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Toxic Gas in Dogs' Vomit a Threat to Vets: CDC
Date:4/26/2012

THURSDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs who accidentally eat a commercial poison to combat gophers and moles can emit a toxic gas that can sicken veterinary staff, a new report indicates.

Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say such canine gas attacks felled workers at four veterinary clinics between 2006 and 2011, and such incidents "might be underreported." All of the workers (and dogs) involved in the four cases recovered, the report added.

The cases involved zinc phosphide, a "readily available rodenticide that, on contact with stomach acid and water, produces phosphine, a highly toxic gas," explained a team led by Rebecca Tsai, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC. People who use the rodenticide are typically aiming to rid properties of burrowing rodents such as gophers or moles, and the products' instructions say that the pellets should be inserted within the animals' tunnels or burrows.

However, sometimes users may have simply spread the pellets on the ground, where dogs could eat them, or "even with correct application, dogs might be exposed while digging in treated areas with their paws or by consuming poisoned prey," the CDC team noted.

Once the zinc phosphide is ingested, the dog quickly becomes sick and owners typically rush them to a vet for care. But the chemical reacts with stomach acid and water to produce the toxic gas phosphine.

In one such case in Washington state last year, owners rushed a "limp," semi-comatose dachshund to a veterinary hospital, where she vomited into paper towels. A 34-year-old veterinary technician nearby who breathed in fumes from the vomit "immediately developed pain and nausea," the report said, but she recovered after 20 minutes.

Other cases have been more serious. In 2008, a 62-pound dog was taken to a vet clinic in Michigan after eating three zinc phosphide pellets. The veterinarian induced vomiting in the dog
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