Top Pet Poisons Hiding in Plain Sight

By Lauren Lee

What should we keep out of paw’s reach? Each year the ASPCA Poison Control Center (APCC) releases a list of the top pet toxins based on reports received the previous year. The following is a list of those items most frequently reported to the ASPCA Poison Control Center, as well as some new poisoning cases showing up in emergency veterinary offices:

Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are among the most common group of toxic substances man’s best friend tends to accidentally ingest. They are in every home and are also carried in the car, pocketbooks, bags, and backpacks.

Common over-the-counter pain medications to keep far from counter-surfing dogs:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

Herbal supplements and joint creams or rubs also fall under this category.

Human Prescription Medications

Exposure to prescription medication is usually accidental. However, it is not surprising, as reports indicated that the medications pets were exposed to were commonly taken by humans.

The medications most frequently reported in these incidents are:

  • Cardiac medications
  • Thyroid medications
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Stimulant medications (prescribed for ADHD/ADD)

Human Food

Many of the foods you keep around the house for human consumption can cause Fido to become ill. Pet owners unknowingly share table scraps. Other times wandering paws find their way into human foods.

Here are a few to watch out for:

Sugar-free gum or sugar-free candy

Sugar-free gum and sugar-free candy or breath mints contain a sweetener called Xylitol.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol and is currently widely used as a sugar substitute. It is not dangerous to humans because it does not stimulate the pancreas to release insulin in a human. However, when a dog eats something containing Xylitol, it causes the rapid release of insulin.

This release of insulin leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels, otherwise known as hypoglycemia. If untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to death.

Apple seeds

While apple slices are a healthy snack for dogs, make sure to remove the core and all apple seeds.

Apple seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide that can build up in a dog’s system and become toxic over time.

Grapes and raisins

Even a small number of grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.

Onions

While onions and onion powder add a dash of flavor to many human recipes, make sure none of these table scraps end up in your dog’s dish. Onions cause a breakdown in a dog’s red blood cells, ultimately causing anemia.

Tea and coffee

Tea and coffee, like chocolate, are toxic to pets because they contain caffeine.

Chocolate

Although chocolate is a well-documented toxin to canines, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) receives so many reports on chocolate toxicity that it warrants a separate category from other food-related toxins.

Dogs love chocolate, and it tends to be a year round favorite. Make sure you store it safely out of the way of your furry best friend.

Veterinary Products

Some animal medications are flavored to make them easier to dispense. If a dog gets into something sweet, she may eat the entire container.

Treat pet medications as you would human medications. Please keep them in the original containers and store them as instructed to prevent pets from ingesting medications exceeding prescribed doses.

Household Items

Household items is a broad category. Twenty-twenty likely saw more home projects than the average year. Any time you do work around the house, your pet could be exposed to poisons such as paint, adhesive, spackle, or paint thinner.

Double-check to ensure the following items are kept in a secure spot where your pet cannot access them.

  • Cleaning products
  • Laundry detergent
  • Glue
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Garbage
  • Dryer sheets
  • Batteries

Rodenticide

Depending on the type, mouse and rat baits can cause bleeding, kidney failure, seizures, or even death.

There are four common active ingredients in most rat and mouse poisons:

  • Long-acting anticoagulants (LAACs)
  • Cholecalciferol (VITAMIN D3)
  • Bromethalin
  • Zinc and Aluminum Phosphides

Make sure you purchase a rodenticide that lists the ingredients on the packaging.

If you believe your pet has ingested rat or mouse poison, accurate identification of the active ingredient is crucial. This will determine the risk of poisoning and the need for treatment. If your pet ingests any of these poisons, call your veterinarian and Pet Poison Helpline immediately. Rapid action can often save a pet’s life and prevent the need for further costly medical treatment.

Plants

As we spring toward the growing season, keep in mind several indoor and outdoor plants can pose a risk to pets.

The Humane Society of the United States offers a printable pdf of all toxic plants. It is a good idea to download this sheet and keep it on hand for easy reference.

Insecticide

Insecticides are commonly used in homes to kill ants, spiders, and various seasonal insects. You can keep your canine companion safe by reading labels when buying insecticide products and avoiding products with the following ingredients:

  • Amitraz
  • Acephate
  • Carbofuran
  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Diazinon
  • Disulfoton
  • Fenoxycarb
  • Fonofos
  • Malathion
  • Methomyl
  • Parathion
  • Permethrin
  • Propoxur
  • Terbufos
  • Tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP)

Garden Products

Most fertilizers are safe for dogs; however, those containing blood meal, bone meal, and fish meal can be dangerous. Unfortunately, dogs find some organic fertilizers delicious. All products used for gardening should be kept in sealed containers away from pets.

Other garden products that can be toxic to pets include:

  • Slug and Snail Baits - Many of these contain the active ingredient Metaldehyde.
  • Cocoa Bean Mulch - This is made of the discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean, both of which are by-products of chocolate production.
  • Compost - This is because as organic matter decomposes, molds commonly grow. Some of these produce hazardous toxins.

Pet-proof Your Home

Other items that can be toxic to your pet include:

  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Cigarettes
  • Pennies
  • Instant hand and foot warmers
  • Mothballs
  • Soap gel packs

Animal Medical Center has reported an increase in nicotine poisoning from electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in recent years.

In states where recreational marijuana is legal, some veterinarians have seen an increase in marijuana toxicity in dogs.

Signs of marijuana intoxication in dogs can include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Disorientation
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation
  • Incontinence
  • Drooling

In severe cases, tremors, seizures, or coma can result. If you suspect your dog has ingested any marijuana products, you must bring him to the vet for treatment. All marijuana products should be safely stored where pets cannot gain access to them.

While accidents can happen, keeping potential toxins in a safe storage space is your best protection. The less accessible they are, the less likely your fur-friend is to get into them.

Daily exercise and appropriate dog toys and treats help stave off boredom. Often boredom leads curious dogs to explore things that get them into trouble. Try giving your dog an interactive toy or puzzle-feeder. If you have a chewer, seek out 100 percent natural single-ingredient chew treats.

If you think your pet may have ingested something poisonous, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.


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