Merck Manual

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Pet Owner Version

Metabolism of Poisons


Steve M. Ensley

, DVM, PhD, Department of Anatomy and Physiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University

Reviewed/Revised Oct 2020 | Modified Nov 2022

Poisons can be absorbed via the digestive tract, skin, lungs, eyes, mucous membranes (such as those of the nose or eye), mammary glands, and uterus, as well as from sites of injection. Toxic effects may be local, or the poison can be absorbed and spread by way of the bloodstream. Some poisons are excreted by the kidneys. Others are excreted in the bile and collect in fat deposits. Still others are excreted in milk. In most cases, the body attempts to detoxify the poison. The liver does most of the metabolic processing that turns compounds into forms the body can use or excrete. This includes the detoxification of some substances. Unfortunately, when some poisons are metabolized, the new compounds created are more toxic than the original compound.

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