While your pet being poisoned in your home may seem unlikely, the reality is poisoning happens more often than you would think. Preventing pet poisoning can be as simple as taking an hour or two and “poison proofing” your home and garden. If your spring cleaning is complete (or even if it hasn’t started quite yet), take some time to ensure that your home is as safe as can be for your fur and feathered babies!
Many cleaning supplies are caustic and can cause chemical burns to your pet’s mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Keep all cleaning supplies, including laundry and dishwasher detergent pods, safely out of reach of dogs and cats. Be mindful that curious cats can open partially closed containers so keeping cleaning supplies in secure cupboards is vital. Keep your toilet lid closed especially if you use an automatic toilet bowl cleaner.
Many plants are toxic to both cats and dogs. Lillies, such as Easter lilies, tiger lilies, and stargazer lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Exposure to any plant material or even drinking water from a vase or plant saucer can cause kidney failure in cats. Tulips and daffodils can brighten a late winter day but can also cause toxic effects if the bulbs are consumed by a curious pup or cat. If in doubt, gift your plants to a friend who doesn’t have pets!
Over-the-counter and prescription medications must be stored in secure cupboards or cabinets. Common pain killers like acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol, Excedrin), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (e.g., Advil, Aleve, Motrin), inhalers (chewing the canister open), antidepressants, sleep aids, medications for blood pressure, heart conditions, and thyroid problems – the list goes on – can all cause serious problems if consumed by your pet.
Toys and video game controllers
Dogs will often chew on batteries found in toys, game controllers, and remote controls. Cell phones are also a tempting chew toy so be sure to keep these items out of reach of your pet. Button batteries can be especially dangerous as they are easy to eat and can cause severe burns to your pet’s mouth and gastrointestinal tract.
Loose change, especially U.S. pennies, nuts, bolts, sunblock and diaper rash ointment, and cold remedies and lozenges contain high levels of zinc. Life-threatening zinc poisoning can occur after consuming just one penny. Keep these items well out of reach of your cats, dogs, and birds.
Most people know not to give alcohol to their pets. However, some sneaky pets will sip at an unattended glass of beer or wine so keep drinks out of reach. Unbaked bread or pizza dough is another source of alcohol and can cause alcohol poisoning very quickly when consumed.
Grapes and raisins, onions and garlic
Grapes and raisins are extremely toxic to dogs, causing kidney failure. It’s easy to forget about the raisins in baked goods, cereals, granola, and trail mix. All plants in the onion family – garlic, leeks, and onions (and some common garden plants like Allium and chives) are toxic to cats and dogs.
Xylitol is a natural substance often used as a substitute for sugar in things like candies, gum, mints, packaged baked goods, pudding snacks, toothpaste, and a multitude of other household products. It’s extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. Keep all candies, mints, and gum (fresh and chewed) out of reach of your pet – that includes the garbage!
Slug bait, pesticides, fertilizer, rodenticides, antifreeze
Check your shed or garage to ensure that your pet does not have access to these toxins. Keep in mind that rodents can carry rodenticides (rat poison) to areas accessible to your pets. Wipe up spills and clean spill areas with lots of water. Small amounts of sweet tasting antifreeze, (one tablespoon) can cause kidney failure in dogs and as little as one teaspoon can be fatal to cats. Using snail or slug bait containing metaldehyde in your garden can be deadly to your dog or cat – use non-toxic alternatives and remove all traces of metaldehyde in your garden.
Most pet poisonings are preventable with a little effort. Be sure that knapsacks, handbags, and briefcases are stored in an inaccessible closet or cupboard. If you suspect that your pet has gotten into any of the above listed items, call your veterinarian immediately. Be ready to tell them what think your pet has consumed so they can determine the level of urgency.