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Poison in pets

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Poison can be fatal to pets and should be taken seriously.  Pets, like children, are curious about everything and tend to place almost anything in their mouths. Dogs are especially prone to problems, because they eat items indiscriminately, whereas cats are more finicky.

It is important to be aware of common household items that may be poisonous to your pet. These include caustic chemicals, pesticides, and automotive products. Several items repeatedly appear among the most frequent calls to poison control centers.

Human and veterinary drugs: All medications should be kept safely out of reach of your pet. Child-safety caps aren’t enough, because pets can chew open or crush containers to reach the contents.

Lawn care products: Common lawn care products such as insecticides and herbicides can irritate your pet’s skin or mouth and can cause serious internal problems as well. Even fertilizers can be irritating. All these products should be stored where your pet can’t get to them. It is also a good idea to minimize your pet’s contact with treated lawns for at least 24 hours after application.

Rat poison: Rat poisons usually contain blood thinners that cause bleeding problems.  Rodenticides are often formulated with tasty materials such a peanut butter, making them especially attractive to pets. All rat and mouse baits should be kept well out of the reach of pets.

Household cleaners: Household cleaners can be irritating to the skin, mouth, or respiratory tract. Keep these products safely behind closed doors.

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): Antifreeze is often kept in garages or can leak onto the garage floor. In addition, mechanics sometimes flush antifreeze out into the gutter, driveway, or street. Dog, in particular, are attracted to the sweet taste of antifreeze. But antifreeze is very dangerous because it can cause serious (and even fatal) kidney disease. If you see your pet drinking antifreeze (or suspect that it has), contact your veterinarian immediately because rapid treatment can prevent kidney damage.

Plants: Many common plants can be poisonous to pets. These include azaleas, rhododendrons, hyacinths, daffodils, poinsettias, yew, lilies and many more. Contact your veterinarian or poison control center if you see your pet eating any potentially poisonous plant.

Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, a caffeine-like chemical that can cause heart and nerve problems when eaten in large quantities. The degree of risk depends on the size of your pet and on the amount and type of chocolate consumed. Darker chocolate contains more theobromine than lighter chocolate.

Home-improvement products: Products such as paints, thinners, and adhesives often contain solvents that can irritate the skin, airways, and digestive tract. Many of these products are volatile, so that substantial amounts are released into the air. Pet should be kept away from these products and out of rooms where they have just been used.

 

 Q&A

What types of household chemicals pose a problem?

All household chemicals pose a potential threat, especially caustic chemicals, yard chemicals, insecticides, automotive products, home-improvement products, and human/veterinary drugs.


Can plants pose a threat?

Many household plants are poisonous, including azaleas, rhododendrons, hyacinths, daffodils, poinsettias, yew, and many more.


Is chocolate a pet poison?

Chocolate contains theobromine, a caffeine-like chemical that can cause heart and nerve problems when eaten in large quantities.  The degree of risk depends on the size of your pet and on the amount and type of chocolate consumed.  


How do I protect my pet?

Keep all chemicals and potential poisons out of the reach of pets, keeping in mind that many pets are persistent and can get into areas that are restricted or otherwise off-limits.  If your pet does get into a potential poison, remove any unconsumed portion and contact your veterinarian or poison control center immediately.  


How do I find out more about household poisons?

Your veterinarian or local poison control center can tell you if specific products around your house pose a risk.

 

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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