Pet Poisons From A to Z — What You Absolutely Must Know
By Dr. Mary Fuller
No one intends for it to happen: A purse is left on the floor, and within minutes, your Boston Terrier is parading around with an empty prescription bottle or a chocolate wrapper in his mouth.
“We just don’t realize how determined our pets are to eat the things they shouldn’t,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, DVM, medical director for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Of the 165,900 calls that the organization handled in 2011, most of them involved pets who’d ingested human prescriptions. “Many children with ADHD don’t want to take their medications, so they leave pills on their plates, where pets can get at them,” Dr. Wismer says. “Even nonprescription medications, such as ibuprofen, can be a problem because many brands have a sweet coating, so it’s like candy for dogs.”
As part of National Poison Prevention Week (March 18-24), Vetstreet has compiled an A to Z list of some common pet poisons that should be on your radar. This list is not all-inclusive, so for more information on these and many other toxins, check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website and talk with your vet.
Acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol® and other medications, can cause liver damage in dogs. Cats are even more sensitive: Ingestion of a single 325 mg tablet by a 10-pound cat can cause anemia and even be fatal. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Batteries can be toxic to both dogs and cats, leading to ulcers in the mouth, esophagus or stomach. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Chocolate can cause seizures and death in dogs and cats. Darker chocolate, such as unsweetened baker’s chocolate, is more toxic than milk or white chocolate. Even cocoa bean mulch, when eaten in large quantities, can be a problem. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Detergents and fabric softener sheets can cause ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach in dogs and cats. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Ethylene glycol is found in antifreeze, windshield de-icing agents and motor oils. Dogs and cats are attracted to its sweet taste, but as little as a teaspoon in cats or a tablespoon in dogs can cause kidney failure. Toxicity Ranking: severe to fatal.
Fertilizers can contain poisonous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, herbicides and pesticides. Keep dogs and cats away from treated lawns until they are dry. Check the product packaging, though, since some products must be rinsed into the lawn before it is safe to walk on. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Grapes, raisins and currants — even grape juice — in small amounts can cause kidney failure in dogs. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Household cleaners, such as bleach, drain cleaners, ammonia and toilet bowl cleaners, can cause gastrointestinal ulcers and other problems in dogs and cats. Toxicity Ranking: varies.
Insecticides in flea and tick products can cause problems if not used according to labels. Insecticides that are meant for dogs can cause severe toxicity in cats, leading to signs such as vomiting, seizures and difficulty breathing. Products intended for treating the yard or house should not be used on pets. Toxicity Ranking: mild to severe.
Jimson weed, also known as devil’s trumpet, can cause restlessness, drunken walking and respiratory failure in dogs and cats. Toxicity Ranking: moderate.
Kerosene, gasoline and tiki torch fluids can cause drooling, drunken walking and difficulty breathing in dogs and cats. If these products contain antifreeze, they are even more problematic. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe (potentially life threatening).
Lilies — Easter, day, tiger, Japanese and Asiatic varieties — can cause kidney failure in cats. Lilies of the valley can cause heart rhythm problems and death in dogs and cats. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Mothballs, especially if they contain naphthalene, can be toxic to dogs and cats, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, increased drinking and urination, and seizures. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe (potentially life threatening).
Nonprescription medication, such as ibuprofen, can lead to severe ulcers and anemia, as well as liver and kidney failure in pets. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe (potentially life threatening).
Onions, garlic, leeks and chives can be toxic in dogs and cats. When chewed or swallowed, these ingredients can cause anemia and gastrointestinal upset. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Prescription medications, such as antidepressants and ADHD and cardiac drugs, are commonly ingested by pets when pills are dropped on the floor or left on counters. Even a small dose can cause problems. Toxicity Ranking: varies.
Queensland nuts, also known as macadamia nuts, can cause lethargy, vomiting and difficulty walking in dogs. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Rodenticides, such as mouse and rat poisons, can contain a number of different toxins, which have different effects on dogs and cats. Several common ingredients, like warfarin and coumarin, can cause blot clotting problems and hemorrhaging. Toxicity Ranking: mild to severe.
Sago palms are one of a number of toxic plants for dogs and cats. Ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and seizures, as well as liver failure in dogs. Toxicity Ranking: severe.
Tulip bulbs can lead to mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Unbaked bread dough can expand in the stomach. If the stomach twists, cutting off the blood supply, emergency surgery is needed. The yeast in the dough can also produce alcohol, leading to seizures and respiratory failure. Toxicity Ranking: mild to severe.
Veterinary prescriptions, such as arthritis medications, are often meat-flavored, which can be enticing to dogs. This can result in stomach ulcers, liver or kidney failure. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
Windshield wiper fluid can contain methanol or ethylene glycol. Ingestion of methanol can cause low blood sugar and drunken walking in dogs and cats. Toxicity Ranking: mild to moderate.
Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener commonly found in chewing gum, breath mints and toothpaste. In dogs, it can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar and liver failure. Toxicity Ranking: mild to severe.
Yard products, including snail and slug bait, herbicides and fertilizers, are never good for pets. Signs will vary by the ingredient. Toxicity Ranking: varies.
Zinc toxicity can happen when dogs and cats eat metal or coins. Ingestion of even a single zinc penny can be fatal. Zinc can cause anemia, as well as liver, kidney or heart failure. Toxicity Ranking: moderate to severe.
How to Safeguard Your Pet
So how can you prevent your pet from an accidental poisoning? Start by visiting the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website to learn about other potential poisons, how to poison-proof your home and what to do if you suspect that your pet may have been poisoned.
It’s also a good idea to post the organization’s phone number — 888-426-4435 — on your refrigerator for easy reference in the event of an emergency. The call center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“To poison-proof your home, don’t keep medications where pets can get at them,” Dr. Wismer says. “Keep cleaning products behind doors, and take your medication in another room, behind a locked door.”
While dogs can be notorious for refusing to take their own medications, Wismer adds, “we sometimes say that the surest way to pill a dog is to drop one on the floor.”