Poisons for Pets

March 23, 2011

March is National Poison Prevention Month, and that includes pets!  You may not realize it, but your household probably has a variety of products that are hazardous to your pets.  Here is a short summary of things to look out for:

In the kitchen, be sure to keep the garbage out of your pet’s reach.  Rotting foods contain molds or bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.  But, even common foods that are fine for humans are dangerous for pets.  Some of these include coffee grounds, chocolate, macadamia nuts, avocado, grapes/raisins, onions, tea, alcohol, salt and garlic.  Artificially sweetened candies and gum may contain xylitol and these are particularly dangerous to some pets.

Any cleaning products need to be kept out of reach.  Store these in a secure cabinet and keep them in their original packaging so that you can follow label instructions if your pet should accidentally come into contact with the contents.

Insecticides and rodent poisons need to be kept well away from pets.  Some cats are very sensitive to insecticides and will twitch and drool when exposed to fumes of these products.  If you use a professional exterminator, he or she will know what products are safe for pets, but if you are going the “do it yourself” route, you need to do your research. Rat and mouse baits are “yummy” and a puppy will eat these up in a flash.  Don’t use these products around pets.  Roach baits that are housed inside the plastic dispensers aren’t very toxic to pets, but the plastic itself can really tear up a dog’s digestive tract.

Human medications are a constant source of pet poisoning.  Keep your medications in a secure cabinet and be sure to collect ALL pills from the floor if there is a spill.  One of my employees brought in one of her cats one day.  The poor thing was obviously very sick.  Blood tests suggested Tylenol exposure, but my employee swore that she never even used Tylenol, “it couldn’t be that” she said.  Well, she went home and tore up the apartment.  Under the stove she found several Tylenol tablets that must have been left there by the previous tenant.  Her cat had probably been playing with the rolling tablets and accidentally ingested one, leading to disastrous consequences.

Lots of plants can be toxic and this is a topic all in itself, but here are some common ones to look out for.  When ingested, Lilies can cause kidney problems in cats. Oleander, yew, foxglove and kalanchoe can cause heart problems in pets.  Sago palms can cause seizures and liver failure.  Azaleas, rhododendrons and tulip/narcissus bulbs can cause intestinal upset, weakness, depression and even coma.  Castor bean can cause severe intestinal problems or even seizures.  Cyclamen, amaryllis, chrysanthemums, pothos, English ivy, philodendron, corn plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, hibiscus, hydrangea, peace lily and schefflera all cause some level of stomach upset.  Rhubarb leaves and shamrock have a substance that can cause kidney failure.

One of the most dangerous substances in the garage is anti-freeze.  It tastes good to most pets and even a teaspoon can be deadly.  All car/machinery related products should be kept in their original container.  If the container is beginning to leak, it is time to dispose of the product in a safe manner.  Don’t pour it down a drain where a pet may lick up spills!

If you suspect that your pet may have been exposed to or ingested anything toxic, don’t waste any time.  Collect the product container or plant sample, establish your pet’s age and weight and then call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435).  The ASPCA does charge for this service, so have a credit card handy.  Many poisonings can be treated effectively if caught early, so time is of the essence.

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