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news story
Conkering Autumn Hazards
18 September 2004
 
For most vets autumn can signal the tailing-off of many seasonal pet problems such as grass seeds, fleas and other skin conditions. But Anthony Riley BVSc MRCVS, of Bridge House Veterinary Surgeons in Mansfield, found himself urgently hunting down the answers to a different seasonal threat when a fox terrier puppy called Archie came a cropper with some conkers!

"The owners were distraught," recalls Mr. Riley. "Archie presented with severe muscle tremors and was vomiting pieces of horse chestnut, having been playing underneath five of these trees which overhang his garden. I was not aware of any toxic effects from horse chestnuts, and as I was on my own I had nobody to discuss the urgent case with."

Mr. Riley referred to his usual first source of information - Canis, the digital canine clinical information service produced by Cambridge-based publishers Vetstream. Not only did he find that horse chestnuts are indeed poisonous to dogs but Archie was displaying the classic symptoms of muscle spasms and vomiting. "I have been a user of Vetstream services for many years and use them every day. I found what I was looking for on my very first search. It also confirmed my proposed treatment of sedation with Diazepam and intravenous fluids."

Archie was hospitalised overnight to recover. Thankfully, he improved dramatically with the treatment and his delighted owners collected him the following morning.

"Many vets are not aware of the risks of the horse chestnut to dogs", says Katie Dunn MA VetMB CVR CSAM MRCVS, Veterinary Editor for Vetstream clinical services. "The conker can be hazardous to dogs of all sizes. Raw horse chestnuts are poisonous - containing a variety of potentially toxic active chemicals including alkaloids, aesculin, and saponins. Signs (often self-limiting gastrointestinal upset) usually develop rapidly (within 6 hours of ingestion) and many affected dogs may recover before their owner seeks veterinary assistance.

"Fatal conker poisoning is rare as large quantities must be ingested and the seeds are relatively unpalatable. However, more severe signs such as ataxia and muscle tremor or rigidity can also be seen. Gastric lavage can be beneficial within 2 hours of ingestion but rehydration and purgatives are used if the stomach is empty at the time of presentation. The Canis information service contains more details on management of cases.

"At this time of year the vet should remain alert to the possibility of conker ingestion as a cause of clinical signs - remember that conker ingestion can also cause GI tract obstruction," she advised.
 
Related links
 http://www.vetstream.com

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