses can lead to bronchospasm (spasm of the airway) and seizures. These are life threatening and potentially fatal complications.
Treatment is usually supportative however; if you notice symptoms early, decontamination (which includes inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal) can be started. If your pet is very subdued or seizuring the risk of aspiration is very high, then decontamination will not be pursued. Also, if your pet vomits before arrival at the veterinarian’s office decontamination will not be started. Instead IV fluids, medications to help with tremors, help with secretions, prevent vomiting, etc are used until the compounds clear the system.
In summary, check your supply of pesticides’ ingredients online to see if they are in the organophosphate or carbamate in origin. If they contain any, do not use or get rid of the product entirely. Also, if your pet is showing any of the signs I have described, get it to your veterinarian or a veterinary emergency clinic as soon as possible.
Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.