March 8, 2019

Pet Poison Prevention

By Dr. Jack Walkenhorst
There are many items in our homes, yards, kitchens and everyday surroundings that are poisonous and even life threatening to our pets. Education is key to pet poison prevention, so in conjunction with the upcoming National Poison Prevention Week, Veterinarian and Pets In Need volunteer board member, Dr. Jack Walkenhorst, discusses tips and resources to protect your pet.

Preventative Education is Key

Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.

Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:

Anti-freeze – Antifreeze is highly toxic to animals. Even just a teaspoon can be deadly to dogs. It’s important that pet owners clean up any spills, even if the spillage seems inconsequential. Responsible pet owners should also regularly check their driveway for any antifreeze leaks throughout the year.

Medications – If a pet gets into a bottle of medications such as anti-depressants, heart medications, etc., it can be deadly even though they’re safe for humans, because animal’s bodies process medications differently. Also, medications are dosed for humans, not a pet that’s half the size and it’s rare that a pet eats just one pill.   

Pain Killers / NSAIDs – Tylenol, Advil, Motrin and any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are toxic to both cats and dogs. Dogs can take a small, safe dose of aspirin if recommended by a veterinarian, but cats cannot because of the way their bodies process medications.

Ornamental Plants – Many ornamental plants such as holly, lilies, azaleas, daffodils, oleander, and others are highly-toxic to cats and dogs, causing symptoms such as kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, seizures, vomiting and even death. It’s important for pet owners to do their research on the plants in their yard and take the proper precautions to protect pets. If a pet ingests a potentially poisonous plant it’s best to bring the plant to the vet, so the vet knows exactly what type of poison was ingested. This will help determine the best treatment.

Gardening and Lawn Care – Many of the chemicals we use for gardening and lawn care are toxic to our pets, including weed killers, fertilizers, and pesticides. Organic non-toxic options are available for pet owners who struggle to keep their pets away from harmful outdoor chemicals.

Household Cleaners – Virtually all household cleaners are poisonous to pets. It’s important to keep them up and out of reach.

Rodenticides – All rat and mouse poisons are also poisons to pets. If pet owners are using rodenticides, it’s highly important that they know the name of the poison being used, in case their pet ingests it. If ingested by a pet, bringing the poison container itself to the vet is best, so the vet knows exactly what type of poison was ingested, helping the determine the best way to treat it.

Toxic Foods – Many people know that chocolate is potentially toxic to dogs (especially dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate), but there are many other dangerous foods that aren’t as commonly known. These include, grapes, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts, avocados, and Xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is safe for people, but very dangerous for dogs and cats because of the way their bodies process the sweetener. Xylitol has always been found in gums, but it’s becoming more popular in mints, candies, protein bars, baking mixes, Jell-O, puddings, and more. If a package says “All-natural” “Sugar-Free” or “No Artificial Sweeteners” it likely contains Xylitol and should be kept from pets.

What To Do If Your Pet is Poisoned

If your pet has ingested a poison, immediately call your primary veterinarian. If they’re unavailable, contact a nearby emergency pet hospital. They will be able to guide you through next steps and treatment.

If a pet hospital is unavailable, call ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. A $50 - $60 consultation fee will likely be charged for the call, but the hotline is extremely knowledgeable and helpful if you’re unable to reach a local veterinarian.

Pet owners might wonder if they should induce vomiting, but veterinarians rarely recommend this. A good rule of thumb is to only induce vomiting if the digestion of the toxin makes it more dangerous, such as with anti-freeze, food, or medications. Do not induce vomiting with caustic or irritative toxins such as cleaners or fertilizers. To induce vomiting, a pet should be given a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for every 10 pounds of body weight.

Signs and symptoms of pet poising include, vomiting, neurological symptoms such as appearing drunk or falling over, diarrhea, and changes in alertness. If you suspect your pet got into a poison but you’re not positive, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and contact your veterinarian immediately.