Keep Your Pets Safe During Spring Cleaning

February 24, 2013

ImageSpring is in the air, and it is time to clear out not only clothes, but old cleaning supplies, garden supplies, expired medications and the ancient roach trap that has been hiding in the corner of that cabinet for years. When we are tackling our cluttered storage areas, our pets are at a higher risk of being poisoned by some of the materials we are bringing down from shelves and out of cabinets.

In the kitchen, watch out for bits of foods that may have dried up, but are nevertheless  irresistible to a dog or cat. Rotten foods contain molds or bacteria that can lead to serious poisoning.

In attics and closets, remember that dried-up rodent poisons and baits are potentially dangerous to pets. These products taste yummy, which is why the rats or mice like them, and dogs or cats will eat them in a flash. Some rodent poisons have no antidote and can be quickly fatal if eaten by an unsuspecting pet. Old roach baits and traps aren’t very poisonous to pets, but the plastic casing can cause quite a severe gastro-intestinal upset.

Human medications are a constant source of pet poisoning. When cleaning under stoves or bathroom cabinets, keep a close eye out for stray pills that might have rolled under an appliance, even years before. A friend of mine lost her cat to Tylenol poisoning after she had been spring cleaning under the stove in her rental apartment. A previous tenant must have allowed some spilled Tylenol to roll under the stove where they were left until my friend started cleaning. Her young cat must have eaten the rolling “treat” before anyone knew what had happened.

Even expired pet medications can be quite dangerous, as they are often flavored to make a yummy treat. If tasty pills or liquids are accidently left where a pet can get to them, they will eat every last bit, often resulting in dangerous poisonings. (Of-course, these same pets won’t eat the medications when you actually need them to, which is probably why you have them leftover in the first place, but that is another story.)

There are so many poisons stored in people’s garages that I cannot even begin to list them all, but keep your pets away as you are cleaning up auto supplies, especially anti-freeze. Even a teaspoon of anti-freeze can fatally poison an animal, so seal it up well before you dispose of it, and it is best to take all automobile related fluids to the “liquid disposal” section of the landfill where they can be properly disposed of, away from domestic and wild animals.

When cleaning out your purse, be especially careful with artificially sweetened candies or gum that may contain xylitol. This artificial sweetener can cause your pet’s blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels and can cause liver damage in susceptible dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can be extremely dangerous, so keep and dispose of these items where your pets cannot get to them.

So, think twice before starting your spring cleaning while your pets are around. It is best to secure them away from the area you’re a cleaning until you are finished. You’ll also find that the work goes much faster without your furry friend’s “help”.

If you do suspect that your pet may have been exposed to or ingested anything toxic, don’t waste any time.  Collect the product container! It does little good to call your vet and say “fluffy just ate a box of ant killer”. We need to know the actual chemical and the maximum amount that your pet could have eaten. So, keep the label and have it with you when you call for advice. It also helps to establish your pet’s age and weight before you 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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