Pets love to sniff, lick, and nibble any new substance they discover in their environment, but toxins lurk in many unexpected places in your home. If your pet ingests toxins, they can suffer life-threatening consequences. Our team at Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care wants to help by answering some frequently asked questions about pet toxins.
Question: What household items are toxic to pets?
Answer: Many popular human foods, plants, medications, and common household products are toxic to pets, putting your pet at risk. Items your pet should avoid include:
- Chocolate — Dogs especially tend to have a taste for chocolate, but this sweet treat contains theobromine and caffeine, which can stimulate your pet’s cardiac and central nervous system. Signs include restlessness, diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive panting. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous the product is for your pet.
- Onions — Plants in the Allium family, such as onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots, contain N-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to a pet’s red blood cells, and leads to anemia. Products such as onion and garlic powder can also be problematic. Signs include lethargy, weakness, reddish urine, and collapse.
- Grapes — While grapes and raisins are a healthy snack for you, they cause kidney damage in your pet. Signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, and increased thirst and urination.
- Acetaminophen — Pets metabolize drugs differently, and acetaminophen is toxic to pets, especially to cats. Depending on the dose, the drug can cause red blood cell changes or liver damage. Signs of red blood cell changes include rapid breathing, panting, abdominal pain, drooling, and vomiting. Liver damage signs include dark urine, a yellowish tinge to the eyes or skin, and increased thirst and urination, but may not manifest for several days.
- Ibuprofen — This drug decreases inflammation and pain by inhibiting certain chemical processes, but these processes are also important to maintain normal gastrointestinal, kidney, liver, and blood clotting functions. Overdoses in pets can cause signs including decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloody feces.
- Antidepressants — Prescription antidepressant medications, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants, are toxic to pets. Signs may include lethargy, depression, ataxia, and vomiting.
- Heart medications — Medications, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and beta blockers, are toxic to pets if they take an overdose, and cause dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate. Signs include weakness and incoordination.
- Lilies — All parts of a lily plant are toxic to pets, especially cats, and ingesting only a small amount, including the vase water, can cause kidney failure. Early signs include drooling, decreased appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.
- Rodenticides — Many different rodenticides are available, and all products are extremely toxic to pets.
- Antifreeze — Many antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting substance that can severely damage your pet’s kidneys. Early signs include lethargy, incoordination, vomiting, and seizures.
Q: What do I do if my pet ingests a toxin?
A: If you know or suspect your pet has ingested a toxin, immediately contact Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care or Animal Poison Control. Information you should have on hand includes:
- Information about your pet — You will need to provide your pet’s age, breed, and weight, as well as any signs they are exhibiting.
- Information about the toxin — If possible, have the label on hand, so you can read off the ingredients and concentrations of the substance.
- Information about timing — You will need to provide an estimate of how long ago your pet ingested the toxin.
Q: How will my pet be treated if they ingested a toxin?
A: Your pet’s treatment will depend on the toxin they ingested. Actions our veterinary professionals or Animal Poison Control may have you perform include:
- Immediate veterinary care — You may be asked to rush your pet to Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care as soon as possible. Ensure you bring the toxin product label, if applicable.
- Bathe your pet — If your pet’s skin or coat has contacted a toxin, you may be asked to bathe your pet using a grease cutting dish soap.
Q: How do I prevent my pet from ingesting a toxin?
A: Steps you can take to safeguard your pet from ingesting an inappropriate substance include:
- Keeping garbage in a sealed container — Keep all garbage in a sealed container, so your dog can’t scavenge trash morsels.
- Cleaning table surfaces promptly — Remove all food, including crumbs, from your table surfaces as soon as possible, so your pet won’t be tempted to table surf.
- Keeping medications secured — Keep all medication in a secure location inaccessible to your pet. In addition, when you have guests, place their purses and coats where your pet can’t rifle through the contents.
- Avoiding toxic plants — Refrain from bringing toxic plants into your home, if possible, or ensure you keep toxic plants out of your pet’s reach.
- Keeping household products secured — Keep all household products in a secure cabinet or closet that your pet can’t access.
Keeping potential toxic substances out of your pet’s reach is the best way to protect them from a dangerous situation. Immediately contact our team at Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care if your pet ingests a toxic substance.
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