Your pet is a full-fledged family member, and you’re dedicated to protecting them from all harm. Unfortunately, as devoted as you are to your pet, you may not realize that some of the most dangerous threats to their wellbeing may be in and around your home. As part of our ongoing commitment to pet owner education, the Premier Pet Hospital team has compiled the following guide to identifying and addressing 10 everyday hazards.
Clean house—the top 10 pet toxins lurking in your home
Pets’ instinctive curiosity and appetite can get them in serious trouble. Regardless of your pet’s age or training level, we recommend identifying and moving these top 10 items out of your pet’s reach, or removing them completely from your home.
#1: Human medications and pets
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center, people’s over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications have been the most commonly reported pet toxicities in the United States for the past 10 years. Americans’ surge in medication use has increased access for pets, with the most frequently ingested medications including ibuprofen, antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication.
#2: Vitamins and supplements and pets
People’s dietary supplement use is also at an all-time high, with more than 50% of U.S. adults taking one or more every day. Unfortunately, despite their natural origins and herbal ingredients, these products can have serious, sometimes fatal, consequences for pets—especially when consumed in high quantities.
#3: Toxic foods and pets
The kitchen and pantry are tempting—but dangerous—places for pets. As little as a few bites or sips of harmful foods can trigger life-threatening consequences ranging from seizures to cardiac abnormalities and kidney failure. You must be especially vigilant around the holidays as prepared dishes may contain one or more dangerous ingredients. Foods you should never feed your pet include:
- Chocolate (e.g., cocoa powder, baking, dark, semi-sweet, and milk chocolates)
- Raisins and grapes
- Onions, leeks, and garlic
- Yeast dough
- Alcohol or caffeinated drinks
- Macadamia nuts
#4: Xylitol and pets
Although xylitol is technically a sugar-free sweetener, this compound’s growing use in nonfood products merits its own category. Xylitol toxicity causes a pet to experience a dangerous drop in blood sugar (i.e., hypoglycemia) and can result in acute and irreversible liver failure and death. For additional xylitol information, including the foods and products in which the compound is used and how to recognize a pet’s xylitol toxicity, check out our previous article.
#5: Antifreeze and pets
Ethylene glycol is an extremely toxic compound found in most automotive antifreeze products. Unfortunately, dogs and cats are attracted to this sweet-tasting chemical, which they commonly find spilled on driveways and garage floors. If your pet ingests as little as a few laps of this chemical, they can experience devastating internal damage, including acute and rapidly progressing kidney failure. Because of ethylene glycol’s high toxicity, our Premier Pet Hospital team strongly advises you to use only ethylene-free antifreeze.
#6: Toxic plants and pets
Many popular plants and flowers (e.g., lilies, sago palm, amaryllis, azalea, yew) pose a serious pet health threat. For specific plant information, consult the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List. In addition, look for toxic plants in all floral arrangements and bouquets before bringing them into your home.
#7: Household items and pets
Household cleaners may contain corrosive elements that irritate pets’ mucosal membranes and gastrointestinal (GI) tracts. Home repair items, such as paint and varnish, may contain harsh chemicals that trigger vomiting and diarrhea, while spackle and caulk may contain toxic ethylene glycol. Aerosolized fumes can aggravate your pet’s respiratory tract and nervous systems—keep your pet away from these items during use and ensure appropriate ventilation. In addition, always keep all pet-toxic household products out of your pet’s reach when you are not using them.
#8: Veterinary products and pets
Hungry or curious pets may mistake pet-pleasing flavored medications, supplements, and parasite preventives for treats, consuming them in dangerous quantities—often along with the packaging. Keep flavored tablets, chews, and liquids in secure cabinets or the refrigerator, and out of your pet’s reach. Store veterinary products in their original packaging, so other family members don’t mistakenly give them to your pet as treats.
#9: Rodenticides and pets
Rat and mouse poisons are equally poisonous to dogs and cats. While anticoagulant-based baits were once common, newer baits use high doses of vitamin D3 (i.e., cholecalciferol) and bromethalin to cause fatal changes in the body, such as kidney failure and cerebral edema (i.e., brain swelling), respectively. Attracted by rodenticides’ aroma and flavor, pets routinely come in contact with these poisons in basements, cellars, barns, garages, and other areas where rodent control is necessary. Because these products are highly toxic, use nontoxic rodent control methods such as humane traps.
#10: Slug and snail bait and pets
You may use slug and snail bait in your garden to ward off destructive pests. These products often contain metaldehyde, a highly toxic compound that can be deadly in small doses—as little as one teaspoon per 10 pounds of a pet’s body weight. Metaldehyde-intoxicated pets experience persistent muscle contractions, which increase their body temperature (i.e., hyperthermia) and alter their brain function. If your pet ingests a product that contains metaldehyde, emergency treatment is essential for their survival. To prevent your pet from inadvertently ingesting a product that contains metaldehyde, alway supervise them in unfamiliar yards and gardens. In addition, use pet-safe slug and snail bait in your own yard and garden.
What to do if your pet ingests a toxin
Despite preventive measures, accidents may still occur. If you know or suspect that your pet has ingested a toxin or harmful substance, do not wait until visible signs appear, immediately contact our Premier Pet Hospital team. We will triage your pet’s condition over the phone and advise you on your next steps. For after-hours care, contact our trusted colleagues at Yavapai Emergency Animal Hospital.
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