Toxins and pets – how to prevent poisonings Ask Dr. Kait | Pets

It is estimated that over 200,000 pets were victims of poisoning last year in the United States, according to a 2021 article by WebMD. Our furry friends can find all sorts of ways to get into trouble while we are not watching. Most ingestion of toxic substances are by accident and can be prevented. I will cover the top ten risks to your pet according to the ASPCA poison control and address what to do if you find your pet has ingested a toxin.

Our homes can be a dangerous place to mischievous pets. It is important that we protect our four-legged friends. The number one cause of poisoning is our human over the counter medications. The most common are acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and other herbal remedies such as Melatonin. Additionally, cigarettes, marijuana and other street drugs are common poisoning cases in veterinary medicine.

The number two risks are our prescription medications. Prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medications are at the top of the list. These can cause gastro-intestinal issues and kidney failure. Anti-depressants and sleeping medications are other medication commonly ingested by pets. This category of meds may cause increased heart rate, changes in blood pressure and seizures.

Number three is the seemingly harmless category of human food. Many owners enjoy feeding pets off of their own dinner plates. Though this seems like bonding over dinner, it is a risky decision. Commonly toxic foods include avocado, nuts, grapes, raisins, dairy products, salt, garlic and onion. Onion and garlic are often Overlooked by pet owners. Your pet doesn’t have to be an anion or a clove of garlic. Please be aware that sharing your Steak which was marinated in spices including onion and garlic can be enough to be toxic to your pet. Xylitol is another common hazard. This artificial sweetener is found in candies, gum and even children’s chewable medications or beverages.

Continuing with the risk of human foods, chocolate came in at number four, earning its own category. We humans love chocolate! It is not harmful to us, but it can be very dangerous to your pets. A small amount of chocolate may cause vomiting or other GI upsets. However, high quality dark chocolate and baking chocolate can cause cardiac issues which may be deadly. As little as half an ounce of dark chocolate can be Fatal for a small dog. Large dogs can Survive a larger quantity, but any ingestion of chocolate should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Owners should be aware that coffee and other beverages containing caffeine present the same risks.

Number five on common pet toxins are veterinary products. Pet medications are often flavored to be enticing for pets to eat. It is important that owners store pet medications in a secure location. These medications are safe in prescribed doses, but an overdose can be very dangerous. Also, be aware that dog, flea and tick medications commonly contain Permethrin. This is a chemical which is deadly to cats. I have treated cats with neurological symptoms from over-the-counter feline flea and tick medications. Cats are at a higher risk of ingesting topical flea meds due to their continual grooming habits. If you want to play it safe, prescription flea medications are the recommended treatment for cats.

Household products came in at number six. This category includes cleaning products such as bleach and detergents, automobile products such as anti-freeze, paint, thinners, strippers, fertilizers, hand sanitizers, and even batteries, which make interesting chew toys for unsuspecting dogs.

Another household hazard are rodenticides. They came in at number seven for the toxin risk to your pets. Mouse, rat, and gopher byte are all very dangerous. Consider traps rather than chemical toxins. Sadly, some of these chemicals go unnoticed when ingested, but cause internal bleeding hours or even days later. Pets can even be poisoned by second generation ingestion, when the eat a rodent that consumed the chemicals before dying. Rodenticides are especially dangerous and should be completely avoided in homes with pets.

Next on the list at number eight are insecticides. Bug sprays, snail bait and ant poisons can be very dangerous for your pets. Though Insects can be annoying, the risks of having these chemicals in your yard can be very serious. Avoid them if possible.

Plants came in at number nine. When choosing plants to decorate your yard, avoid those dangerous to your pets. Lilies are very dangerous to cats. Azalias and rhododndrons cause vomiting and diarrhea and can even cause death depending on the quantity ingested. Tulips and daffodils and other bulb plants can cause stomach upset, breathing issues and even an increased heart rate. One of the deadliest plants is the sago palm. In California, many homeowners use this beautiful tree pool side. However, only a few bites of a sago palm can cause, vomiting, seizures, and liver failure. So be sure to check what plants are pet safe prior to planting. There are many friendly flowers that can brighten your landscape without risking your pets.

Finally, the number ten is lawn and garden products. Chemical fertilizers can keep your yard green and dandelion free, but they are dangerous for your pets. Consider using natural products such as manure to feed your flower beds. Organic materials can provide Nutrition to your plants without the risk of chemicals.

Now that the risks have been outlined, what do you do when your pet ingests a toxic substance? The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Gather any Remnants of what your pet ingested such as the packaging. This can provide important information needed to help your pet. Note the time. When did you leave your pet? What window of time could the toxin have been ingested? What quantity was ingested?

Then while in route to your veterinarian, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 844-492-9842. This will be the fastest way to receive the most up to date information regarding the toxin your pet is ingested. Toxicology is a medical specialty and services such as ASPCA Poison control and Pet Poison Helpline are the fastest route to the information needed to assist your pet. Be prepared with information regarding what your pet ate (including brand names or strengths), how much your pet ate, and when. With your assistance, they will open a case, and provide your veterinarian with the most current treatment recommendations for the toxin your pet ingested. In some cases, they may inform you that the amount ingested is not an emergency.

Ultimately, as pet owners, we are responsible to keep our pets safe. Prevention is best. Make sure medications and chemicals are stored out of reach of children and pets. When ever possible, avoid chemicals that are toxic.

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. An alumni of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University, she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her doctorate in veterinary medicine and her business certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices out of Karing for Creatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as R&D.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore. To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121.

Her column runs every other Thursday.

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