We love our pets so much at times! We treat them to a piece of table food because we want them to know we love them - but are we doing more harm than good? Are we potentially harming them without being aware we are doing so? Sometimes life gets in the way and we accidentally forget to put our medications and household cleaners in a safe place away from our pets. Our home contains many toxins to pets that most people are not even aware of until the inevitable happens and owners are sitting at an animal emergency hospital for a toxicity ingestion with their pet. Here are a few of the most common toxicities that are seen in small animal medicine.
Human food items like chocolate, garlic, onions and xylitol (a sugar substitute found in certain foods and gum and even some brands of peanut butter) are some of the most common food toxicities. Grapes and raisins are another toxin often ingested by pets. Ingestion of these foods, especially in large quantities, can cause harmful effects on your pets organs and in severe cases can even cause death if left untreated. When holidays are celebrated, it is especially important to keep foods up high out of reach and make sure your pets are not able to get into any foods sitting on the counter.
Another common toxicity that pets commonly tend to get into are house plants. Lilies in particular are one of the most toxic plants to cats - any type of exposure to lilies can cause acute kidney failure. A few other toxic plants and flowers include Azalea, Daffodils, Oleander and Tulips. These plants and flowers can be found outside as well so it's important to keep a close eye on your yard and any environment that your pet may have access to. Most of these flowers and plants are toxic to pets regardless of which part of the flower or plant they ingest: stems, leaves or flowers. There are also many fertilizers and garden products that are toxic to pets. Fertilizers, made from bone or blood meal, can cause a blockage in the intestines and/or pancreatitis. Always keep garden products and fertilizers up high where your pets are not able to get into them and always keep the lids on these products when not in use.
Human prescription medication ingestion is commonly seen in small animal emergency medicine. Medications like cardiac medications, Ibuprofen, ADHD medications and anxiety medications are some of the most common. Most of these medications can be extremely harmful or even fatal if ingested by our pets. Pets will often chew through pill vials in order to ingest medications. It is also important to never give your pet any of your own medications to your pet as most are not safe for animal use. If your pet does happen to get into any of your medications, figure out how much was ingested, and call the pet poison helpline. They will need to know the name and the concentration of the medication and how much your pet ingested and when it was ingested. Pet poison will then be able to advise you what your next steps should be.
Rodenticide ingestion is another common toxicity seen by pets. There are many different brands and types of rodenticide; some are much more toxic than others. If your pet ingests rodenticide, make sure you know the brand and type ingested when you call pet poison so they can create the proper treatment plan for your pet. Unfortunately, the taste and smell of these chemicals often appeal to animals. Ingestion of these products, depending on the type, can cause bleeding, kidney failure, seizures and can be fatal if left untreated.
One of the most common pet toxicities that occur is the everyday products we keep in our household. These items include everything from laundry detergent to glue. One toxicity that is very dangerous for pets to get into is antifreeze. Antifreeze has a sweet smell and taste which attracts animals to want to consume it. The main ingredient, ethylene glycol, is the toxic component and it only takes 1-2 teaspoons to be fatal to our furry friends. Make sure to check under your vehicles for leakage frequently and always keep antifreeze out of reach of your pets. Paint and dry wall can also be toxic. It is important to keep all household products and cleaners sealed when not in use and kept in a cabinet or place where our pets are not able to get in contact with them. Some of these products might only cause some GI upset but some of them can be fatal. Please notify pet poison right away if your pets ingest any household items.
Prescription veterinary products such as heartworm and flea/tick preventatives, although meant to protect our pets, can also be a toxin. These products are often given orally and come in tasty flavor chews. Ingesting too much of these products, if left in reach for them to eat, is considered toxic. Some of the other products that fall into this category are dewormers, supplements like Proin or joint supplements and NSAIDS like Carprofen. To prevent toxicity of these products please keep them in a safe place where your pet is not able to get ahold of them. Also please make sure when giving these products that you are carefully reading the labels when administering to make sure you're giving the correct product to the correct pet. Canine flea/tick preventatives can cause severe tremors and neurologic issues in felines if accidentally given to them or applied to their fur.
To review there are a lot of products out there that our furry friends can get into that can cause them harm. Our job as veterinary professionals is to provide you with as much education as possible to try to prevent these accidents from happening. Sometimes even with all the education and preventative measures, things happen, and your pet might get into something that could be harmful to them. In the event this should happen, the best course of action is to quickly figure out what the product is, how much was ingested and the timeframe of ingestion and call Pet Poison Helpline right away. In these toxic situations, time is often of the essence! t Please act in a timely manner and do not wait to have your pet evaluated if they eat something you know is not safe for them. It is always better to be safe than sorry!