Visiting Veterinarian : Toxic mistake
It had been a difficult mommy morning - missing homework, tangled hair, multiple meltdowns - but I had finally gotten my children off to school when my assistant, Elise, handed me a message. "This client just called. She put her dog's Frontline Plus on her cat, Petunia." I strolled casually to the phone. Frontline Plus, a topical pour-on flea and tick product, has a wide safety margin. The dog and cat versions have the same ingredients, albeit at slightly different concentrations; the main difference is in the volume applied. I would suggest an exam and a thorough bathing. If she ingested a lot while grooming, it might upset her tummy, but I didn't anticipate major problems.
"What size Frontline did you put on her?" I asked Petunia's mom when she answered the phone. "The large dog size," she responded, "but I didn't use the whole tube." It wasn't the first time a client had tried to be economical by dividing a large Frontline into amultiple doses for a smaller animal.
"How long ago?" I asked.
"About nine o'clock last night," she replied. Wondering why she was concerned now, 12 hours after the application, rather than last night, I delved deeper.
"Does she seem sick?"
"Oh, yes," the owner said, clearly upset. "She started acting funny almost right away last night and now she's really bad. We tried to wash it off, but I don't think we did a very good job." With mounting worry, I suggested they come right down, and hung up the phone.
Frontline shouldn't make the cat this sick, I thought as I waited for their arrival, but what if it wasn't Frontline? I had neglected a cardinal rule of toxicity cases. Always have the owner bring the package, pill vial, wrapper, plant, product, in question. It's not uncommon for owners to misidentify things and effective treatment depends on accurate and precise knowledge of ingredients, concentrations, and quantities. When Petunia arrived, I glanced quickly in the carrier. My patient was twitching all over.
"Are you sure it was Frontline?" I demanded.
"I think so," her mother stammered uncertainly. "It was in the Frontline box...I'm not sure...I don't know."
Sending her home to retrieve the package, we whisked Petunia into the bath. Ten minutes later, the owner returned, white plastic applicator in hand. I could tell instantly by the shape and color. This wasn't Frontline. I turned it over. On the back, bold black letters warned, "Do not use on cats." Sigh.