In 1961, Congress initiated National Poison Prevention Week to call into awareness the threat of household toxins. According to the ASPCA American Association of Poison Control Centers, over 180,000 pets were poisoned in 2013. With proper supervision, elimination of harmful substances, and a solid poison-proofing plan you can make sure your pet doesn’t become a statistic.
Here are the top ten things to keep away from your pet:
1. Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
According to the ASPCA, human medications are the most commonly ingested item by pets, making up almost 20% of all calls to their poison control center. Cardiac medications were most common, followed by serotonin and neurotransmitter medications, and lastly, pain medications. Dogs can easily chew through most prescription bottles and can quickly swallow an entire bottle of pills. Make sure to keep medications well out of reach of your pets, preferably in a closed, inaccessible cabinet.
It’s easy to identify the hazards of your pet ingesting prescription drugs but what about acetaminophen and ibuprofen, two drugs that are commonly found in most households? Both of these over-the-counter drugs can cause severe problems for both cats and dogs. Acetaminophen can cause red blood cell (RBC) injury, difficulty breathing, lethargy, swelling, and vomiting in cats and liver failure, dry eye, and RBC injury in dogs. While ibuprofen may be prescribed for your pet to help manage pain and inflammation, it should only be given upon your veterinarian’s recommendation. Even small overdoses can have drastic consequences including ulcers, anemia, lethargy, kidney failure, liver failure, and seizures.
Ethylene glycol, found in antifreeze, motor oil, brake fluid, paint solvents, and windshield deicers, is extremely toxic to pets. Unfortunately, its sweet smell and taste can lure unsuspecting pets to taste it, often leading to deadly results. If you suspect ethylene glycol poisoning, it’s imperative you seek treatment immediately as the antidote needs to be administered within hours in order for your pet to survive. Without treatment, ethylene glycol is almost 100% fatal.
3. Household Cleaners
If you’re feeling the urge to start on your spring cleaning, make sure to check what kinds of cleaning products you’re using. Oven cleaners, lime-removal products, concentrated toilet cleaners, pool chemicals, drain cleaners, and dishwashing chemicals are all highly corrosive. These products can cause severe injuries and burns to their fur and skin upon contact. Contact your veterinarian immediately with the details of what chemical they met. Make sure to keep all chemicals, even less hazardous ones, locked up and out of reach at all times.
It might be one of the most popular foods in the world, but not for pets! Chocolate contains two deadly ingredients for dogs: caffeine and theobromine. These two substances, known as methylxanthines, can lead to medical complications and even death. The three main categories of chocolate to be aware of are milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and baking chocolate. Baking chocolate has the highest concentration of caffeine and theobromine and is the most toxic, even in minute quantities. If you suspect your dog has ingested chocolate, contact your veterinarian for help.
Although houseplants have many benefits, you should think twice before bringing certain kinds into your home. Lilies, azaleas, autumn crocus, tulips, hyacinths, Lily of the Valley, daffodils, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Oleander, Dieffenbachia, and Sago Palms are all highly toxic to your pets. Play it safe and keep these hazardous houseplants away from your home.
Two insecticides to be on the lookout for are carbamates and organophosphates or OP. Found most frequently in rose and flower herbicides and fertilizers, these chemicals can cause symptoms from nausea, tearing, and drooling to hypothermia, seizures and death. While the EPA is regulating the use of these chemicals, both cats and dogs still fall prey to the harmful side-effects these products cause. If you’re a flower gardener, pay close attention to your product labels to avoid potential poisoning.
This sugar-free natural sweetener is popping up in all sorts of products, from sugar-free gum and mints to toothpaste, vitamins, food, and candy. While it might make a great sugar substitute for humans, it can be devastating to your dog, with symptoms ranging from weakness and collapse to coma and even death. Xylitol can cause immediate hypoglycemia, liver necrosis, and liver failure and requires immediate treatment.
8. Flea and Tick Products
Remember the carbamates and organophosphates we talked about with insecticides? Those same ingredients can be found in various flea and tick products and are classified by the EPA as likely to be carcinogenic to humans. If you have a product with tetrachlorvinphos, carabaryl, or propoxur in the ingredient list, you are using a product that could be harmful to your pet (and your family).
How can you avoid poisoning from flea and tick products? First, purchase your flea and tick preventatives from your veterinarian or a supplier they recommend. Second, never use cat products on a dog or dog treatments for a cat. Third, follow the dosage recommendations precisely. Finally, follow all directions carefully and contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of poisoning, including salivating, pupil dilation, tremors, vomiting, shivering, and sudden skin problems.
9. Grapes and Raisins
Believe it or not, chocolate isn’t the only food that is harmful to your dog. Grapes, raisins, and currants can be toxic to your dog, leading to potential kidney failure, anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea. Keep all foods in that family, including grape juice, raisin bagels, and similar foods out of your pet’s reach.
Rat and mouse poison are extremely harmful to your pets. Even if you use rodenticides in an area you believe your pet can’t access, rodents can still inadvertently transfer the toxic substances to other locations. If you have a problem with mice or rats, contact your veterinarian for recommendations on pet-safe treatments and recommended pest control companies.
Armed with this list of potential hazards, you can prevent your pet from becoming a statistic of pet poisoning. Prevention is the best medicine, however, if your pet accidentally eats or comes into contact with a poisonous substance, please seek immediate veterinary attention and be prepared to provide them with the most information possible about what the pet encountered, how much, and what symptoms they are exhibiting. Prompt attention can make the difference between life and death for your pet so make sure to have your veterinarian’s phone number posted with your other emergency contacts.