Poison Prevention Awareness Month

March is recognized as Poison Prevention Awareness Month.

In the event of a poisoning or toxin exposure, quick action and expert advice are critical. Don’t panic, but don’t delay either. Keep these poison control numbers handy – ideally programmed into your phone. Hopefully you will never need them, but in the event you do, you’ll be glad you’ve got them!

Resources

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA-APCC) – 1.888.426.4435. The ASPCA-APCC is staffed by board-certified veterinary toxicologists and specialist technicians with access to the largest veterinary-related toxin database available. The ASPCA were the pioneers in animal poison control and they provide a fantastic and valuable service. The expertise and guidance they provide is well worth the nominal fee typically charged. Their experts are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all 365 days of the year. There is typically a charge for this service, $65 at the time of writing. The ASPCA-APCC has produced a helpful smartphone app (available on both iOS and Android platforms) and also maintains a great online database of plants and flowers that are toxic to animals – complete with pictures and descriptions of the problems they cause.
  • Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) – 1.800.213.6680. PPH is staffed by veterinarians and veterinary technicians with special training in animal poisonings; as well as board-certified veterinary toxicologists, internal medicine specialists, and emergency & critical care specialists. This resource is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days of the year.  As of the time of writing, the charge for this service is $59. PPH’s helpful smartphone app is currently available on iOS only, but their website is mobile-friendly.
  • Pets & Pesticides – If you have a pesticide-related question you can call the National Pesticide Information Center at 1.800.858.7378 or email them at npic@ace.orst.edu.

With many common household items toxic to pets, it’s important that pet parents (and anyone that cares for pets) educate themselves to ensure they keep unsafe items out of paw’s reach.

It can happen to even the best pet owners—you turn around for one moment (or accidentally leave medication or chocolate on the counter) and your pet ingests a potentially harmful or fatal pet poison. Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is very important. Having the container, package, or label in hand will save valuable time and may save the life of your pet.

TOP 10 PET POISONS

Based on the Pet Poison Helpline call volume and extensive database, here are the top 10 most common toxins that Pet Poison Helpline gets called about. Now keep in mind that some of these listed are very toxic, while some are minimally toxic (like ant baits and silica packs). When in doubt, call your vet or a Pet poison resource to make sure there won’t be a problem. Take special care to keep these toxins out of your pet’s reach.

Dog Poisons:

  • Chocolate
  • Mouse and Rat Poisons (rodenticides)
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Xylitol (sugar-free gum & more)
  • Grapes & Raisins
  • Antidepressant Medications
  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)
  • Vitamin D Overdose
  • Stimulant Medications (e.g., for ADD/ADHD)
  • Fertilizers

Cat Poisons:

  • Lilies (Lilium species)
  • Spot-on flea/tick medication for dogs
  • Household Cleaners
  • Antidepressant Medications
  • Essential Oils
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications
  • Mouse & Rat Poisons (rodenticides)
  • Stimulant Medications (e.g., for ADD/ADHD)
  • Onions & Garlic
  • Vitamin D Overdose

According to the AVMA, we should all be aware of the potential risks in our environment.

HAZARDS IN THE KITCHEN

Foods

Many foods are perfectly safe for humans, but could be harmful or potentially deadly to pets. To be safe, keep the following food items out of your pet’s menu:

• Coffee grounds • Fatty foods • Tea • Chocolate • Avocado • Alcohol • Yeast dough • Grapes/raisins • Salt • Macadamia nuts • Onions • Garlic • Any food products containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener).

Always keep garbage out of a pet’s reach, as rotting food contains molds or bacteria that could cause food poisoning.

Cleaning Products

Many household cleaners can be used safely around pets. However, the key to safe use lies in reading and following product directions for proper use and storage. For instance, if the label states “keep pets and children away from area until dry,” follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used properly, but can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea or severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration.

Skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns. Some detergents can produce a similar reaction and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients such as phenols. As a general rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging, or in a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.

Insecticides/Rodenticides

Read and follow label instructions before using any type of pesticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as serious or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.

If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some of the newer rodenticides have no known antidote, and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.

