It's Pet Poison Awareness Month. Here is what to do if a pet is exposed to something toxic

If a pet ingests anything that isn’t meant for pets or food that appears spoiled or moldy or smells bad, contact poison control as soon as you notice.
If a pet ingests anything that isn’t meant for pets or food that appears spoiled or moldy or smells bad, contact poison control as soon as you notice.

Rose chewed up a bottle of eye drops. Momo ate a silica gel packet labeled "Do not ingest." Fizz ate a pack of sugar-free gum. Sophie ate a brownie. Polly ate a Flintstones chewable vitamin.

Dogs will try anything at least once − and it's not always easy to know whether a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.

That's when it's a good idea to call a pet poison hotline. Here's what to know.

When to call. If you think your pet has gotten into something, don't take a wait-and-see attitude. Renal failure can occur before you realize something's wrong. Calling first can save you a trip to the vet or alert you to a serious situation.

Calling before you get to the clinic can also speed up things for your veterinarian. The poison control hotline will already have a case number set up for you, and your veterinarian or the emergency clinic can call back as often as needed at no additional charge. Remember that although veterinarians are well-trained in pet health care, they aren't experts on all the poisons that can affect pets. That's where veterinary toxicologists come in.

"Poison control will guide the treating veterinarian through treating the case and any complications that might arise," says licensed veterinary technician Colleen Clemett.

What to have on hand. When you call, the poison control staff will need to know the following: pet age, weight, medical conditions, medication they're on, what you know or think they got into and how much they may have ingested. You may be asked about behavior or symptoms, such as staggering or vomiting, or whether they could have been exposed to fertilizers, insecticides, snail bait or mouse, rat or gopher poisons. Having the packaging or container on hand is helpful, as Nancy Kerns discovered.

When a dog she was fostering ingested most of the contents of a bottle of prescription medication for a previous dog who had died, Kerns called the ASPCA poison control hotline. They helped walk her through the math of how many pills were remaining in the bottle and how many could have been in the bottle based on the date the prescription was picked up and the date of death of the dog who had previously been taking it. They determined that the foster dog did indeed need to get to the ER as quickly as possible, then helped the vet staff calculate the dosage of medication needed to reduce his blood pressure, which had spiked from the drug he had taken.

What not to do. It's a common myth that vomiting should be induced if a pet ingests something toxic. It depends on the substance, as well as other factors, notes A.J. Jeffers, DVM, consulting toxicologist for the ASPCA, speaking on the ASPCA's myths in toxicology podcast ( last May. Inducing vomiting is a bad idea if pets are brachycephalic (has a short nose, such as a bulldog, pug or Persian cat); have recently had surgery that required stitches; have heart disease or seizure disorders; or have swallowed sharp objects or caustic substances.

When you are advised to induce vomiting, it's best to use a fresh, unopened bottle of hydrogen peroxide, Clemett says. That's because once opened and exposed to air, hydrogen peroxide eventually breaks down to just plain water. A fresh bottle will do the best job at bubbling in the stomach, causing your pet to vomit, she says. Have a needleless syringe on hand as well to administer the hydrogen peroxide. The poison control staff can guide you if you're not sure how to do it or how much to use.

Cost. There's a fee, generally $75 to $85 (which covers follow-up calls as well). Have your credit card ready.

Money-saving tip. If you have pet health insurance or your pet's microchip is registered, a poison control call may be covered or discounted. Check your policy.

— Kim Campbell Thornton

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Pet Connection: When do you call a pet poison hotline?