Sandra Justice, P.D., FACA
With most pets spending the majority of their time within the home, it is important to be mindful of some of the dangers this haven from the elements can contain. Medications, plants, foods, and other items which we might not think about as being potentially harmful to our pets can indeed become problems.
Consumers are frequently warned to keep all medications out of reach of children. It is also important to keep them out of reach of your pets, even if they are packaged in child-resistant containers! While a child may not be able to open a child-resistant container, an inquisitive pet may simply eat through the container and consume an entire bottle of medicine or tube of ointment or cream. Remember, it is always important to store any medication, whether prescription or non-prescription, in a cool, dry place that is inaccessible to children AND pets.
Pet owners are sometimes tempted to medicate their pet with an over-the-counter product that is labeled for humans rather than animals. This practice can be very harmful to your pet! You should never administer any human drug to your pet without the advice of your veterinarian. Likewise, you should never administer a medication labeled for your dog to your cat, or bird, or any other pet.
Even topically applied products can be toxic and cause harm. Other culprits are the class of over-the-counter products called NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These include such familiar names as Aleveâ, Advilâ, Motrin-IBâ, Nuprinâ and others. These drugs are particularly prone to cause gastro-intestinal irritation and bleeding in animals and should only be used under your veterinarian’s supervision. You may already know that even small doses of Tylenolâ (acetaminophen) can kill your cat! Did you also know that cats and dogs are more sensitive than humans to the toxic effects of salicylates, such as aspirin? Even a seemingly harmless product like Pepto-Bismolâ can be toxic to pets, since it contains a form of salicylate. Remember, never administer a human product to your pet unless your veterinarian has ordered it.
Baking chocolate is the form of chocolate most toxic to animals, followed by semisweet, with milk chocolate having the lowest potential for toxicity. Curious puppies and young dogs particularly are fully capable of consuming an entire box of chocolates left on a table or a chocolate cake that is left on the kitchen counter within their reach.
Pets also can ingest cigarettes and cigars. A dog or cat can die from eating as few as ten cigarettes containing high levels of nicotine.
Many household plants can also harm your pet if eaten. Young animals are particularly prone to eat plants. Also boredom, a change in environment, or behavioral problems can trigger this action. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most frequently noted symptoms, and, fortunately, pets seldom die from ingestion of household plants.
Some common plants which may cause harm to your pets if eaten are philodendron, dieffenbachia, caladium, schefflera, jack-in-the-pulpit, elephant ears, poinsettia, mistletoe, aloe vera, crown of thorns, snow-on-the-mountain, azalea, bulbs of tulips, daffodil, iris, and amaryllis, castor bean, rosary pea, English ivy, Japanese and European yew, oleander, lily of the valley, foxglove, nightshade, asparagus fern, poison ivy, oak, and sumac and many others.
Each year many dogs and cats die from ingesting discarded antifreeze. The toxic agent in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, an industrial solvent used in manufacturing detergents, paints, and lacquers. Although some newer products contain less toxic chemical, there are still many antifreeze products on the market that contain ethylene glycol. It is highly toxic and takes only a very small quantity to be deadly, especially if treatment is not instituted immediately. Its sweet taste is very appealing to pets. Although poisoning cases are seen by veterinarians year round, the most common times are fall, winter, and early spring.
Dogs and cats show signs of toxicity within 30 minutes to 12 hours following ingestion of ethylene glycol. The first signs usually include ataxia (lack of muscle coordination), depression, and vomiting. If your pet has been outdoors and you notice these symptoms, call your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY! With early treatment, pets can sometimes be saved.
Home Sweet Home
Be informed, pay attention, and keep dangerous products and plants out of harms way of your pets. Veterinarians and local poison control centers may have more inclusive lists of poisonous products and their antidotes. Make it “Home Sweet Home” for your family and your pets.