Pets seem to have a special talent for getting into mischief, but sometimes, their silly antics and curious noses can lead them to danger. By learning what type of hazards hide in your home, you can keep your furry pal safe from toxic substances. Here are six tips to help prevent poisoning in your pet.
#1: Know common pet toxicity signs
When your pet shows signs of a health problem, you may not realize they are caused by toxin exposure. Every second counts if your pet ingests a poisonous substance, so learning how to quickly identify signs of potential toxicity is crucial for prompt treatment. Common toxicity signs in pets include:
- Panting or difficulty breathing
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy, weakness, or depression
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart rate
Keep in mind that signs will vary based on the toxin, how long ago the incident occurred, and your pet’s exposure, so try to piece together any clues you have to form a complete picture.
#2: Avoid sharing toxic foods with your pet
Cats and dogs are excellent scavengers and will sneak scraps from the trash can and off tables and countertops if given the opportunity. While some “people foods” are safe to share with your furry pal, a few can cause severe illness, or death, if enough is ingested. Ensure your pet keeps their paws off the following foods:
- Alcohol — Pets can suffer from alcohol poisoning after drinking only a small amount, which can cause nervous system problems that may ultimately lead to a coma or death.
- Chocolate — Chocolate contains stimulants that can induce vomiting and diarrhea, increase your pet’s blood pressure and heart rate, and potentially lead to seizures. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for your pet.
- Grapes, raisins, and currants — These sweet fruits contain a toxin, likely tartaric acid, which can cause acute kidney failure in pets.
- Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives — These members of the Allium family can damage your pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia and more severe consequences.
- Macadamia nuts — When eaten, macadamia nuts can cause dogs to develop hind limb weakness, tremors, vomiting, and depression.
- Yeast dough — If your pet eats raw yeast dough, their warm stomach will cause the dough to rise, leading to painful gas and bloating. Alcohol released by the fermenting dough can also cause toxicity.
- Xylitol — This artificial sweetener is found in many products other than sugar-free desserts. Xylitol is a common ingredient in gum, candies, peanut butter, toothpaste, cough syrup, vitamins, and much more. This highly toxic substance can lead to a severe blood sugar drop and liver disease.
#3: Build a bouquet from pet-friendly plants
Beautiful blooms can brighten your home, but they can also spell disaster for your pet. Ingestion of the leaves, petals, stem, roots, or pollen can cause serious problems that may prove fatal. Simply drinking water from a vase containing lilies can cause severe, acute kidney failure in cats. Before bringing home flowers, adding blooms to your flower beds, or planting a garden, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to ensure your chosen flora does not include a pet poison.
Some of the most common plants that cause problems, which can range from drooling and vomiting, to blood pressure changes and convulsions, include:
- True lilies (e.g., Tiger lilies, Easter lilies)
- Sago palm
- Autumn crocus
#4: Store harmful household products where your pet cannot access them
Many household products are poisonous to pets. While it makes sense that harsh cleaning products like bleach can be toxic, some household cleaners can be used safely around pets. Read the label carefully, dilute the chemical if needed, keep your pet away until the solution is dry, and store the bottle in a locked cabinet.
Household products that can be hazardous to your pet include:
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning chemicals
- Dryer sheets
- Laundry detergent
- Essential oils
- Drain solution
#5: Keep medications out of your pet’s reach
If your pet develops a sudden limp, it can be tough to forgo reaching into your medicine cabinet. However, many human medications are toxic to pets, either because they are an inappropriate dose, or cats and dogs cannot safely metabolize the drug.
Some of the most common medications that can cause toxic effects in pets include:
- Naproxen (i.e., Alleve)
- Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol)
- Cardiac medications
- Prescription pain relievers
- ADHD medications
- Vitamins and supplements
- Tobacco replacement products
In addition to personal over-the-counter and prescription medications, be careful when giving your pet their own medications. Overdoses of veterinarian-prescribed products can occur if your pet gets into their flavored medication and eats the entire bottle.
#6: Contact an animal poison control hotline if your pet ingests a potential toxin
If you are concerned that your pet was exposed to a toxic substance, contact animal poison control immediately. Do not try to make your pet vomit, unless poison control instructs you to do so. Try to have the toxic substances’ packaging available, so you can provide as much information as possible, such as the active ingredient and how much was in the package.
If your four-legged friend comes in contact with a potentially toxic substance, don’t delay—contact our Emerald Animal Hospital team immediately for help.