Poisons affecting the skin

Nicola Bates
Sunday, May 2, 2021

All homes contain substances capable of causing serious injury if they come into contact with the skin. These substances include detergents, acids and alkalis found in many cleaning products, and petroleum distillates such as white spirit and petrol. Asphalt used in road surfacing can also cause local effects, particularly if it is still hot when contact occurs. The risk of effects on the skin from these chemicals is increased if decontamination in delayed. The method of decontamination will depend on the substance involved but in many cases simple bathing is sufficient. Removal of oily or greasy substances may require the use of a commercial degreaser and sticky material may need to be softened with oil or fat to facilitate removal. Decontamination after contact with corrosive substances may require prolonged and repeated water irrigation to ensure thorough removal. Another potential source of dermal injury in pets is exposure to psoralen-containing plants (such as hogweed, Heracleum spp.) in combination with ultraviolent light (sunlight) which can result in erythema, blistering and dermatitis. In this case, management is supportive with avoidance of sunlight.

Figure 1. Hair loss on the limb of a cat during recovery following exposure to laundry washing detergent. The container had fallen from a work surface and spilled on the floor near where cats were sleeping. They had detergent on their legs and feet but were not treated promptly and developed chemical burns. One cat was euthanased with severe respiratory signs and the other recovered.
Figure 1. Hair loss on the limb of a cat during recovery following exposure to laundry washing detergent. The container had fallen from a work surface and spilled on the floor near where cats were sleeping. They had detergent on their legs and feet but were not treated promptly and developed chemical burns. One cat was euthanased with severe respiratory signs and the other recovered.

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