March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month and this week is National Poison Prevention Week. With businesses opening back up and people no longer staying home 24/7 with their pets, we want to be sure that when our pets are home alone they stay safe. Most of us know that our pets cannot eat chocolate or grapes, but do you know what else in your home could be toxic to your pets? Here are 5 tips to pet proof your home along with a bonus list of poisonous household items that should be kept away from your pets.
Know what foods are toxic. We’ve all snuck our pets a little snack while cooking or eating, but many of those snacks could be toxic. Chocolate and alcohol are the prime examples, but lesser known items like macadamia nuts, grapes, garlic, onions, raisins, yeast-based dough, table salt, or sugar-free foods that often contain xylitol can be extremely dangerous to pets. For a more complete list go to the Pet Poison Helpline’s website.
Keep out the toxins. The best way to prevent pet poisoning is to avoid keeping anything that could cause problems. Check your home for potential hazards and easily accessible toxins and then make a plan to secure, or better yet, remove them. Did you know that the fragrance diffuser in your living room could cause neurological issues in your pets? If you place rodent bait or rodent traps in areas your pet cannot access, keep in mind the rats/mice may move them so it’s best not to use them at all. Consider contacting a local pest control company to ask about pet safe alternatives.
For a room by room list of potential toxins, check out HealthcareInsider’s blog here.
Use locking cabinets and garbage bins to keep chemicals out of reach. The Animal Emergency and Referral Center of Minnesota (AERC) suggests that if you need to keep certain items like household cleaners or medications, be sure they are completely secured away from pet access. Your cat may be able to open bathroom and kitchen cabinets to search for things to get into or snack on unless you prevent that. Also consider putting your purse/briefcase that may contain items like sugarless gum or medications in a secure location rather than on a counter.
Avoid harmful plants. Some of the most beautiful or common plants are also the most toxic to our pets. While a wide variety of plants can be toxic, especially to our cats, the most common according to the Pet Poison Helpline are the Azalea, Oleander, Lily, Daffodil, Tulip, or Hyacinth. For a more complete list, check the ASPCA’s guide.
Recognize the signs of poisoning. Signs or symptoms of poisoning can vary, but the most common are:
- Drooling or nausea
- Coughing/vomiting blood
- Discoloration of the gums
- Stool/urine abnormalities
- Lack of appetite or excessive thirst
- Changes in behavior
You should know your pet’s “normal” behavior and eating/drinking/excretion habits to be able to recognize any changes.
Add the phone numbers for your veterinarian, emergency hospital, and pet poison helpline to your contacts list. If there is an emergency you do not want to waste time searching for phone numbers online.
What are the most toxic household items?
According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animas (ASPCA)’s Animal Poison Control Center, the following are the most common causes of pet poisoning in America:
- Over the counter medications – Pets may ingest everything from vitamins and herbal supplements to cold and pain medications, resulting in 1 in every 5 calls to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC).
- Human prescription medications – We often leave our daily pills for heart problems, antidepressants and anxiety, ADHD, or even acid reflux disease in an easy to access location, but that means they could also be easy to access for our pets.
- Human food – The third most common cause of pet poisoning is access to human food that is toxic to pets including xylitol sweetener, grapes, onions, raisins, and of course, chocolate. Chocolate alone accounts for the fourth most common call to the APCC.
- Veterinary products – Many of the heart-worm or flea/tick medications we give to our pets are flavored like beef or tuna to make them easier to administer, but that also means that they could smell pretty tasty. Child-proof caps won’t stop a dog from chewing through the container to have a few extra snacks.
- Household items – Most of us know to keep paint, glue, and cleaning products away from our pets, but the pandemic has increased the number of calls about poisonings from bleach, alcohol, and other products used to combat the virus. Be sure that all of your household chemicals are locked away from your pets.
- Rodenticides and Insecticides – Most rat poisons are made to attract rats, but our pets (and other outdoor animals) may find them tasty too. Bug sprays and ant bait can also be tempting to pets or the fumes/spray can spread and harm your pets.
- Plants – Many indoor and outdoor plants are poisonous to our pets. That beautiful lily may look great on your windowsill, but can cause kidney failure in your cats and the sago palm in your living room can result in severe liver failure.
What to do if you think your pet is poisoned?
If you believe that your pet ate something he or she shouldn’t have, the faster you react the better the potential outcome.
- Step 1: Remove your pet from the area so that the poison is out of reach.
- Step 2: Call you veterinarian or a 24/7 poison helpline. Even if your pet is breathing and acting normally they still may have been exposed to a toxin.
- Step 3: Wait to treat your pet until speaking with a professional. They may indicate home monitoring or an immediate veterinary visit. Do not induce vomiting or attempt any home remedies unless directed to do so.