March is Pet Poison Prevention Month
Life is an endless curiosity for cats and dogs. Pets simply must explore that vase full of flowers, the contents of your purse, or that bottle of candy you brought home from the doctor. Just like a toddler, you need to stay one step ahead to prevent an accidental poisoning.
Poisons act fast, so if you feel your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, you should act fast, too. Give us a call right away. Don’t spend time on the internet trying to figure things out, or only leave a voicemail for your veterinarian. If it’s after business hours, seek emergency care immediately!
Pet poisoning signs can be subtle at first, and may not even show up for several days after your pet ingests something toxic. Symptoms your pet may experience include:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Pale or grayish gum color
- Racing heartbeat
- Weakness/ collapse
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle tremors
- Excessive thirst or urination
There are simple steps to reduce the chances of accidental ingestion of a poisonous substance for our pets. The following is a short list of toxic items that your pet may have access to.
Nearly 50% of all pet poisonings involve human drugs. Pets metabolize medications very differently than people. Even seemingly harmless over-the-counter medications may cause serious poisoning in pets. Medications ranging from over-the-counter drugs (Tylenol, Advil, Aspirin, Motrin, Aleve, cold/allergy medication) and dietary supplements to prescription medications like blood pressure meds, antidepressants, ADHD meds and narcotics are very dangerous for our pets. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.
Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. Medications such as non-steroidal (NSAIDs) and nutritional supplements. Often veterinary medications are flavored and can invite Fido or Fluffy to eat more than their prescribed dose!
People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and certain citrus fruit can seriously harm our furry friends. Dark and bakers chocolate contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures. Also, while not a human food, Tea Tree oil is also very toxic to cats and dogs. The ASPCA has a list of food to avoid feeding your pet.
Xylitol is a word you may never have heard of, but it’s a common ingredient in many gums, mints, baked goods, and even human dental care products. And while you may think it’s not a big deal if your pet sneaks a little piece of gum or a mint, the consequences could be fatal.
In our effort to battle home invasions of unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our pets at risk. One of the most common incidents involves the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species (you CANNOT use dog products on cats and vice versa!)
Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets, including bleeding, seizures and kidney damage.
Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts. Check out the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants for more info.
Chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.
It’s not too much loud music that constitutes our next pet poison offender. Instead, it’s heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.
Ingestion of legal (and illicit) recreational drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines, hallucinogenics and opioids can happen to a pet whose owners have no drugs in the house! Sometimes these drugs can be found at places like parks, dog beaches, near campsites and on hiking trails. While ingestion of dried marijuana will likely remain a source of exposure to pets, there are an increasing number of ways pets may be exposed. Marijuana edibles – cookies, brownies, butter, chocolates – are all items pets may ingest. Although Massachusetts allows the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, it’s still rare for owners to admit their pets have been exposed to it. Please know, veterinary professionals are not the police; we are not here to pass judgement or turn a scared owner into the police. We just need an honest and accurate account of what your pet may have ingested so we can save its life.
Common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
Certain types of fertilizer can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded more than 2,000 calls related to fertilizer exposure. Prevention is really key to avoiding accidental exposure
Download the ASPCA Poison Control Center App!
The best defense against pet poisoning is educating yourself and being aware of potential toxins before your pet gets into them. The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a great mobile app that outlines toxic foods, plants, and household products organized by species. It even has a “chocolate wheel” and “rodentislide”, which quickly helps you determine the level of severity for your pet if these substances are consumed. Download the app now!
If your pet eats or drinks something you are not sure is poisonous, you can call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. This hotline, open 24/7, offers professional advice on pet poisoning. A consultation fee may apply.