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What is Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning?

Corticosteroid topical creams have many uses in the field of human and veterinary medicine. Topical ointments typically used on animals, if ingested in large amounts, usually will cause a mild stomach upset. 5-Fluorouracil, a corticosteroid cream used for the purposes of solar damage on human skin is extremely toxic if consumed by our pets. Veterinary use is limited because of the high risk of toxicity. The symptoms of corticosteroids topical poisoning ointment, such as a 5-Fluorouracil containing cream, will appear in as little as 45 minutes to one hour. Severe symptoms like vomiting and uncontrollable seizures are signs of exposure; immediate veterinary care is needed because many canines will succumb to the effects despite treatment. Fortunately,  incidences of this type of corticosteroids topical poisoning are not common. However, in states where human sun exposure is high (and therefore the use of the reparative cream more prevalent), there have been numerous cases of 5-Fluorouracil ingestion recorded.

The ingestion of many corticosteroid creams can cause stomach upset for canines. However, if a dog consumes a topical ointment or solution like 5-Fluorouracil, it can lead to fatal consequences as it is an antimetabolite, which rapidly destroys dividing cells.

Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 56 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning in Dogs

The symptoms that accompany a poisoning of corticosteroids topical ointment such as 5-Fluorouracil can appear within 30 minutes of ingestion, up to approximately 5 hours after, with death occurring in some dogs within 7 hours.

  • Tremors
  • Vomiting (with or without blood)
  • Excess salivation
  • Depression
  • Ataxia
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Blue mucus membranes
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Death

It should be noted that a dog who consumes a tube of cream or ointment may also experience an obstruction due to the tube becoming stuck in the gastrointestinal tract.

Types

5-Fluorouracil is known most commonly as Efudex (cream and solution 2% and 5%) and Fluoroplex (cream and topical solution 1%).

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Causes of Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning in Dogs

  • The corticosteroid topical cream is used to treat skin cancer and sun damage on the skin of humans
  • 5-Fluorouracil inhibits the normal division of cells
  • The metabolism of this topical cream causes convulsions
  • The central nervous system, liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract  can become affected
  • Seizures can evolve to be uncontrollable
  • Because the seizures cannot be stopped, death or euthanasia occur
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Diagnosis of Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning in Dogs

There are no specific tests that can verify a toxicity of 5-Fluorouracil; the diagnosis will be based solely on information that you can provide as well as clinical signs (which may be very severe). If you are aware that your canine companion has ingested a quantity of this very toxic cream, take him immediately to an emergency clinic. Do not wait for symptoms to appear because if seizures develop and become uncontrollable, the prognosis will be very grave. If you have packaging available, or a partial amount of the tube, bring this along to the veterinarian hospital.

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Treatment of Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning in Dogs

Stabilizing your dog will be the first priority of the veterinary team. If the cream was ingested recently and your pet is asymptomatic, vomiting may be induced. If your dog consumed the toxin over two hours ago chances are the 5-Fluorouracil has been absorbed and is on it’s way through the stomach. Active charcoal may still be given to bind the poison, but vomiting will not be induced due to the risk of aspiration by a dog who is having seizures. Some canines may need to be given antiemetics because the symptom of vomiting can be severe. 

Through intravenous, medications to control the seizures and convulsions, as well as gastroprotectants to ease the stomach will be administered. The veterinarian will be closely monitoring and checking the kidney and liver function of your dog. A complete blood count and electrolyte level verification will be done. Your pet’s temperature will be regulated, and if needed antibiotics and pain relief will be included in the intravenous therapy. In cases of severe gastrointestinal blood loss, blood transfusions may be required.

If the effects of the poisoning are controlled and your dog is able to relax and rest, recovery is possible. However, documentation shows that many dogs who are poisoned by a corticosteroid cream like 5-Fluorouracil will die or be euthanized due to unmanageable, life-threatening seizure activity.

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Recovery of Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning in Dogs

The veterinarian will release your pet into your care once signs of the poisoning are no longer; however, the length of hospital stay and the ease of recovery will depend on how much of the cream was ingested initially. If your dog had gastrointestinal upset only, his recovery will be much quicker than a pet who experienced convulsions or organ damage. The veterinarian will schedule a follow-up appointment and will be available for questions if you have concerns as your pet is in convalescence. As with any drug, household product, or food be certain to store all items out of reach of children and pets.

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Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 56 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

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Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Mini goldendoodle

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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My dog got into a tube of hydrocortisone Valerate USP 0.2%. Looks like he may have ingested 2-3 Tbs.

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I do not have that talks in in my database, unfortunately. It may be best to call your veterinarian, a local emergency clinic that can give you advice, or a pet poison hotline. They will be able to get the weight of your dog, and the medication that you think he has ingested, and give you advice on how to handle this. I hope that all goes well.

July 28, 2020

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Tibetan Spaniel

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Six Years

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Dog got to a tube of cortizone-10 and chewed on it. Punctured it, some came out and while it doesn't look like he purposefully ingested any he likely did get some when it came out. No idea of time line (tube was knocked to ground where he could get it about 12 hours ago, I don't know when he actually got it) and no symptoms currently. Should I take him to a vet or monitor for now?

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It would seem, since this happened quite a while ago, that you could monitor him and have him seen if he shows any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 11, 2020

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Tibetan Spaniel

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Dog bit into cortizone-10 tube. Doesn't look like he ate any purposefully after puncturing but some did come out of the hole so he likely ingested a little. No idea how long ago this happened. No symptoms that I can tell. Should I take him to the vet or wait to see if he shows any symptoms?

July 11, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It would seem, since this happened quite a while ago, that you could monitor him and have him seen if he shows any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 11, 2020

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Corticosteroids Topical Poisoning Average Cost

From 56 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$500

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