HAZARDS IN THE BATHROOM

Medications that treat human medical conditions can make pets very sick. Never give your pet any medication, including over-the counter medications, unless directed by your veterinarian. As a rule, all medicines should be tightly closed and stored securely and away from pets. Medications that pose higher risk include: • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen • Acetaminophen • Cold medicines • Prescription drugs • Diet pills/vitamins • Antihistamines • Antidepressants

Always keep medications safely out of reach and never administer a medication to a pet without first consulting your veterinarian. The following are some to help prevent pets from getting into over-the-counter or prescription medication:

  • Never leave loose pills in a plastic Ziploc® bag – the bags are too easy to chew into. Make sure visiting house guests do the same, keeping their medications high up or out of reach.
  • If you place your medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container in a cabinet out of reach of your pets. Unfortunately, if they get a hold of it, some pets might consider the pill container a plastic chew toy.
  • Never store your medications near your pet’s medications – Pet Poison Helpline frequently receives calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to their pet.
  • Hang your purse up. Inquisitive pets will explore the contents of your bag and simply placing your purse up and out of reach can help to avoid exposure to any potentially dangerous medication(s).
  • Nearly 50% of all pet poisonings involve human drugs. Pets metabolize medications very differently from people. Even seemingly benign over-the-counter or herbal medications may cause serious poisoning in pets.

Soaps and other Sundries

Bath and hand soaps, toothpaste and sun screens should also be kept away from your pets. They can cause stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhea. Keep toilet lids closed to prevent your pets from consuming treated toilet bowl water that could irritate their digestive tract.

HAZARDS IN THE BEDROOM & LIVING ROOM

While they may smell good, many liquid potpourri products contain ingredients that can cause oral ulcerations and other problems, so keep them out of the reach of your pets.

Just one mothball has the potential to sicken a dog or cat; mothballs that contain naphthalene can cause serious illness, including digestive tract irritation, liver, kidney and blood cell damage, swelling of the brain tissues, seizures, coma, respiratory tract damage (if inhaled) and even death (if ingested).

Tobacco products, pennies (those minted after 1982 contain zinc) and alkaline batteries (like those in your remote controls) can also be hazardous when ingested.

HAZARDS IN THE GARAGE & YARD

Antifreeze, Herbicides and Insecticides Ethylene glycol-containing antifreeze and coolants, even in small quantities, can be fatal to pets. While antifreeze products containing propylene glycol are less toxic than those containing ethylene glycol, they can still be dangerous.

In addition to antifreeze, other substances routinely stored in the garage including insecticides, plant/lawn fertilizers, weed killers, ice-melting products, and gasoline also pose a threat to your pet’s health if ingested.

When chemical treatments are applied to grassy areas, be sure to keep your pet off the lawn for the manufacturer’s recommended time. If pets are exposed to wet chemicals or granules that adhere to their legs or body, they may lick it off later; stomach upset or more serious problems could result.

Paints and Solvents Paint thinners, mineral spirits, and other solvents are dangerous and can cause severe irritation or chemical burns if swallowed or if they come in contact with your pet’s skin. While most latex house paints typically produce a minor stomach upset, some types of artist’s or other specialty paints may contain heavy metals or volatile substances that could become harmful if inhaled or ingested.

Plants -Inside or Around the House

There are many household and yard plants that can sicken your pet. Some of the most commonly grown greenery that should be kept away from pets includes:

  • Certain types of lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis species) are highly toxic to cats, resulting in kidney failure — even if only small amounts are ingested.
  • Lily of the Valley, oleander, yew, foxglove, and kalanchoe may cause heart problems if ingested.
  • Sago palms (Cycas species) can cause severe intestinal problems, seizures and liver damage, especially if the nut portion of the plant is consumed.
  • Azaleas, rhododendrons and tulip/narcissus bulbs can cause intestinal upset, weakness, depression, heart problems, coma and death.
  • Castor bean can cause severe intestinal problems, seizures, coma, and death. Other plants that can cause intestinal upset include cyclamen, amaryllis, chrysanthemums, pothos, English ivy, philodendron, corn plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, hibiscus, hydrangea, peace lily and schefflera/scheffleria.
  • Rhubarb leaves and shamrock contain substances that can produce kidney failure
  • Additionally, fungi (such as certain varieties of mushrooms) can cause liver damage or other illnesses. A few other potentially harmful plants include the yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia species), autumn crocus (Colchicum species), and glory lily (Gloriosa species).

KNOW THE SIGNS OF POISONING IN DOGS AND CATS

Signs of poisoning in dogs and cats can range tremendously based on the underlying poison. If you think your dog or cat has been poisoned, call your veterinarian or a pet poison resource immediately for assistance! When it comes to poisoning, the sooner you treat your dog or cat, the better the outcome.

While this list is not exhaustive or complete, some common signs of poisoning generally include:

  • Gastrointestinal signs
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling/hypersalivating
  • Inappetance
  • Nausea

Internal bleeding

  • Coughing of blood
  • Vomiting blood
  • Pale gums
  • A racing heart rate
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Collapse

Kidney failure

  • Halitosis (“uremic” breath)
  • Inappetance
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Absence or decreased urination

Liver failure

  • Jaundice/icterus/yellow discoloration to the gums
  • Weakness or collapse secondary to a low blood sugar
  • Dull mentation, acting abnormally
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black-tarry stool (melena)
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