Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) receives thousands of calls from panicked pet owners worrying about a potential toxin exposure in their pet. In 2018, the center received 213,773 calls concerning possible poisoning cases, and that number is likely to increase each year. While some of the items are no-brainers, such as chocolate, you may be surprised about other household products on the list. Let’s look at the toxins that the APCC records as the most frequently encountered poisons in pets.
#1: Over-the-counter medications
Top of the list are over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which cover a wide range of products—nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, and gastrointestinal medications. Pet owners commonly turn to these products to avoid a veterinary visit, especially an emergency veterinary visit, if their pet has injured herself or has diarrhea. But, Tylenol, Aleve, ibuprofen, and other OTC medications pose a threat to your pet’s health. While some OTC medications can be given to pets, the dose is vastly different than for people, so pets can easily be overdosed, and the medication does more harm than good.
#2: Human prescription medications and pets
Human prescription medications are often accidental ingestions, but some may be given on purpose, such as sharing pain medication with your dog when she’s injured. Most toxin cases occur when a pill is dropped on the floor, or a pet gets into a pill bottle. Remember—a pill bottle may be child-proof, but it is not pet-proof.
While you may appreciate a helping paw in the kitchen, it’s best to keep your furry pal out of harm’s way when it comes to toxic foods. The most common foods that pose a threat to your pet’s health include:
- Yeast dough
- Macadamia nuts
- Many fruit pits or seeds
In addition to these toxic foods, other items, such as fatty foods or bones, can cause health issues in your pet. Ingesting fatty foods, such as turkey skin, gravy, or buttery mashed potatoes, can lead to life-threatening pancreatitis, while bones can cause an intestinal blockage or perforation.
Chocolate is such a common toxin, it’s been given its own category, rather than being lumped in with the rest of the foods. Follow this rule for chocolate toxicity—the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous. For example, your 100-pound Labrador will be fine if she eats a few white chocolate chips, but your four-pound Yorkie will experience intense diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, and hyperactivity, if she ingests a tiny bit of baker’s chocolate. To determine if your dog ate a toxic level of chocolate’s theobromine and caffeine, use a chocolate toxicity calculator.
#5: Veterinary products
While your veterinarian calculates your pet’s medications to fall in a safe range, accidents can happen at home, since many veterinary medications are formulated to be highly palatable, and may entice your pet into searching out a tasty “treat.” Ensure you keep all your pet’s medications well out of reach to prevent an accidental overdose. Also, check that you have the correct product for the right pet before medicating her. All too often, pet medications are mistakenly swapped, such as when a cat is given a canine flea treatment.
#6: Household items
Household hazards most commonly include cleaners, paint, and glue. While most pets will avoid a chemical spill, others are intrigued by the odd texture, and lap up the strange substance. Keep your cleaning chemicals locked in a cabinet or closet, and do not let your pet walk across your freshly mopped floors until they are dry, to avoid accidental toxin exposure.
The most common rodenticide causes clotting issues, leading to bloody diarrhea, black stools, bloody vomit, bruising, and bleeding from orifices in pets. Other forms of rodenticides can cause swelling in the fluid surrounding the brain, or cardiac issues. All types of rodenticides must be used safely away from pets to avoid toxicity.
Insecticides used to control wasp, bee, ant, and other pest populations can also harm your pet. Read the directions carefully to ensure the product you purchase is safe to use around pets, and note the time frame required between application and exposure to prevent toxicity.
Whether you bring blooms inside to brighten your home, or enjoy a lush garden overflowing with greenery, choose your plants carefully, because many can cause a variety of toxic signs in pets. Also, plants can vary widely in their toxicity; for example, exposure to only the pollen of lilies can lead to acute kidney failure in cats. Before planting your spring garden, check out the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to ensure your pet remains safe.
#10: Garden products
Fertilizers, herbicides, mulch, and compost heaps can attract your pet into sampling your lawn and garden products, which can harm your furry pal. When spreading fertilizer, using herbicide on weeds, spreading mulch, or forming a compost heap, ensure your pet can’t get into these substances. Fertilizers and herbicides will have directions on safe use around pets, so ensure you read the label carefully.