Protecting Your Pets from Poisons
March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month and this week is National Poison Prevention Week. Each year, there are more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning in the U.S. Many of these are caused by household substances that are perfectly harmless to pet owners. But just because something is safe for people doesn’t mean it won’t hurt our beloved pets. We’re certainly not in the business of scaring anyone. But we’ve put together this list of areas to watch so you can keep your fur babies safe.
Many plants are toxic to animals for a reason: as a defense system to keep them from being eaten. But that doesn’t always stop our curious pets.
We know that animals chew grass as a way to settle their stomach. Kittens and puppies are prone to ‘taste’ lots of things as they explore the world.
There are literally thousands of common garden, wild, and house plants that can be toxic to pets. Some simply cause gastrointestinal upset while others contain neurotoxins that can affect the central nervous system. We can’t list them all here so we’ve compiled this short list of the ones you’re most likely to come across. For a comprehensive list, you can consult the ASPCA Toxic Plant List.
Watch out for these plants in your yard or home. Symptoms associated with each are slightly different, but often include vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling.
- Autumn Crocus: part of the Liliaceae family, contains colchicine. They’re highly toxic and can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure.
- Azaleas: eating even a few leaves can produce visible signs of toxicity. Without immediate veterinary attention, the pet could fall into a coma and possibly die.
- Cyclamen: the roots of are especially dangerous to pets.
- Daffodils: The flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid that triggers strong vomiting. Ingestion of the bulb, plant, or flower can cause general symptoms and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.
- Lilies: Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause the minor signs mentioned above. The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies, and these include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats. Even small ingestions of 2-3 petals or leaves can result in severe kidney failure.
- Tulips & Hyacinths: Tulips contain allergenic lactones while hyacinths contain similar alkaloids. The toxins are very concentrated in the bulbs.
Most of these are common to a home garden or as potted plants. Keep an eye out if your dog likes digging up the bulbs in the garden. Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.
People Foods to Avoid
- Alcohol: symptoms of exposure are similar to humans who drink to excess, except pets can be much more sensitive. Pets should never drink products that alcohol.
- Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine: all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.
- Grapes and Raisins: although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs.
- Macadamia Nuts: macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
- Onions, Garlic, Chives: These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.
- Xylitol: used as a sweetener in many products including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste, it can cause insulin release in most species, which causes hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels) and can lead to liver failure. Vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination can progress to seizures and liver failure.
Perhaps the most common form of poisoning occurs in the household when pet parents are away. A bored or curious animal may chew containers to pass the time and then ingest whatever is contained within. Be sure to keep these common but dangerous items stored safely out of your pet’s reach.
- Detergents, Soaps, and Washes: Scented products could attract and confuse your pet into thinking its food. Alkaline products, like cationic detergents, can cause drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers. Glycerin or other emollients cause loose stools or diarrhea.
- Essential Oils: toxicity varies widely among specific oils. Effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in quantity. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia. Cats seem especially sensitive.
- Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications: ADD medications contain amphetamines. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen are dangerous because pets metabolize and eliminate these drugs differently than humans do. Even small amounts can cause significant medical problems in dogs, including gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure. Safely store Kaopectate, Pepto Bismol, and other aspirin-containing products which can cause gastric bleeding and liver damage.
If you suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a toxic item, its important to act quickly. Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is very important. Bring the plant, container, package, or label to their veterinarian immediately for care or call the 24-Hour ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435. Quick thinking and decisive action may save the life of your pet.