It's poison prevention awareness week, and for our pets there are numerous things which can be toxic. Ingestion of these chemicals or foods can result in anything from diarrhea and vomiting to seizures and death, and are thus important to avoid. We've compiled a list of resources - foods, plants/flower, and common household items to be wary of. This isn't by any means an all inclusive list, and if in doubt you should always contact your veterinarian or the pet poison helpline (1-855-764-7661). It's important to keep these objects in closed off areas, as countertops are well within reach of many of our pets should they choose to break the rules.
Many chemicals and household cleaners should be avoided, both for contact and ingestion. Same with us. If your pet decides to chug a bottle of Draino or CLR it's a no brainer that's not healthy and medical attention should be sought out. It's important to consult your veterinarian first and not try to induce vomiting on your own, as some chemicals are caustic and can cause further issues if vomiting is induced. We've listed a few items which your pets may be more likely to ingest, and that are very common.
1) Antifreeze - Antifreeze is sweet due to the ethylene glycol component of it, and thus dogs in particular are often attracted to it an will ingest it readily in many cases - whether it be spills from filling up your windshield washer fluid or right out of the jug. It's important to clean up spills and prevent ingestion of anything containing antifreeze, as ingestion can cause kidney failure. When metabolized by the body, a toxic compound is created which ultimately causes kidney failure. Immediate therapy and medical attention is warranted if antifreeze ingestion is suspected.
2) Rat/mouse poison - there are many products available, and it's no surprise that these poisons are poisonous for our pets as well if ingested. Warfarin is commonly used, and clinical signs of poisoning are often delayed several days after the time of ingestion. It is important to seek treatment should ingestion be suspected.
3) Lawn treatments - from weed killer to fertilizer concentrate, many of these products should not be ingested or be in contact with the skin. If you are planning on treating your lawn, keep your pets off!
4) Pharmaceuticals - over the counter, prescription, or other drugs like marajuana for example can have toxic effects on our pets. If ingested, medical attention should be sought and supportive care offered. Knowing what was ingested helps tremendously with providing the appropriate care.
There are lots of foods which we enjoy which are unfortunately toxic to our pets. Here are some of the common foods which you should be cautious of.
1) Alcoholic beverages - need we say more?
2) Apple seeds, apricot and cherry pits - these seeds contain a form of cyanide. Apple seeds contain small amounts and would require large amounts to be ingested for toxicity occurs, whereas apricot pits require much fewer pits since they contain higher levels. These should all be avoided and medical attention sought should ingestion occur.
3) Avocado Pits - avocado's, contrary to common belief, are not toxic to dogs and cats. They contain a compound called persin, which is known to be toxic to birds and large ruminant mammals. The main concern in our pets is a foreign body or gastrointestinal obstruction due to the large size of the pit.
4) Chocolate, coffee grounds/beans, caffeine - Chocolate contains theobromine, a derivative of caffeine. Dogs and cats are much more sensitive to these effects compared to people. When ingested in large enough quantities, these can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyper-reactivity, seizures, and in severe cases death. Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about possible ingestion.
5) Garlic - Garlic causes gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, and oxidative damage to the red blood cells in our pets, and can lead to anemia. The anemia that can occur can be delayed for several days, and can lead to lethargy and weakness.
6) Grapes/Raisins - the exact process is unknown, but it is not consistent either. Some dogs eat grapes all the time and are unaffected, whilst others eat a few and can die from acute kidney failure. As a general rule, avoid these!
7) Macadamia nuts - these are known to cause gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea), and in some cases neurologic signs like weakness, ataxia, and tremors. Most dogs will recover without specific therapy, although inducing emesis and administering activated charcoal can help to prevent these clinical signs.
8) Moldy foods - mouldy foods can contain numerous toxins which can cause anything from vomiting and diarrhea to tremors, seizures and paralysis. They should be avoided, and if ingested medical attention should be sought.
9) Mushrooms - there are thousands of mushroom species, and while not all are toxic to dogs, many are and they should be avoided as a whole if possible as identification can be difficult. Clinical signs can range from drooling, vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and organ failure depending on the type of mushroom ingested. Emesis and activated charcoal should be administered immediately if ingestion has occured.
10) Mustard seeds - mustard seeds and mustard, while rarely fatal, can cause severe gastroenteritis, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs and should thus be avoided.
11) Onions and onion powder - Onions cause gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, and oxidative damage to the red blood cells in our pets, and can lead to anemia. The anemia that can occur can be delayed for several days, and can lead to lethargy and weakness. Garlic is more potent than onions, and causes similar effects.
12) Rhubarb leaves - similar to humans, rhubarb leaves should not be consumed by pets. They contain soluble oxalates which bind to the calcium in the body. If enough is ingested, they can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and kidney failure.
13) Salt (play-doh) - Play-doh contains large amounts of salt. When ingested, this large amount of salt can drastically change the electrolyte balance of the body and can be fatal. Emesis should be induced immediately and fluid therapy and supportive care offered.
14) Walnuts - walnuts themselves typically cause vomiting or diarrhea. However if they are moldy, the mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can be lethal, and as such these should be avoided, or veterinary attention should be sought.
15) Xylitol (artificial sweetener) - This artifical sweetener found in many candies, gum, chocolates, and toothpaste if toxic to animals and can cause damage to the liver and kidneys. It can also induce a hypoglycemic state resulting in tremors or seizures. If ingested, medical attention should be sought and emesis, activated charcoal, and supportive care abd monitoring offered.
16) Yeast dough - the main concern is that the yeast dough will expand greatly in the stomach and cause bloat. This greatly predisposes animals to a twisted stomach, or a gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV) which can become fatal very quickly. Additionally, the yeast continues fermenting and can result in alcohol poisoning in some cases. Veterinary attention should be sought immediately should this be ingested.
There are many plants and flowers that we often receive or place in our houses to beautify the space and add some greenery and color. However, it is important to know which are toxic and which to avoid, especially with pets around. Lilies are especially toxic to cats and cause acute kidney failure when ingested. As you will see in the illustration below, there are numerous species of lilies, some more toxic than others. Non-toxic 'lilies' are in most cases not true lilies by their classification. If your pet has ingested a flower/plant which you are not absolutely certain is non-toxic, you should consult your veterinarian or call the pet poison helpline. We have referenced a great chart from ProFlowers with 199 different plants that can pose a toxicity to your pets.