Do you have a poison control plan for your pet? It can be hard to admit, but our homes are often full of objects and substances that can be highly poisonous to our pets. With March being Pet Poison Prevention month, we thought we’d reiterate the importance of poison control, and also share with you some ideas for a helpful cat/dog first aid kit that you can keep on hand in case of an emergency. Our veterinarians are always available to answer any questions you have, so don’t hesitate to contact our animal hospital for more information!
What Household Items are Hazardous to Pets?
Here are some of the most common health hazards to dogs and cats. If you think your pet has ingested any of these, seek medical attention immediately. It’s ALWAYS better to be safe and make sure your pet is out of harm’s way, than to wait and see how they are in a few hours or the next day.
• Grapes and raisins – This popular snack for humans can be deadly for pets if ingested. One of the main effects of eating grapes/raisins is kidney failure, so be careful about where and how you store (and dispose of) your grapes and raisins. You just never know when your pet might get curious and try to sample a bite!
• Chocolate – Dark chocolate, pure cocoa, and baking chocolate are the most toxic varieties for pets, due to their high caffeine and theobromine content. Consuming sufficient quantities of this kind of chocolate can result in heart arrhythmia, muscle tremors, and possibly seizures. That being said, we encourage you to keep ALL chocolate away from your pet, regardless of how light or dark it is.
• Xylitol, regularly found in sugar free gum, candy, and mints – Xylitol is extremely dangerous for dogs. While humans can metabolize Xylitol without any trouble, dogs absorb this sugar alcohol very quickly, which leads to abnormally low blood sugar levels (and an increase in their insulin levels). Without timely treatment, this can be fatal. Breath mints (including Tic Tacs), toothpaste, mouthwash, vitamins, and even some peanut butters can also contain Xylitol, so be sure to check labels and be extra careful about where you store and dispose of these items.
• Antifreeze – One of the most dangerous household poisons, antifreeze has a sweet scent and flavor that many pets find attractive. Whether it’s a full bottle or a puddle in the driveway, clean up any spilled antifreeze and store the container in a secure, high-up place where your pet can’t reach.
• Rodenticides (rat poison) – Ingesting rat poison can be deadly for your pet. Allowing them to wander outside your property can increase their chances of coming across these poison pellets, so check the perimeter of your property (if rodents are an existing problem) and keep a very close eye on your pet.
• Over-the-counter medications – If you and/or your family members have over-the-counter (OTC) medications in the house, keep them shut away and out of reach of your pet at all times. If you take your pills in the bathroom, shut the door just in case you drop one. Dogs are extremely quick when they want to grab something! Among the most dangerous OTC drugs are ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ingesting these can cause damage to the kidneys and possibly be fatal, so always keep your pill bottles in a secure place.
• Fabric softener sheets – Believe it or not, these inconspicuous sheets, while full of chemicals, can be attractive to pets thanks to their pleasant odor. Ingesting one or more can cause poisoning and even choking.
• Batteries – Always dispose of used batteries properly. Batteries contain highly toxic fluid and even simply biting the TV remote or chewing on a battery-powered children’s toy can put your pet at risk for poisoning.
What to Include in Your Dog or Cat First Aid Kit for Poison Emergencies
A first aid kit can prove life-saving for your pet. Here are some of the most important and practical things to include:
• Your veterinarian’s phone number, and the numbers to nearby emergency vet clinics (plus directions)
• The number for the Pet Poison Helpline: 1-855-764-7661
• Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration, non-expired) to induce vomiting – DO NOT administer to your pet without consulting a licensed veterinarian first!
• A set of tablespoons and/or teaspoons for measuring the proper amount of hydrogen peroxide to give to your pet in case you need to induce vomiting
• A turkey baster, bulb syringe, or oral dosing syringe for quicker and easier administration of hydrogen peroxide
• Corn or maple syrup
• A sweet beverage rich in electrolytes (such a Gatorade)
• A can of tuna (packed in water), chicken, or some other canned pet food
• Rubber gloves
• Triple antibiotic ointment
• Dawn (or other liquid dishwashing detergent)
• Diphenhydramine tablets (25mg) or liquid – do not give in combination with other ingredients or pain relievers
When NOT to Induce Vomiting
Depending on what kind of substance your pet ingests, inducing vomiting can sometimes be as harmful as the poison they consumed. ALWAYS contact your veterinarian before attempting to induce vomiting in your pet.
• If your pet has ingested any fast-absorbing OTC medications. Inducing vomiting won’t be of much help to your pet, as the medication has already dissolved.
• If your pet consumed battery fluid or some other, highly acidic substance, inducing vomiting can do serious damage to their esophagus.
• Oily substances can potentially become a choking hazard or even cause pneumonia in your pet if vomiting is induced.
• If your cat has ingested a poison, do not try to induce vomiting at all. Hydrogen peroxide can irritate or even cause ulcers in the stomach, and this can be life-threatening to your feline. Don’t risk it!
• Brachycephalic (smush-faced) dogs can also be at risk of aspirating if they are given hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.
Common Choking Hazards for Dogs and Cats
Some household items aren’t necessarily poisonous, but they can cause choking, which is just as dangerous. This includes batteries, strings, plastic bags, small children’s toys, plastic packaging, bottle caps, and more. Dogs are especially notorious for swallowing all manner of objects, but cats are certainly capable of this, too. Regard your pet as you would a toddler and take pains to remove any possible choking hazards from their environment. If necessary, child-proof your cabinets and drawers or keep certain rooms closed off to prevent your pet from entering.