Common pet toxins
SEVEN HOUSEHOLD TOXINS
There is no place like home. However, our houses can be a haven for toxic
items that can severely injure or even kill our pets. Some common food
items, chemicals, and medications can all pose special problems if pets
are allowed to eat them. The remainder of this article will look at some
common household items that can be toxic to your pet. Some of the items
are well known toxins whereas other will be quite a surprise. Regardless,
limiting your petís exposure to these items is the first and most
important step to preventing accidental toxicosis.
1. Chocolate. We all have our craving now and then, but your
petís should not be indulged with this one! Chocolate contains 2
ingredients that are toxic to pets - theobromine and caffeine (also making
your coffee grounds toxic!). Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate have the
greatest concentration of theobromine making it more likely to cause a
severe reaction. However, milk chocolate and white chocolate can also
cause illness depending on the size of your pet and how much they eat.
Signs of ingestion can include excitement, vomiting and diarrhea, seizures
or tremors, cardiac irregularities, increased heart rate, and even death.
Tylenol, Aspirin, and other NSAIDs. Common over the counter or
prescription pain medications found in the home can cause severe illness
in animals. It is important to remember that medications like Pepto-Bismol
and Kaopectate contain aspirin or similar ingredients and should never be
given to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian.
can cause vomiting and diarrhea to severe gastric ulceration and internal
bleeding. Tylenol can cause liver failure, respiratory distress, and even
than one regular strength acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablet (325mg) can be
dangerous to a cat weighing 7 pounds.
(NAPCC) has recently identified acute kidney failure in dogs that have
ingested large quantities of grapes or raisins. The toxic agent has yet to
be identified. Although many pets love them, considering the potential
risk, these should not be intentionally fed to your pets.
Signs of kidney failure can include vomiting or drooling (nausea),
increased drinking and urination (or a complete lack of urination), and
lack of appetite.
acute kidney disease can be treated with aggressive and expensive
treatment and hospitalization, but death can also occur.
arge quantities of onions have been shown to cause certain kinds of anemia
and possibly a secondary renal failure in dogs and cats. Regardless of
whether they are raw, cooked, or dehydrated, onions are toxic. Cats appear
to be more sensitive to the effects of onions than dogs.
Signs of onion toxicity can be weakness, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea,
increased respirations (breaths) and heart rates and pale gum colour.
Onion toxicity can be fatal and eating onions over several days can be
more difficult to treat.
5. Rat Bait/Poison. Remember,
any household pest you eliminate with poisons becomes toxic to your PETS!
Pets can accidentally become poisoned when they ingest rat bait
or a rat who has ingested it.
Warfarin (coumadin) based rat baits work by destroying the bodyís
ability to clot. Therefore animals that have ingested rat bait will
typically bleed to
death. Signs typically take a few days to appear and can include lethargy,
weakness, coughing, respiratory distress, nose bleeds, bloody urine,
swollen or painful joints, and death. Fortunately, rat bait is one of the
few toxins that have an ďantidote.Ē Prompt medical attention and
supportive care can allow animals to survive. Even if you only suspect
your pet could have ingested rat poison, contact your vet or emergency
clinic immediately. The sooner
treatment is administered the better.
6. Antifreeze. As little as
one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one
tablespoon can be deadly to a 10-pound dog. Antifreeze has a sweet
taste that will often be very inviting to pets. If left unattended with
antifreeze, most animals will drink it readily. Antifreeze can cause
acute renal failure. Signs of the toxicity donít always become apparent
right away so most animals that ingest antifreeze will die, which makes
antifreeze one of the most threatening pet toxins. ďPet friendlyĒ
antifreeze is available on the market.
Signs of antifreeze poisoning will vary depending on the stage of illness
and can include ataxia (drunken-like behaviour), vomiting, lethargy, lack
of appetite and increased urination followed by the inability to urinate. If
you suspect your pet has accidentally ingested antifreeze, seek medical
Y, because delaying treatment by even a few hours can be the difference
between life and death.
7. Orgaphosphate (OP) containing pesticides. Many common pesticides
contain OPs. Examples of chemicals within this family include Carbaryl (Sevin),
Malathion, Diazinon, Terbufos, and Dichlorvos, among others. Some over the
counter flea and tick medications that you can purchase at your local pet
store are in this category, so I always recommend you get your flea
treatment from your veterinarian. OP toxicity is very common due to the
large number of items that fall within this list.
Signs of organophosphate toxicity can include increased salivation or
vomiting, diarrhea, tearing eyes, constricted pupils, decreased heart
rate, tremors, seizures, and possibly death. If you get your pet treated
early and know what he has ingested, it is very helpful.
With supportive care in the hospital and early treatment your pet
can make a complete recovery.
There are many other household items that can be toxic to pets. However,
some are not.
I will note here that Fabreze
Spray and Swiffer Wet Jet
have both received a lot of negative press with respect to pet toxicity.
The rumours involved with these products are false. Both appear to be safe
to use around pets if the directions on the label are followed. The
ASPCA's poison control center agrees and has not been able to confirm any
cases of Febreze causing the death or serious injury of pets. Although
they do recommend that with any
cleaning product, that birds be removed from the room until the product
application has dried and the area has been ventilated.
your pet has ingested a toxin:
1. Call your veterinarian or the
If possible, have handy the label to what you think your pet has ingested.
3. Do not induce vomiting in your pet until you have spoken to your
veterinarian to be sure it is safe to do so.
