The third week of March was Pet Poison Prevention week. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn what things are harmful to your pet, how to pet-proof your home, how to recognize signs of poisoning and what to do if your pet ingests a toxic substance.
Vet clinics regularly receive frantic phone calls from people whose pets have swallowed something toxic. At best, owners must deal with regret about an incident that likely was preventable. At worst, they must face guilt and heartache if their pet is fatally poisoned. Damage to a pet’s body depends on the type/amount of poison ingested and the delay in administering treatment.
With immediate treatment, some poisons don’t result in significant illness. Other poisons, however, result in permanent damage or prove deadly no matter how quickly treatment occurs. Internal effects may take days or even weeks to materialize. So if you know your pet has swallowed a toxic substance, don’t relax because they aren’t sick instantly. Always call a vet immediately. Knowing what poisons exist in your home/yard is the first step in keeping your pet safe.
Many substances are lethal in small doses. The list below is not exhaustive but will give you a basic overview. The following is according to the Pet Poison Helpline and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Medications — human prescriptions cause 50 per cent of poisonings. Over-the-counter drugs can be poisonous too. Never give human meds to your pet unless a vet instructs you to. Accidental overdoses of prescribed pet meds can also be poisonous. Keep all meds in closed cabinets; separate human and pet meds to avoid accidental confusion. Child-proof containers aren’t pet-proof.
Chemicals — Chemicals cause 30 per cent of poisonings. Household poisons such as: detergent, bleach, dryer sheets, shampoo, cleaners, cigarettes, potpourri. Poisons in that may be in your garage or yard: gas, oil, windshield washer fluid, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, antifreeze. Ensure you keep these items out of your pet’s reach.
Food — Food causes 15 per cent of poisonings (chocolate alone causes 10 per cent). Poisons such as: chocolate, coffee, onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, coffee, vinegar, salt, sugarless candies/gum, alcohol. Never assume human foods are safe for your pet.
Indoor/outdoor plants — Plants cause 12 per cent of poisonings. Poisons include: lily, sago palm, tulip, daffodil, azalea, holly.
Signs of poisoning vary significantly depending on the poison ingested. Common symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, bloody stool, inability to urinate, difficulty breathing/swallowing, convulsions. If you think your pet has ingested a poison:
-Call your vet, emergency clinic or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680) immediately. The Helpline operates 24 hours a day, staffed by vets with toxicology expertise. There is a fee of $59 U.S. which covers the initial consult as well as all followup calls associated with case management.
-Be ready to answer: what your pet ingested, how much they swallowed, their weight, any meds they’re taking, symptoms. Having the package/label at hand can save valuable time and may save your pet’s life
-Never administer first aid or use any human meds on your pet without speaking to a vet first. Never induce vomiting unless directed to do so by a vet, since sometimes vomiting can worsen the problem. Never rely on Internet home remedies — experts warn that many are wrong and you could be risking your pet’s life.
Pet Poison Prevention Week comes once a year, but safety should be practiced every day, all year long. Your pet’s life depends on it.
Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their two adopted pets. A lifelong animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.