A survey of animal poisonings in New Zealand veterinary practices: perceptions of incidence and frequency of poisoning cases

A survey of animal poisonings in New Zealand veterinary practices: perceptions of incidence and frequency of poisoning cases
Peer reviewed


Aims: To survey New Zealand veterinary practices on the incidence and frequency of animal poisonings encountered over a 1-year period.

Methods: A national questionnaire-based cross-sectional online survey was made available to all members of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, active as of 2010, via an email supplying a link to the questionnaire. Veterinary practices listed by the Veterinary Council of New Zealand were also contacted via email or phone. Respondents entered their information on the online survey site or provided a hard copy of their responses, which were then entered by the authors into the database. The questionnaire contained a mixture of tick box options and short answer questions. Responses were analysed using descriptive statistics.

Results: Of 463 veterinary practices deemed eligible to complete the survey, 120 (25.9%) responded to the survey. However, only 94 (78.3%) questionnaire entries (78.3%) were deemed adequate for analysis. Veterinary practices (45 mixed practices, 38 companion animal-only practices, nine large animal practices, and two equine-only practices) from 14/16 regions of New Zealand were represented. All respondents affirmed that in the last 12 months, cases of suspected poisoning in animals were attended by veterinarians at their practices and estimated a total of 5,326 poisoning cases. The subcategories most commonly associated with estimated cases of poisoning were pasture mycotoxins (2,133/5,326; 40%), anticoagulant rodenticides (753/5,326; 14.1%), plants (469/5,326; 8.8%), slug/snail baits (305/5,326; 5.7%) and chocolate (221/5,326; 4.1%). Except for anticoagulant rodenticides (once a month), and slug/snail baits, human prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and chocolate (once a year), the majority of respondents reported toxicants caused poisonings seasonally or infrequently.

Conclusions: A variety of poisons were encountered with environmental toxins and household pest control agents being the most common cause of poisoning for animals attended by veterinarians in New Zealand. Most cases of poisoning in animals occurred seasonally or infrequently. Further research is needed to determine the actual number of animals poisoned, the affected species, and the seasons when poisoning occurs in New Zealand.

Clinical relevance: This report provides baseline information on cases of poisoning in animals in New Zealand which could be used for case management, prevention through client education, and poisoning risk assessment.

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