Pet Poison Helpline Raising Awareness of Household Dangers to Pets
The 50th anniversary of Poison Prevention Week is March 18-24, 2012, marking five decades of safer homes and saved lives. While much of the nationally-recognized effort has been directed at raising awareness with parents of small children, the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline remind us that pets are also vulnerable and susceptible to accidental ingestion of potentially life-threatening common items in the home.
“Pets are curious and often can’t resist smelling, tasting and sometimes swallowing foods, plants and other items in our homes that interest them,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, and assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “Poison-proofing your home is important. Taking simples steps such as making sure your houseplants are non-toxic and storing medications in secure areas will significantly reduce the chances that your dog or cat will come in contact with a toxic substance.”
In conjunction with Poison Prevention Week, Pet Poison Helpline has simplified the process of identifying potentially poisonous situations by categorizing them by room or area in which they reside. “It is our hope that by presenting the information in this manner, pet owners can easily go through their home and eliminate situations that could result in a very sick pet,” said Brutlag.
Pet Poison Helpline suggests protecting your pets by poison-proofing your home, room by room, as follows.
- Learn about your plants, since some common household plants can be toxic to dogs and cats. For example, lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.) are especially poisonous to cats, so should be eliminated from bouquets where cats live. Just one or two petals can be fatal! For information on other dangerous household plants, be sure to view our list of top 10 plants poisonous to dogs and cats.
- Keep home fragrance products, such as simmer pots of liquid potpourri, well out of reach. These products may cause chemical burns if ingested.
- Don’t spray aerosols or any heavily fragranced products around caged birds. They are especially sensitive to airborne products.
- Keep ashtrays and smoking cessation products such as nicotine chewing gum or patches out of reach. Even cigarette butts contain enough nicotine to cause poisoning in pets.
- Be careful with batteries. Dogs enjoy chewing on batteries and battery-containing devices such as remote controls and cell phones. If ingested, they can cause serious chemical burns.
- Hang up your purse! Pets love to dig through purses and backpacks which often contain potential pet poisons such medications, cigarettes or sugar-free gum with xylitol.
- Be aware of human foods that are poisonous to dogs and cats. Watch out for raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, unbaked yeast bread dough, fatty foods and chocolate. Make sure to view the Pet Poison Helpline’s website to learn about other surprising human foods that are toxic to pets.
- Keep garbage cans behind closed doors. Trash and compost bins can contain many pet toxins such as cigarette butts, coffee grounds, moldy foods and bones.
- Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach, as alcohol can cause low blood sugar in pets.
- Keep medications such as over-the-counter and prescription pills, inhalers and dietary supplements, safely locked up in secure cupboards. Do not leave them on countertops or tables or store them in plastic zippered baggies, which are easily chewed through.
- Never medicate your pets with human products without first contacting your veterinarian. Some common human medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) are extremely poisonous to pets.
- Always check the container before giving medication to your pet to make sure it’s the correct medication. Also, it is best to store your own medications separately from pet medications. Pet Poison Helpline receives many calls from people who accidentally gave their own medication to a pet.
- Keep pets away from cleaning products. Keep pets out of the room while using bathroom cleansers or other cleaning products, and close toilet lids to keep them from drinking the water, especially if you use automatic chemical tank or bowl treatment.
- Keep rodenticides (rat and mouse poison) far away from pets and be mindful that rodents can transfer the products to locations accessible by pets. If you need to use rodenticides in your home, consult your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline in order to select one that is safest for your pet.
- When using insecticides in your home or on your pets, read the label carefully. Never use flea and tick products meant for dogs on your cat, as they may cause tremors and seizures.
- Keep glues 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, as illustrated in the side-by-side image below. To avoid this situation, be sure to keep glues out of the reach of pets.
Caption: Pet Poison Helpline suggests that pet owners be very careful to keep glues out of the reach of pets. Shown on the left is a healthy dog’s stomach, and on the right is the stomach of a dog that has ingested 1.5 ounces of Gorilla Glue 12 hours earlier. (Courtesy of Dr. Catherine A. Angle.)
- Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) products are extremely toxic and, unfortunately, have a sweet taste that may be appealing to pets. Choose propylene glycol-based antifreeze as a safer alternative. If antifreeze is spilled, clean it up immediately or dilute it with several gallons of water.
- Keep all automotive products, such as windshield cleaner fluid or brake fluid, away from pets as they may contain methanol, a toxic alcohol similar to ethylene glycol antifreeze.
- Dogs like the taste of certain fertilizers, such as bone meal or blood meal. Keep bags tightly sealed and out of their reach, and be sure to use products according to label instructions.
- Grub or snail killers—especially those that include metaldehyde—can be harmful to pets. Avoid using them if possible.
- Yard insecticides that contain organophosphates or carbamates can be very dangerous if ingested in high concentrations.
- Keep pets off lawns until commercially sprayed herbicides are dry.
If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.