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Household poisons a threat to your pet

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on March 16th, 2021

If you love your furry friend – and we’re sure you do – poison-proof your home.

And there are some things the average pet owner may not even know can make your pet sick or be fatal.

Since March is Pet Poison Prevention Month, it’s the perfect time to take stock of everything in your house from medicines to plants and housecleaning items. If you have a curious cat or playful puppy that has a habit of getting into things, your task is even more urgent.

The good news is many poisoning cases can be prevented. Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look far to find tragic cases:

  • Toxic lilies: A Facebook post from 2020 reported in the Canadian media revealed the story of a woman from Texas who wrote about her niece’s cat who ate a lily from a flower arrangement that had been sent. The feline subsequently died of toxic poisoning. Lilies have a compound in them that triggers acute kidney failure in cats.
  • Cannabis poisoning: Reports of pets being poisoned by cannabis have spiked since its legalization. Pets can ingest marijuana edibles such as brownies or pot butter, the owner’s supply of marijuana (in any formulation), or by second-hand smoke. In one instance, a five-year-old Siberian husky was poisoned after ingesting cannabis and possibly cocaine. The dog began having convulsions. Luckily, he survived.
  • Fatal antifreeze: Thousands of pets and wildlife die of anti-freeze poisoning every year. It contains ethylene glycol which tastes sweet but is highly toxic to both humans and animals. The poison can easily get into an animal's system if they lick it or walk on it and lick themselves. It can cause permanent kidney damage. In late February, a dog died after ingesting bread soaked in antifreeze while on a walk. Police are investigating.

One-fifth of all phone calls to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center involve pets who’ve accidentally swallowed human medications. In 2018, ASPCA toxicologists combed through their calls to compile this list of toxins:

Top 10 Toxins

  1. Over-the-counter medications:These were the most common group of toxicants pets ingested. They include vitamins, OTC pain medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen), herbal supplements, antihistamines, and cold and flu medications.
  2. Human prescriptions:Medicationsprescribed for people – including those for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications, antidepressants, and heart medications make up a significant amount of these cases. Keep all medications out of reach of pets.
  3. Food:The sweetener Xylitol – often found in chewing gum - grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic represent most of this category, although it isn’t limited to them.
  4. Chocolate:Probably one of the more well-known poisons,the popularity of chocolate gifts for occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter adds to the danger.
  5. Veterinary products:Flavoured medications and misread labels are a big reason pets run into trouble with these products and pet owners should be reminded that child-proof does not mean pet-proof when it comes to containers.
  6. Household items: These include paint, glue, and cleaning products. While not a tasty group, the proximity of pets and these supplies is a common reason for exposure.
  7. Rodenticides– Chemical bates for mice and rats aren’t only tasty for rodents, but pets too.
  8. Insecticides: This includes items such as ant baits, bug sprays, and yard products. Ant baits use attractants like peanut butter which also attract fur friends.
  9. Plants: Indoor and outdoor plants as well as prepared bouquets can present major problems. Some are incredibly toxic and all or some parts of the plant can be poisonous. Dieffenbachia and Philodendrons, for example, are toxic to cats. Check out the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants
  10. Garden products: Fertilizer, bone meal, and compost are all garden products many dogs find irresistible. APCC also receives a fair number of calls about herbicides. While not as attractive, herbicides are often used in areas frequented by pets.

What if my pet is poisoned?

If you suspect your fur friend has ingested something poisonous, but not showing signs of illness, stay calm. An upset owner can agitate their pet and exacerbate the situation. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society urge owners to contact their veterinary clinic or the American SPCA’s poison control hotline at 1(888)426-4435 (fees may apply), to determine if the substance your pet ingested is harmful. Not all exposures mean your pet needs to see a vet.

If your pet is exhibiting any unusual signs such as having difficulty breathing, seizures or losing consciousness, they require immediate treatment. If your vet is not available, try an after-hours pet hospital close to you. It is helpful if you can provide symptoms observed, as well as the chemical ingested, the amount of the product and, if known, the time elapsed since exposure.

We all know that despite precautions, accidents can happen. Toxic ingestion can cost between $500 and $2,000 to be treated. Pet insurance, such as PetPlusUs, can help you deal with it without expense being an overriding concern. It also offers other resources including the Pet Poison Helpline -a 24/7 animal poison control service that can assist you if you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance. Get a quote for coverage here.

In the meantime, be sure to keep medications, chemicals, and cleaning products safely stored where your curious critter won’t stumble upon them in their travels around your house. Also, be aware of any containers or packaging that may be leaking or dirty with the chemical it contains. Pet-proof your home today as part of your spring cleaning ritual!

RELATED READING: Your dog and hypothermia

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