In 1961 Congress designated the third week in March as National Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness of common poisoning risks in daily life. But did you know that poisoning prevention is an important issue not just for humans, but for pets as well?
Each year over 100,000 pets are inadvertently exposed to toxins, resulting in calls to poison control centers or visits to veterinary hospitals. And while many toxic exposures can be successfully treated promptly, many animals are not so fortunate.
Here we’ll review the most common types of pet poisoning and offer some practical tips on reducing your pets’ risk for accidental toxic exposure.
Poisoning Risks to Pets
What are the most common toxins ingested by pets? Not surprisingly, the toxic agents that cause the greatest risk to pets are found around the home. Plants, foods, human medicines, and household and automotive products are responsible for the vast majority of per poisoning cases reported to veterinarians and poison control centers. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Plants. There are over 1000 types of common plants that can prove toxic to pets. And while not all toxic exposures are life threatening, it is important to take any potentially harmful toxic exposure seriously. Lilies, Azaleas, Aloe Vera, Sago Palm, English Ivy, Philodendron, Hydrangea, Poinsettia, Dieffenbachia, and Oleander are among the leading causes of toxic exposures among pets and should be avoided.
Foods. Many common human foods also present a poisoning risk to pets. Highest on the list are products containing alcohol or caffeine. Dogs and cats don’t process alcohol the way humans do, and accidental ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, impaired central nervous system function, respiratory problems, tremors, coma, and even death. Caffeine-containing products such as coffee, coffee beans, and chocolate can also result in life threatening conditions, including tremors, arrhythmias, seizures, and death. Other common foods pets should avoid include avocado, citrus fruits, grapes and raisins, coconut products, nuts, garlic, onions, yeast dough, and any processed foods containing the sweetener Xylitol. If you believe your pet has ingested any of these substances, contact your vet or local poison control center.
Household & Automotive Products. Many household and automotive products also pose a poisoning risk to pets. Bleach, ammonia, cleansers, and antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol are highly dangerous to pets and should be stored in sealed containers where pets cannot access them. Also, many common grooming and cosmetic products—such as soap, mouthwash, deodorant, nail polish, polish remover, nail glue, sunscreen, toothpaste, and shampoo—present a poisoning risk to pets and should be stored away from places your dog or cat can reach.
Human Medications. Human medications present a twofold risk to pets: Many of these drugs are not appropriate for use in animals. and human doses of even benign medications are often too potent to be safely ingested by pets.
In Case of a Poisoning Emergency
If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic substance, do not wait for symptoms to appear. Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately. Do not induce vomiting unless you are instructed to do so; many toxic substances are corrosive and can cause more damage.
Poisoning Prevention Tips
- Store all potentially harmful household or automotive chemicals in sealed containers when not in use.
- Keep cosmetic and grooming products out of pets’ reach.
- Avoid having potentially harmful plants in your home or garden.
- Don’t offer human food to pets as treats.
- Keep the phone number for your vet and your local poison control center handy.
Editor’s Note: Knowing how to stabilize your dog during an emergency can help save its life. Here are some common emergency situations and pet first aid tips.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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