Toxins and pets — how to prevent poisonings | Ask Dr. Kait | Pets

It is estimated that more than 200,000 pets were poisoned last year in the United States, according to a 2021 article by WebMD. Our furry friends can find all sorts of ways to get into trouble while we’re not looking. Most ingestions of toxic substances are accidental and can be avoided. I’ll cover the top ten risks to your pet according to ASPCA poison control and explain what to do if you discover your pet has ingested a toxin.

Our homes can be a dangerous place for mischievous pets. It is important that we protect our four-legged friends. The number one cause of poisoning is our over-the-counter human drugs. The most common are acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other herbal remedies like melatonin. Additionally, cigarettes, marijuana, and other illicit drugs are common poisoning cases in veterinary medicine.

Risk number two is our prescription drugs. Prescription anti-inflammatories and painkillers top the list. These can cause gastrointestinal problems and kidney failure. Antidepressants and sleeping pills are other medications commonly ingested by pets. This class of drugs can cause rapid heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, and seizures.

Number three is the seemingly harmless category of human food. Many owners like to feed their pets from their own plate. Although it looks like an affair over dinner, it’s a risky move. Commonly poisonous foods include avocado, nuts, grapes, raisins, dairy products, salt, garlic, and onion. Onion and garlic are often overlooked by pet owners. Your pet does not have to ingest an onion or a clove of garlic. Be aware that sharing your steak that has been marinated in spices, including onion and garlic, may be enough to be toxic to your pet. Another common hazard is xylitol. This artificial sweetener is found in candy, chewing gum, and even children’s medicine or chewable drinks.

Continuing with human food risk, chocolate came in at number four, earning its own category. We humans love chocolate! It is not harmful to us, but it can be very dangerous for your pets. A small amount of chocolate may cause vomiting or other gastrointestinal disturbances. However, dark chocolate and high-quality baking chocolate can cause life-threatening heart problems. As little as half an ounce of dark chocolate can be fatal to a small dog. Larger dogs can survive larger amounts, but any chocolate ingestion should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Owners should be aware that coffee and other caffeinated beverages pose the same risks.

Number five on common pet toxins are veterinary products. Pet medicines are often flavored to entice pets to eat them. It is important for owners to store pet medications in a safe place. These drugs are safe in prescribed doses, but an overdose can be very dangerous. Also be aware that dog, flea and tick medications usually contain permethrin. It is a chemical that is deadly to cats. I have treated cats with neurological symptoms from over-the-counter feline flea and tick medications. Cats are at a higher risk of ingesting topical flea medications due to their ongoing grooming habits. If you want to play it safe, prescription flea medication is the recommended treatment for cats.

Household products ranked sixth. This category includes cleaning products such as bleach and detergents, automotive products such as antifreeze, paint, thinners, strippers, fertilizers, hand sanitizers and even batteries, which make interesting chew toys for unsuspecting dogs.

Rodenticides are another household hazard. They ranked seventh for the risk of toxins to your pets. Mouse, rat and gopher bait are all very dangerous. Consider traps rather than chemical toxins. Unfortunately, some of these chemicals go unnoticed when ingested, but cause internal bleeding hours or even days later. Pets can even be poisoned by second-generation ingestion, when they eat a rodent that has consumed the chemicals before it dies. Rodenticides are especially dangerous and should be completely avoided in homes with pets.

Next on the list at number eight are insecticides. Insect repellents, snail baits and ant poisons can be very dangerous for your pets. Although insects can be annoying, the risks of having these chemicals in your garden can be very serious. Avoid them if possible.

Plants came in at number nine. When choosing plants to decorate your garden, avoid those that are dangerous to your pets. Lilies are very dangerous for cats. Azalias and rhodondrons cause vomiting and diarrhea and can even lead to death depending on the amount ingested. Tulips, daffodils, and other bulbous plants can cause upset stomachs, breathing problems, and even rapid heartbeat. One of the deadliest plants is the sago palm. In California, many homeowners use this beautiful, tree-lined poolside. However, just a few bites of sago palm can cause vomiting, seizures, and liver failure. So be sure to check which plants are safe for animals before planting them. There are many friendly flowers that can brighten up your landscape without harming your pets.

Finally, number ten is lawn and garden products. Chemical fertilizers can keep your garden green and dandelion-free, but they’re dangerous for your pets. Consider using natural products like manure to feed your flowerbeds. Organic materials can provide nutrition to your plants without the risk of chemicals.

Now that the risks are defined, what do you do when your pet ingests a toxic substance? The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Gather up any leftovers that your pet has ingested, such as packaging. This can provide important information needed to help your pet. Note the time. When did you leave your pet? What window of time could the toxin have been ingested? How much was ingested?

Then, en route to your veterinarian, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 844-492-9842. This will be the fastest way to receive the most up-to-date information regarding the toxin ingested by your pet. Toxicology is a medical specialty and services such as ASPCA Poison control and Pet Poison Helpline are the fastest route to the information needed to help your pet. Be prepared with information on what your pet ate (including brand names or strengths), how much your pet ate, and when. With your help, they will open a case and provide your veterinarian with the most up-to-date treatment recommendations for the toxin your pet ingested. In some cases, they may inform you that the amount ingested is not an emergency.

Ultimately, as pet owners, we are responsible for keeping our pets safe. Prevention is the best. Make sure medicines and chemicals are stored out of reach of children and pets. Whenever possible, avoid toxic chemicals.

Dr. Kaitlen Lawton-Betchel grew up in Lemoore. Alumnus of West Hills College and Fresno Pacific University, she graduated from Midwestern University in Arizona with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Business Certificate. Dr. Kait currently practices at Karing for Kreatures Veterinary Hospital, also known as K+K.

The hospital is located at 377 Hill St., Lemoore. To make an appointment, call 559-997-1121.

His column is broadcast every other Thursday.

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