At a time when people are anxious, we may not be paying careful attention, and our pets can get into things that can be toxic. As an emergency veterinarian for more than 30 years, I’ve found that accidents can happen even for the best pet owners.
Many common items in your home and yard can be toxic to pets, so it is important that you educate yourself and keep these poisons out of your pet’s reach. Some poisons are rather obvious and easy to avoid, while others are not so easily identifiable.
To help raise awareness, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center released its list of top 10 animal toxins after reviewing more than 213,000 cases of potential animal poisonings:
1. Over-the-counter medications accounted for nearly 20% of calls to the APCC. Common medications in this category include ibuprofen, naproxen, cold medications, herbal supplements and certain essential oils.
2. Human prescription medications accounted for 17.5% of all APCC cases. The most common were ADHD medications, antidepressants and heart medications.
3. Food items come in at No. 3, with 11.4% of cases involving foods such as grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and items containing xylitol, a common artificial sweetener.
4. Chocolate accounted for 10.1% of APCC cases. The darker the chocolate, the more potent the potential effects are. It is important to note that white chocolate is not toxic.
5. Veterinary medications accounted for 9.3% of cases. Many pet medications are flavored to increase palatability, and some pets may mistake them for dog treats. Remember that a childproof container does not mean pet-proof.
6. Household items accounted for 7.3% of cases, including antifreeze, paint and cleaning products.
7. Rodenticide exposure increased to 6.3% of APCC cases. There are two major categories of rodenticides: anti-coagulants and those causing brain effects.
8. Insecticide exposure accounted for 6.2% of cases.
9. Plants accounted for 5.5% of cases, including indoor and outdoor plants and bouquets.
10. Garden products round out the list, accounting for 2.3% of APCC cases. Many pets find fertilizer irresistible.
The APCC is also getting an increasing number of calls about marijuana and CBD products, especially edibles. Edible products are not regulated and may contain a high amount of THC which could lead to low blood pressure, coma and even death.
With some poisons, your dog may have a reaction within minutes of ingestion. With other poisons, such as certain rat poisons, it may take several days before you notice any symptoms.
Here are some toxicity symptoms to watch out for:
— Loss of appetite
— Lethargy or weakness
— Pale or yellowish gums
— Excessive thirst or urination
— Nervousness, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures or coma
If you think that your pet may have ingested any poisons or questionable substances, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 (incident fee applies) immediately. It will be helpful if you can identify the substance and bring the package or label or a phone picture of the label along with you.
Pets are like little children — they can’t resist investigating or putting things in their mouths. That’s why poison-proofing your home is so important. Here are some important steps from the Pet Poison Helpline that can make your home safer for pets:
— Make sure your houseplants are non-toxic. Check out lists of poisonous plants on the ASPCA guide of toxic plants before purchasing and bringing them home.
— Store medications in secure areas out of pets’ reach.
— Keep garbage cans secured behind closed doors.
— Keep ashtrays, cigarettes and smoking cessation products out of reach.
— Place your purse in an area where your pets cannot access it.
— Keep pets out of the room when using toilet cleaners or other cleaning products.
— If you use an automatic toilet bowl cleaner, always close the toilet lid.
— Keep rodenticides (rat poison) out of reach.
— Keep glue out of reach. Some glues, such as Gorilla Glue, expand greatly once ingested and require surgical removal. (Just one ounce of glue may expand to the size of a basketball.)
— Read all labels and instructions before using or applying.
For more tips, visit the AKC at www.akc.org.