Strychnine Poisoning in Dogs
Strychnine is a very dangerous and strong poison that is often used in baits used for killing rats, moles, gophers, and other rodents or unwanted predators. Having a very short duration of action, the clinical symptoms of strychnine poisoning typically appear within ten minutes to two hours after ingestion, resulting in sudden death.
Patients often will die of strangulation due to spasming of the muscles involved in respiration. Dogs of all ages are equally susceptible to the adverse effects of strychnine.
Symptoms and Types
The following are some of the symptoms of strychnine poisoning:
- Limb rigidity
- Stiff muscles
- Severe spasms leading to arching of the head, neck and back in extreme hyperextension (opisthotonus)
- Uncontrolled violent seizures (sometimes in response to bright lights or noise)
- Breathing difficulties, inability to breathe
- Elevated heart rate
- High body temperature
- Malicious poisoning by lacing foods with strychnine
- Accidental exposure to baits (common in dogs)
- Ingestion of poisoned rodents and birds
Treatment for strychnine poisoning needs to be given immediately. If you know or suspect that your dog was exposed to poison and you can gather a sample of vomit or feces to take to your veterinarian for immediate laboratory analysis, your doctor will be better able to treat your dog quickly and effectively. As much as possible, you will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog's health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition.
Blood samples will be taken for testing, as poison can cause a number of system failures and imbalances, and treatment will be based on the specific conditions, with the most serious being being given primary attention. Routine laboratory tests will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The biochemistry profile may indicate an abnormal rise in the levels of enzymes called creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase, and the urinalysis may show high levels of the protein myglobin (myglobinuria). A blood sample will also be submitted for determination of blood gases, which are often at abnormal levels due to respiratory muscle spasms. Your veterinarian may also take samples of the stomach contents for analysis and/or to determine if any damage has taken place in the stomach lining.