Dog and cat poisoning occurs when a pet drinks or eats a harmful substance. The substance affects the brain, heart, liver, lungs, or kidneys so that your pet becomes ill. Illness can be immediate (acute) as with strychnine poisoning, or it can be long-term (chronic) as with swallowing a penny. The illness can be severe, as with rat poison, or mild, as with diarrhea caused by lapping up soapy water.
The ASPCA American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 165,900 pet poisonings in 2011. This means pet poisonings occur every day of the year, every hour of the day. Over 90% of poisonings are accidental, and less than 10% are malicious. The worst months for pet poisoning are July and August and half these poisonings involve pesticides: insecticides, herbicides, and flea and tick products.
Most pets get poisoned at home. Curious cats and dogs sometimes eat things they shouldn't, such as moth repellants, mushrooms, paints, rodenticides, and household cleaners. But even non-toxic substances can be a problem—just three ounces of baking chocolate can be fatal to a 15-pound dog. You need to poison-proof your home for your pet just as you would for your child.
Among the common causes of pet poisons are prescription medications, insecticides, mushrooms, paints, rodenticides, and household cleaners. Poisoning can also occur if your pet walks in toxic materials, such as herbicides, and if your pet plays on lawns treated with fertilizers or pesticides.
Batteries, pennies, homemade play dough, potpourri oils, paint, mothballs, fabric softener sheets, automatic dishwashing detergent, human medications, dog medications, and glue can poison your dog or cat.
Raw salmon, chocolate, onions, onion powder, garlic, coffee, tea, yeast dough, salt, avocados, cigarettes, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grape skins, raisins, and moldy or spoiled foods can poison your pet.
Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, insect foggers, azalea, oleander, yew, rhododendron, potato leaves and stems, rhubarb leaves, tomato leaves and stems, bait for slugs, mouse and rat bait, and antifreeze can poison your furry friend.
Chocolate is not good for pets, but not all chocolate is equally poisonous. Bakers chocolate is much more concentrated, and thus more dangerous, than the milk chocolate found in most candy bars. A pet may be able to eat several candy bars before consuming enough chocolate to cause death, but three ounces of baking chocolate can kill a 15-pound dog.
Giving your pet a chocolate chip cookie, while not healthy, seldom contains enough chocolate to be poisonous. Giving your pet a dark chocolate brownie however, can cause health problems, including irregular heartbeats.
Active, inquisitive, unsupervised pets are poisoned most often. Most poisons are swallowed. Pets kept in garages, kitchens, and bathrooms are at greatest risk.
Puppies and kittens are poisoned more often than adult pets.