Despite your best efforts, accidents with pets happen, even to the best dog owners. Your pet may gain access to a potentially harmful or fatal substance. Many toxins are common items in your home and yard. Some poisons are obvious and easy to avoid, while others are not so easily identifiable, so it’s important that you educate yourself and keep these poisons out of reach of your pet.
Here are some helpful tips about how to poison-proof your home and what to do if your pet ingests a harmful substance.
Common household dog toxins
To help raise awareness, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) released its list of the top 10 animal toxins after reviewing roughly 232,000 cases of potential animal poisoning.
Over-the-counter medications: These ranked No. 1 in pet toxins, accounting for nearly 20% of calls to the APCC. Common medications in this category are ibuprofen, naproxen, cold medications, certain herbal supplements and certain essential oils.
Human prescription medications: These medicines accounted for 17.5% of all APCC cases. The most common were ADHD medications, antidepressants and heart medications.
Certain food items: Grapes, raisins, onions, garlic and items containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener commonly found in a variety of foods, drugs and even toothpaste) can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Possible consequences include low blood glucose, liver failure, seizures, brain damage and death.
Chocolate: 10.1% of APCC cases involved chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more potent the potential effects are. (White chocolate is not toxic.)
Veterinary medications: These accounted for 9.3% of cases. Many pet medications are flavored to increase palatability, and some pets may mistake them for dog treats. And remember that childproof containers are not always pet-proof. Keep all medications out of reach.
Household chemicals: In 7.3% of cases, dogs ingested antifreeze, paint or cleaning products.
Rodenticides: Exposure to this toxin accounted for 6.3% of APCC cases. The two major risks are anti-coagulation and brain defects.
Insecticides: These exposures accounted for 6.2% of cases.
Plants: 5.5% of cases involved indoor and outdoor plants.
Garden products: These round out the list, accounting for 2.3% of APCC cases. Many pets find fertilizer irresistible.
The APCC is also getting an increasing number of calls about marijuana and CBD products, especially edibles. Edible products are not regulated and may contain a high amount of THC, which could lead to low blood pressure, coma or even death.
Symptoms of toxicity
With some poisons, there may be a reaction within minutes of ingestion. With other poisons, such as certain rat poisons, it may take several days before you notice any symptoms. Toxicity symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy or weakness, pale or yellowish gums, excessive thirst or urination, nervousness, hyperactivity, muscle tremors or coma
Pet-proofing your home
Pets are like young children – they can’t resist investigating and putting things in their mouths. That’s why poison-proofing your home is so important. Here are some important steps from the Pet Poison Helpline that can make your home safer for pets:
Make sure your houseplants are nontoxic. Check out the ASPCA’s lists of poisonous plants before bringing them home.
Store medications in a secure area out of reach of pets.
Secure garbage cans behind closed doors.
Keep ashtrays, cigarettes and smoking cessation products out of reach.
Put your purse in an area where pets cannot access it.
Keep pets out of the room when using toilet cleaners or other cleaning products.
If you use an automatic toilet bowl cleaner, always close the toilet lid.
Keep rat poison and other rodenticides out of reach.
Keep glue out of reach. Some glues, such as Gorilla Glue, expand greatly once ingested and require surgical removal. Just one ounce of glue may expand to the size of a basketball.
Read all labels and instructions before using or applying.
If you think that your pet may have ingested any of these poisons or any other questionable substances, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately (incident fee applies). It will be very helpful if you can identify the substance and bring the package, label or a picture of it with you.
Jerry Klein is the American Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer.