While no normal person would intentionally poison their pets, the reality is, many poisonings are preventable. While some toxins are pretty easy to spot, there are several household items that people don’t expect to be poisonous to pets. March 15 to 21 is Pet Poison Prevention Week to raise awareness of sources of toxins for pets that most of us might leave lying around the house.
We urge you to take some time to familiarize yourself with things that are toxic to pets. For a complete list of household pet poisons, visit the Pet Poison Helpline’s Poison List. Here are some of the most common ones to get you started:
Most people know not to give alcohol to their pets deliberately, but there are sources like rum-soaked fruitcakes or unbaked dough with yeast that get forgotten. Alcohol poisoning can happen very quickly, and depending on the amount consumed, can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar and blood pressure, hypothermia, seizures, and even respiratory failure.
Grapes and raisins
Grapes and raisins are extremely toxic to dogs, causing kidney failure, although scientists don’t really know why. It is easy to forget about the raisins in baked goods, cereals and granola, and snacks like trail mix. Since the reason that they’re poisonous is not known, neither is the amount they’d have to eat to be poisoned.
These lovely flowers are used frequently in bouquets and grow in many gardens, but some varieties are very toxic to cats. Even small amounts of some – such as tiger, day, Easter, stargazer, red, and more – are so poisonous that even drinking the water from a vase can cause kidney failure.
Any medication can cause problems if taken in too high a quantity, but there are some human medications that are especially toxic to pets. Common pain killers like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs like Advil, Aleve, Motrin, etc.), antidepressants, sleep aids, medications for blood pressure, heart conditions, and thyroid problems – the list goes on.
Xylitol is a natural substance that is often used as a substitute for sugar in things like gum, mints, packaged baked goods, pudding snacks, toothpaste, and a multitude of other household products. It is extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts.
Zinc is an essential diet element for pets and people, and it’s found naturally in some food and mineral sources. But zinc is also used in many common household products and metal items… and too much zinc can cause serious health problems for a dog.
You’ll find zinc in four main categories around the house:
- Metal items such as nuts, bolts, zippers, toys, staples and many other common items
- Skin creams (diaper rash cream, sunscreen, etc.), shampoos, deodorants
- Vitamins and over-the-counter cold remedies and lozenges
- U.S. pennies (pennies minted after 1982 contain a high level of zinc)
Leaving change around is so easy to do, and maybe your dog doesn’t typically eat strange things. But pennies are one of the most dangerous items containing zinc, and a single penny can cause life-threatening poisoning in a dog.
Most pet poisonings are preventable with a little effort:
- Store medications behind doors, in drawers, or anywhere your pets can’t get to or chew through. Remember to put them away promptly after taking them so your curious pooch doesn’t find them on the counter.
- Store your medications away from your pets’ medications. You don’t ever want to accidentally mix up those bottles.
- If you have a cat, keep lilies out of reach – or out of the home.
- Never leave alcoholic beverages unattended, especially on low tables, or anywhere your pets commonly jump up.
- Remember your bag – if you carry medication, gum, candy, snacks, or money, store your purse or laptop bag in a closet when you’re home.
- Toss your change in a drawer instead of a table, or otherwise keep it well out of reach.
- Keep your pets away whenever you are using paints, varnishes or household chemicals. Keep the area where you’re working well ventilated, too, so the fumes are cleared out before your pets come back in the area.
If you even suspect that your pet has gotten into any of these items, call your veterinarian immediately. Be ready to tell them what think your pet has consumed so they can determine the level of urgency.