This week is National Poison Prevention Week, an important time to educate ourselves on potential dangers and how best to avoid them.
As every pet parent knows, most pets have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. That’s why it’s a part of our duty as pet owners to keep our beloved pets safe from harm.
The key to poison prevention is awareness. With that in mind, here are the ASPCA Poison Control Center (APCC)’s top 10 most common pet toxins in 2016:
- Prescription Medications
Some of the most common prescription medications that animals ingest are antidepressants, heart, and ADHD medications. Almost all prescriptions medications will pose some sort of health risk to pets, and some may even be fatal or cause permanent damage. Keep the bottles out of reach of your pet – inside a locked box or medicine cabinet is best. If possible, avoid leaving bottles on counters where they may fall onto the floor.
- Over-the-counter Medications
Ibuprofen is the number one most commonly ingested toxin in this category. Large doses of ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers, bleeding, and even kidney failure. Plastic bottles stand no chance against sharp canine teeth; like the prescription drugs, these bottles should be stored somewhere completely out of reach of pets, and off of counters.
Garlic, grapes, onions, raisins, nuts, and many other foods can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even organ failure. Make sure not to leave food unattended, and be careful about any human food given to pets.
- Veterinary Medications
One big risk in this category is animals ingesting flea medication off themselves or others. Pyrethroid-based flea treatments can cause vomiting, tremors, altered gait (described as a “drunk walk”), seizures, and even death. Using the proper flea treatment for your pet’s species/size is critical. Cats have different liver metabolisms; doses for very small dogs can be extremely toxic to even the largest cats. Pets that have been treated for fleas should be kept away from other animals and monitored to make sure they don’t ingest any of the medicine.
- Household Supplies
Many household cleaning supplies contain lots of unpleasant ingredients like bleach, ammonia, detergents, etc. Among other things, these can cause chemical burns, skin irritation, and stomach upset if ingested. Essential oils have become a very popular way to keep your house smelling fresh, but unfortunately these oils can be quite toxic to pets, especially cats, which lack the metabolism necessary to eliminate them from the body. Cats poisoned with essential oils may suffer stomach upset, central nervous system depression, and even liver damage.
Just like humans, most dogs (and some cats) find chocolate irresistible. Theobromine and caffeine are the two primary toxins found in chocolate. Darker, bitterer chocolates tend to contain more of these chemicals. Severity of the poisoning will depend on the size of the animal and the potency of the chocolate. Gastrointestinal upset, rapid breathing/heart rate, seizures, and even cardiac failure and coma can result from chocolate ingestion.
A common way pets come into contact with insecticides is through eating treated grass or insect bait stations inside the house. Insecticides may cause chemical burns, central nervous system depression, drooling, seizures, and even death. If you have recently treated your lawn or your house with any sort of pesticide or insect killer, it’s best to keep pets away from it.
Stick to old-fashioned snap traps for pest control – almost all rat poisons can be fatal to cats and dogs if ingested. Anticoagulant poison, the most common type of rat treatment, can cause internal bleeding if a pet snacks on it. Other varieties of poisons can cause brain swelling, kidney failure, or even a buildup of toxic gas in your pet’s stomach. It’s important to keep in mind that pets may become poisoned by eating dead rats or mice that have been exposed to poison.
Houseplants make excellent decorations, but can pose some serious risk to pets if ingested. Sago palm, azaleas, tulips, and lilies are some of the most common toxic plants encountered by pets. Check the ASPCA’s toxic and nontoxic plant list to make sure your favorite plant isn’t a health risk to your pet.
- Garden Products
Fertilizers, weed-killers, mulch, and fungicides can all be toxic to pets. Many dogs find fertilizer and other lawn treatments irresistible, and will eat as much as possible if given the chance. Depending on the makeup of the fertilizer, this may mean accidental ingestion of insecticides, toxic compounds, or foreign bodies that can obstruct the gastrointestinal system. Keep pets away from a freshly treated lawn, and store the fertilizer somewhere where pets can’t access it, like a high shelf in the garage.
Thankfully, there are many tools out there to help keep pet parents educated on potential poisons and toxins. The APCC and Pet Poison Helpline’s websites, as well as the APCC’s free app all provide pet owners with a wide variety of information about toxic substances, including tools to calculate severity of poisoning and guidance on the proper steps to take for the specific substance encountered.
If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, call the ASPCA’s 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center Hotline at (888) 426-4435 or your local Vet immediately.