March 17th - 23rd is Poison Prevention Week, a great time to get educated in case of an emergency. The best way to be safe is to know the risks, be prepared, and to have a plan.
Doggy proofing and kitty proofing. What is that? Even those of us with a house full of pets are scratching our heads. Baby proofing is something that many of us have heard a time or two. Why is it that we don’t apply this same safety practice with our pets as well? It seems that we fall into this idea that if we’re training our pets they shouldn’t get into the no-go areas of the house, i.e. the medicine cabinet, the cleaning supply cabinet, or our secret stash of dark chocolate we weren’t planning to share.
But there are many potential hazards for our pets in our homes to avoid. March 17th - 23rd is Poison Prevention Week, a great time to get educated in case of an emergency. The best way to be safe is to know the risks, be prepared, and to have a plan.
Hazards at Home
In 2012, 91% of all calls to the Animal Poison Control were regarding dogs. This shouldn’t be that surprising as cats are much less likely to go rooting through the pantry or the garbage can. While this may be the case, cats are still at risk of chewing on houseplants, yarn, even shoelaces. If you ask any pet owner what are some things that could be toxic to their pets you’ll hear the common list of items chocolate, garlic, onion, maybe grapes. It might not occur to us that the list of potential hazards is longer than we think. Believe it or not, the most highly reported accidental ingestion for dogs is human medication. Surprising isn’t it? Here are some other common items that cause dangerous side effects that are best to keep safe and secure away from your pets:
- Antidepressants - neurological symptoms
- NSAID’s (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) - intestinal ulcers and possible kidney failure
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) - liver failure
- Amphetamines ( ADD medications) - seizures and heart problems
- Human foods
- Chocolate (theobromine, a relative of caffeine) - toxicity
- Raisins and grapes - kidney failure
- Xylitol (artificial sweetener- found in sugar-free gums, toothpaste, and some peanut butters)
- Insecticides and Rodenticides
- Organophosphates - common in lawn and garden products
- Mouse & rat poison - also, a caught mouse or rat that has ingested the poison is a potential risk to our pets
- Household Cleaners
- Rust & calcium/lime removers
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Certain organic fertilizers- bone meal, blood meals, iron-based products - pancreatitis or intestinal blockages
- Azaleas (leaves)
- Tulips (bulbs)
- and many more
Knowing what to look out for is half the battle but we also need to be aware of signs and symptoms. We might not know what the cat or dog got into but our pets may be exhibiting some telltale behaviors. The symptoms that your pet might show will be directly related to the type of substance and how much they’ve ingested. Some of the basic symptoms to look out for are:
- Excessive drooling
- Pale gums
- Racing heartbeat
- Blood in the stool
So far we’ve learned what pets most commonly are poisoned by, and some of the symptoms. Now, how do we avoid potential incidents? After all these instances are called accidents to begin with. In my experience, it is best to have a short checklist to run through.
- Are medications/pills out of reach of pets and children?
- Are we keeping any harmful foods near our pet food and treats? Give all pet supplies a designated area.
- Do clean up after ourselves? This means remembering to take that half eaten candy bar out of our purse or pants pocket. Our dogs nose knows it's there!
- Are gardening and cleaning products out of reach, even locked away if necessary?
- Do we only have pet-friendly plants at home?
- Do we have a stocked pet first aid kit at home?
What To Do In Case Of An Emergency
Now we know what to look out for and how to make sure potential risks are out of reach but, as I said earlier, these incidents are called accidents for a reason. So what do we do in case of an accidental emergency?
- First, remember to stay calm, no one can think clearly in a panic.
- Next, assess the situation, what was ingested, how much, and approximately how long ago.
- Once we have the information we can make an informed decision. Does it warrant veterinary care or a call to the Animal Poison Control? If you feel unsure of the answers to those question its best to seek out professional help. Animal Poison Control is just a phone call away, for a $65 fee they will provide you with the information you need.
Sometimes a situation may present itself in which the dog or cat may have only ingested a very small amount of a potential toxin or poison. There are ways we can be prepared at home, like having a pet first aid kit. Just like we keep bandages on hand for ourselves, there are a few products that are wise to keep in our pet first aid kit. One of my favorites is Activated Charcoal, a product we carry in the store that is easy to use. Activated charcoal absorbs irritants in the digestive tract so if the ingestion took place within the last few hours this would be ideal to use. Another product available at The Pet Beastro would be Bentonite Clay. Bentonite Clay naturally soaks up positive ions and most toxins have a positive charge. This would be something that could be used at any time related to toxic ingestion. It can grab on to toxins and hold them allowing the body to move them through the digestive system.
There are instances when solid items are ingested things like loose change or marbles. While these may not seem like poisonous items, they can damage the digestive tracts and its best to get them out right away and avoid exploratory surgery. For that, we would recommend hydrogen peroxide. The proper dosage of this will induce vomiting. The Hydrogen Peroxide should be 3%, not expired like the kind we get from the corner store. With all of this information, it is important to note that not every situation calls for inducing your pet to throw up. Your pet should not be made to vomit if they are already doing so, they are weak or unresponsive or if they ingested a caustic substance (something able to burn or corrode organic tissue i.e. bleach, drain cleaner, etc.).
There are a lot of potential accidents that can happen in everyday life. Dogs get into things, cats chew on strings, kids leave things on the floor and I leave half-eaten candy bars in my purse. Life is messy and fast but Fido and Fluffy need us to know the risks, be prepared, and have a plan.