According to veterinary industry experts that track incidences of poisoning cases in dogs and cats, hundreds of thousands of pets suffer from poisoning from household items in the home each year. Between the Pet Poison Helpline and the Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA, over 300,000 calls of suspect pet poisonings are logged per year.
Both of these sources show that the majority of these cases of canine and feline poisoning are from over the counter medications, such as Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, other anti-inflammatory pain medications, and prescription drugs pet owners may have in the home to treat any number of human health problems. Many of these cases of poisoning are the result of the pet being sneaky and getting into these medications one way or another, but far too often, it is the result of pet owners intending to self treat the pet for whatever he/she perceives may be wrong with the pet. With very different metabolisms and body weights that may significantly affect dosing considerations for dogs and cats, these drugs can reach levels of severe toxicity in a very short period of time. Lesson 1 to take away from the post is, the first and most important way to prevent poisoning of the pet in the home is to REFRAIN FROM SELF TREATING YOUR PET, and only give over the counter medications under the direct supervision of advice from a veterinarian.
Next on the list are products actually made for pets to prevent insect or ectoparasite infestations on the pets. While most topical pet insect control medications are safe for use in pets, pet owner misuse of these products commonly leads to poisoning. From purchasing the wrong strength and/or volume (strength/volume of these products are usually based on pet’s weight) to using the product on the wrong species or applying doses too often; used improperly, insecticides can lead to severe health consequences. In a recent example of an insecticide topical that led to poisoning in my own hospital, a pet owner decided that she would save money by buying the dog strength of a particular topical preventive, but use smaller amounts on her cat in order to spread its use a longer period of time. That kitty ended up coming in on an emergency visit because of severe muscle tremors that resulted from using the dog strength, albeit smaller amount of the insecticide. Lesson 2: USE ALL PET MEDICATIONS AS DIRECTED and do not deviate from label directions, while being certain to use medication designed for the appropriate weight and species.
Lastly, most pet owners have at some point been lectured by a veterinarian or even other pet owners about the dangers of feeding “people food” or food from the table. This danger does not just include predilection to obesity, pancreatitis, and GI disturbance, but also includes outright poisoning. Some foods are just not tolerated by dogs and cats. For example, the ingestion of garlic and onions can lead to red blood cell abnormalities in dogs and cats. Chocolate ingestion may lead to the development of severe heart arrhythmias in dogs and cats; the artificial sweetener Xylitol found in many desert items and cookies is implicated in liver failure and death in dogs. Other potentially toxic foods include macadamia nuts, grapes, and raisins. Lesson 3 for preventing poisoning in dogs and cats: REFRAIN FROM FEEDING PEOPLE FOOD.
Lower on the pet poisoning list are other household items such as cleaners, deodorizers, detergents, automotive chemicals, and painting supplies. Like naughty little toddlers that can get into these items if they are not well secured, pets may experience accidental poisoning if they ingest these products. This brings us to our final lesson for prevention of pet poisoning: PET PROOF YOUR HOME AS YOU WOULD BABY PROOF IT by keeping all potentially dangerous household chemicals safely secured away from access by your pets.
Accidents happen and pet poisoning will never be 100% preventable. However, by following a few simple common sense strategies, the risk of pet poisoning in your own home can be decreased considerably.