4. DO NOT induce vomiting in your pet if they are in any kind of distress.
Take to your veterinarian immediately.
5. If your veterinarian says to induce vomiting, you may use:
Syrup of ipecac (0.5 - 1.0 ml's per pound; wait for 20 minutes)
Hydrogen peroxide (0.5 - 1.0 ml's per pound; repeat in 10 minutes if
no vomiting occurs).
Concentrated solutions of salt in tepid water - roughly 1 teaspoon
of salt per cup of tepid water.
no vomiting occurs within 15 minutes - administer again, repeating the
information provided is for educational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of your regular veterinarian. Please do not
hesitate to contact your regular veterinarian if you have questions
regarding your pet.
Hot Weather Hazards
As the weather warms up, you need to recall the potential
dangers that heat can pose to your pet. The two most common
problems are sunburn and heatstroke.
Many people are surprised to learn that cats and dogs can
become sunburned, especially on exposed skin surfaces such as
the tips of the ears and the nose, or any areas where the fur is
thin. Light colored or hairless pets are obviously more
susceptible than darker colored animals. A pet that has recently
been treated to a short summer haircut will also have an
increased risk of being harmed by the sunís ultraviolet rays.
The best advice is to keep your pet out of the sun during
peak hours. If this isnít possible, consider applying a small
amount of a high SPF sunscreen to your petís nose and the tip
of his ears (because your pet is likely to lick the sunscreen,
choose a formula that is safe for babies). This will minimize
the skin damage that could eventually lead to skin cancer. If
you notice small sores on your pet around the nose or ears that
donít seem to be healing, contact us. These could be an early
indication of treatable skin cancer.
Heatstroke can occur if your pet is confined in an outdoor
area without any access to shade or water, or if your pet
exercises too vigorously or for too long a time. However, it is
more common to see pets suffering from heatstroke after being
left in a parked car. Many people mistakenly assume that if they
leave the windows partially open, providing ventilation, that
this will be adequate for their pet. It is not Ė in the summer
months, a parked car can heat up extremely quickly, even when
the outdoor temperature is comfortable.
Heat stroke is a threat to humans, but is more of a problem
to our companion animals. Not only do dogs and cats wear a
permanent fur coat, they also are also unable to sweat, further
impairing their ability to control their body temperature in hot
weather. The smaller the body size, the more rapidly heat stroke
can develop. A small pet can develop heatstroke within minutes
of being confined in an enclosed car in the sun. The risk of
heatstroke increases in old or young animals, or in animals with
health concerns, especially if they have heart or lung problems.
Early signs of heat stroke include panting, drooling,
vomiting and/or diarrhea. These symptoms can rapidly progress to
seizures, collapse, and eventually death. The damage that can
occur to internal organs may be irreversible.
Prevent heat stroke in your pet by following these
- In the summer, leave your pet at home in a cool spot if at
- If your pet must travel with you, park your car in the
shade, keep the windows open, and do not leave the pet alone
in the car for more than 15 minutes. If you canít
find a place to park in the shade, do not leave the pet in
- Donít over-exercise your pet on very hot days.
- Make sure that shade and water are available to your pet
at all times.
- If your pet is tied up outdoors, make sure that the rope
or chain cannot get tangled around any objects, thus
preventing your pet from getting into a shady spot.
IF YOUR PET IS SHOWING ANY SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE,
DONíT DELAY Ė SEEK IMMEDIATE VETERINARY CARE.
I AM YOUR DOG
I am your dog, and I have a little something I'd like to whisper in your
ear. I know that you humans lead busy lives. Some have to work, some have
children to raise. It always seems like you are running here and there,
often much too fast, often never noticing the truly grand things in life.
Look down at me now, while you sit there at your computer. See the way my
dark brown eyes look at yours? They are slightly cloudy now. That comes
with age. The gray hairs are beginning to ring my soft muzzle. You smile
at me; I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a
spirit? A soul inside, who loves you as no other could in the world? A
spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a
simple moment of your time? That is all I ask. To slow down, if even for a
few minutes to be with me. So many times you have been saddened by the
words you read on that screen, of other of my kind, passing. Sometimes we
die young and oh so quickly, sometimes so suddenly it wrenches your heart
out of your throat. Sometimes, we age so slowly before your eyes that you
may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with
grizzled muzzles and cataract clouded eyes. Still the love is always
there, even when we must take that long sleep, to run free in a distant
land. I may not be here tomorrow; I may not be here next week. Someday you
will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when deep grief fills
their souls, and you will be angry at yourself that you did not have just
"One more day" with me. Because I love you so, your sorrow
touches my spirit and grieves me. We have NOW, together. So, come, sit
down here next to me on the floor, and look deep into my eyes. What do you
If you look hard and deep enough we will talk, you and I, heart to heart.
Come to me not as "alpha" or as "trainer" or even
"Mom or Dad," come to me as a living soul and stroke my fur and
let us look deep into one another's eyes, and talk. I may tell you
something about the fun of chasing a tennis ball, or I may tell you
something profound about myself, or even life in general. You decided to
have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share such things with.
Someone very different from you, and here I am. I am a dog, but I am
alive. I feel emotion, I feel physical senses, and I can revel in the
differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a "Dog
on two feet" -- I know what you are. You are human, in all your
quirkiness, and I love you still. Now, come sit with me, on the floor.
Enter my world, and let time slow down if only for 15 minutes. Look deep
into my eyes, and whisper to my ears. Speak with your heart, with your joy
and I will know your
true self. We may not have tomorrow, and life is oh so very short.