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Poisoning in Dogs and Cats

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 180,639 pet poisonings in 2016. 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.

Key facts about poisoned dogs and cats
  • Pets are poisoned every hour, and most pets get poisoned at home.
  • The worst months for pet poisoning are July and August and half these poisonings involve pesticides: insecticides, herbicides, and flea and tick products.
  • Three ounces of baking chocolate can kill a 15-pound dog, and half of an adult aspirin tablet can make a cat's head swell so much he or she has difficulty breathing.
  • Human medications are the #1 cause of pet poisoning.
Recommended products to help prevent kidney and liver damage in poisoned pets

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.

Top 10 causes of dog and cat poisonings
  1. Prescription human medications
  2. Insecticides
  3. Over-the-counter human medications
  4. Human food
  5. Household products
  6. Veterinary medications
  7. Rodenticides
  8. Plants
  9. Lawn and garden products
  10. Automotive products
Household items that may cause pet poisoning

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.

Kitchen items that may poison your pet

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.

Garage items that may cause pet poisoning

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.

Do not give your pet chocolate

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.

Pets most at risk for accidental poisoning

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.

Max's Tip

Poison proof your home for your pet just as you would for your child.

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