Common Poisons to Pets

posted: by: CCVC Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Did you know there are many commonly used items in your home poisonous to your pet?  With National Poison Prevention Week, March 20-26, now is the perfect time to learn about potentially harmful substances to your pet. Dr. Marla Lichtenberger of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals & Specialty Service, says the most common toxicities in pets include: chocolate and other food items (grapes, raisins, onions), pesticides and antifreeze.  Accidental overdoses of both human and animal medications are also common forms of poisoning.

The chemical compound, theobromine, in chocolate is what makes it toxic to pets.  With Easter just around the corner, there will be increased access to chocolate in households.  Pet owners have to be extra cautious not to leave chocolate and other candy out within a pet's reach!  Dr. Lichtenberger cautions that baking chocolate is the most dangerous type of chocolate for pets. This chocolate is toxic at just two ounces for every 15 pounds of body weight.

Although poisoning symptoms vary depending on the type of toxin consumed, there are some main symptoms all pet owners should recognize.  These symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and even sudden death.  With theobromine poisoning, specific symptoms include: restlessness, panting, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and potentially death.

If you suspect poisoning in your pet, you should contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) pet poison control center can also be contacted for advice.

If poisoning is suspected in your pet, it is best to begin treatment as soon as possible.  It is important for decontamination (such as induced vomiting) to be performed within the first few hours after exposure.  Other treatments veterinarians may use are activated charcoal administration (activated charcoal binds to poison, preventing it from being absorbed), hospitalization and fluids. There are also other remedies that can be used depending on they type of exposure.

According to Dr. Lichtenberger, poisons are going to be more toxic to older, sick and debilitated pets.  On the other hand, younger, more active pets are more likely to get into chocolate and other poisons.  So it is important to take poison prevention precautions with any pet, regardless of age!

Don't harm your pet intentionally.  Prevent mistakes by following these steps!

    Keep all drugs, both human and animal, stored in a location not accessible to pets.   Many medications come in a chewable form which is appealing to pets.
    Do not give your pet any human medications without consulting a veterinarian first. Animals metabolize medications differently than us, making even over the counter medications dangerous.  For example, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is very toxic to cats.
    Supervise your pet outdoors.  Do not let your pet roam where fertilizers or pesticides are stored or may have been applied.

In the case of an emergency, pet owners should have a pet poison safety kit in their home.  Dr. Lichtenberger says items to have on hand include: phone number for your veterinarian, emergency clinic and the ASPCA poison control hotline (888-246-4435), 3% hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting only after veterinary advice), dish soap to bathe exposed areas, and saline solution to flush eyes exposed to topical poisons.


According to the ASPCA website the top 10 pet toxins from 2010 were:


1. Human Medications

Human medications are the number one poison that occurs in pets.  The most common culprits include over-the-counter medications (ibuprofen and acetaminophen), antidepressants and ADHD medications.

2. Insecticides

Insecticides are commonly used on pets for flea control and around your home to control insects.  Always follow label directions when applying flea control medications to your pet.

3. Rodenticides

Pets are attracted to bait used to kill mice and rats because of the grain base used.  Rodenticides can cause seizures, internal bleeding and kidney failure.  Make sure these items are in areas inaccessible to pets.

4. People Food

Gum containing xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are all poisonous to pets. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener in gum and mints can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in pets.  The component in grapes and raisins poisonous to pets is unknown but can cause kidney failure in pets.  Onions and garlic contain thiosulphate, which is toxic to pets and can cause anemia if enough is ingested.

5. Veterinary Medications

Many medications prescribed by a veterinarian are flavored for the ease of giving to pets.  If pets have access to this medication they are likely to overdose on the medication if they find it tasty.  Contact your veterinarian if your pet ingests more than his or her recommended dose of medication.

6. Chocolate

As previously mentioned, chocolate contains theobromine and other methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine), which act as stimulants to pets.  The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to pets.

7. Household Toxins

Cleaning supplies, such as bleach, acids, and other detergents, can cause injury to the mouth and stomach.  Other household items such as batteries and liquid potpourri are also dangerous.  Always keeps these toxins in a secure location.

8. Plants

Pets can ingest both house and outdoor plants.  Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats, while sago palms can cause liver failure in dogs and cats.  Make sure to keep an eye on your pet while outdoors and keep house plants out of their reach.

9. Herbicides

Many herbicides have a salty taste, causing pets to ingest them.  Always follow label directions and keep pets off treated areas until they are dry.

10.  Outdoor Toxins

Antifreeze, fertilizers and ice melts are all substances that animals can have access to outdoors.  Keep these items in locked sheds or on high shelves where your pets cannot get to them.

For more information or questions regarding pet poison prevention, contact your WVMA member veterinarian!