Pet Poison Prevention

Written by Dr. Angie Ahlstrom

March is national Pet Poison Prevention Month. Help protect your pets with the following safety tips.

1.   Avoid the following foods, which can be toxic to your pets. Even a small amount can have a significant effect on your pet’s health

  • Chocolate: can lead to hyperactivity and cardiac arrhythmias
  • Avocado: leads to heart toxicity in birds
  • Onions/Garlic: causes anemia, especially in cats
  • Raisins/grapes: lead to kidney failure
  • Yeast dough: expands in the stomach, leading to obstruction
  • Fatty foods: may cause pancreatitis, a severe GI condition, in many animals

2.   Keep all medications out of the reach of your pet. This includes vitamins which can be toxic to pets in varying quantities. Never give your pet a pain-reliever that has not been specifically prescribed for your pet by your veterinarian. This includes aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).

3.   Flea products can be dangerous to your pet if used inappropriately. We advise that you never use a non-veterinary approved flea product on your pet. Inappropriate use of flea products can cause health problems varying from skin irritation to seizures and coma. In addition, never use a flea/tick product on a cat that is intended for use on a dog. The active ingredient in these products—permethrin—is safe for dogs but can be life-threatening to cats.

4.   Several different common houseplants and garden plants are toxic to pets. Be sure to keep these plants out of reach of your pets; this includes making sure your pet does not have access to your garden plants.

  • Lilies: many lily species including day lilies, Easter lilies, and tiger lilies are toxic to cats, leading to acute (sudden) kidney failure. All parts of the plant are considered toxic. Rhubarb leaves can also lead to kidney failure.
  • Azaleas: these bright flowers are cardiotoxic (poisonous to the heart) and can lead to sudden death. Plants with similar side effects include lily of the valley, rhododendron, and yew.
  • Mushrooms: several types of common wild mushrooms can lead to liver failure. Cycads can cause similar signs.

5.   Antifreeze, crucial to a car’s cooling system, contains a chemical called ethylene glycol. Even in small quantities, ethylene glycol can be fatal to dogs and cats. It leads to crystal formation in the kidneys and irreversible kidney failure. Antifreeze frequently has a sweet flavor, making it more enticing to animals. Be sure to clean up any spills immediately. You can also consider switching to a propylene glycol based product which is much less toxic to animals.

6.   Be mindful of your pets when applying fertilizer and other chemicals to your lawn. Follow the directions carefully for application of these products. Make sure your animal does not have access to the treated area until the amount of time listed by the manufacturer has passed. Pets can be exposed to these chemicals by licking their paws after walking through treated areas. Make sure to clean your pets paws after coming home from a walk as other lawns in your neighborhood may be treated with these chemicals.

If you believe your pet has ingested a potentially poisonous substance, contact your veterinarian right away. You can also call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for help. Prompt treatment is critical to prevent long-term damage from these substances.