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Though everyone has been talking watching and reading about the current health issues, COVID-19, this month, we have to remind ourselves that dogs and cats don’t read the headlines.  At this time while people are anxious, we may not be paying careful attention and our pets can still get into things that can be toxic. As an emergency veterinarian for over thirty years I found that accidents happen, even to the best owners, and despite your best efforts, your pet may ingest a potentially harmful or fatal substance. 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 reach of your pet’s reach.  Some poisons are rather obvious and easy to avoid, while others are not so easily identifiable.

Top 10 Pet Poisons

To help raise awareness, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) released its list of Top 10 Animal Toxins of 2018 after reviewing roughly 213,773 cases of potential animal poisonings:

  1. Over-the-counter medications ranked number one in pet toxins, accounting for nearly 20% of calls to the APCC. Common medications in this category include ibuprofen, naproxen, cold medications and herbal supplements and certain essential oils.
  2. Human prescription medications accounted for 17.5% of all APCC cases. The most common medication were ADHD medications, antidepressants and heart medications.
  3. Food items come in at number 3, with 11.4% of cases involving foods like 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 these pet medications for dog treats. Remember that a childproof container” does not mean pet-proof.
  6. Household items accounted for 7.3% of cases, including ingestion of anti-freeze, 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 such as cats chewing on lilies.
  10. Garden products round out the list at number 10, accounting for 2.3% of APCC cases. Many pets find fertilizer irresistible.

While it did not make the Top 10 List, 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.

Symptoms of Toxicity

With some poisons, your may have a reaction with 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:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • 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 of these poisons or any other questionable substances, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 (incident fee applies) immediately. It will be very helpful if you can identify the substance and bring the package or label or a phone picture of the label along with you.

Pet Proof your Home

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 reach of pets.
  • 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 from your pets.
  • Never use flea and tick products made for dogs on your cat.
  • 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.
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