National Pet Poison Prevention Week is the time of year when veterinary professionals make an extra effort to raise awareness of the many dangerous substances lurking in and around your home that could be harmful or even fatal to your pet.
Many of these chemicals, medicines, plants and foods may seem harmless or unlikely to interest your pet. The truth is, thousands of pets eat, drink or come in contact with these poisonous substances each year.
Making sure to keep these items away from your pet is vital to prevent accidental pet poisoning. It's also critical that you learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of pet poisoning and know what to do if your pet ingests a toxic substance.
The first step to avoiding pet poisoning is to familiarize yourself with the items in and around your home that may pose a threat to your pet. Below you will find a chart detailing the most common causes of pet poisoning. Keeping these items out of the reach of your pet is the key to preventing an accidental poisoning. Click on the chart for a printable version to post where it will be easily viewed in case of emergency.
Some substances, foods and chemicals may be more toxic to dogs than to cats and vice versa. However, the best approach is to restrict access to all items on the above chart for both cats and dogs for safety's sake.
Human medication, both prescription and over-the-counter, tops the list of items that most often cause pet poisoning. This happens frequently when pets get hold of pill bottles left unattended. Also, a pet will often quickly gobble up a pill that's been accidentally dropped. As well, it is very important to keep your pet's own medication stored securely. Dogs and cats will eat flavored veterinary medication (Rimadyl chews, Heartgard, etc.) as if it was a tasty treat, and likely won't stop until all the medication is gone. Always keep in mind that flavored medications are created to appeal to your pet's taste buds, but your pet thinks of them as food, not medicine. Your best precaution is to keep all medications, human and pet, where it is impossible for your pet to get to them.
While some foods are extremely harmful to dogs, such as baker's chocolate, other forms (like white chocolate) are not as dangerous. The safest approach is to simply make it a rule in your home to never give your pet chocolate, candy or gum of any kind. Because pets are drawn to goodies, always keep sweets of all types locked away safely where your pet cannot get to them. Ideally, you should feed your pet food that is formulated specifically to meet their nutritional needs for optimal health. Harmful foods to pets are usually those "people foods" that they love the most. Even raw meat, bones and raw eggs can infect your pet with Salmonella and other health dangers. The best policy is to limit and/or restrict all foods meant for human consumption. It's nice to share foods that we love, but if doing so could harm your pet, it's certainly not worth the risk. Providing treats specially formulated for pets is the safest way to give your pet a pleasant surprise without jeopardizing his or her health.
Just as you would with small children in the house, it is important to keep all household cleaners, air fresheners and other chemical-based products out of the reach of pets at all times. There is no way to predict what will attract your pet's curiosity. If there isn't a way to completely be sure that your pet can't get access to these types of products when you aren't home to supervise, you may want to consider the use of a crate or pet gate to limit your pet's access to certain areas of your home. Garage and yard items like antifreeze, fertilizers, bone meal and mulch should be treated like hazardous materials and kept somewhere that pets could not possibly get into.
Learning the signs and symptoms of pet poisoning is the first step to being prepared to help your pet in an emergency. Some effects of poisoning cannot be seen, such as heart arrhythmias, kidney or liver damage. However, if you notice a change in urination habits it may be a sign of pet poisoning.
Most common signs and symptoms of pet poisoning include:
If your pet shows any of the above signs or you have any other reason to suspect your pet has been poisoned, call your veterinarian immediately. Make note of what toxin you think your pet may have ingested or come in contact with so that your veterinarian can better help your pet.
If you cannot speak with your vet, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-800-548-2423.
Your vet or a pet health care professional may recommend that you induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide or give your pet activated charcoal to help absorb any toxin in your pet's stomach. Your vet may also recommend Denosyl if it is suspected that your pet's liver has been damaged. However, do not attempt any of these treatment options without the advice of a trained professional.