Household items can be poisonous to pets
Many pet health challenges stem from seemingly innocuous and unsuspecting sources, such as that medicine cabinet in your bathroom. In 2009, more than 140,000 pet owners called the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., because their pets were exposed to toxic household substances including insecticides, cleaning supplies and prescription medications. The most common calls to their 24/7 poison control hotline (888-426-4436) were calls about pets that had accidentally consumed human medications. Most of these drugs came from nightstands, countertops and purses or mysteriously fell (not so mysterious to Newton's dog) to the floor, where they were gobbled up by a dog or cat faster than Iron Man could have gotten there. Many of these medications were pain relief drugs, antidepressants and decongestants, and there are many more human drugs out there that could be even more harmful.
With the many variations in effects of these drugs in humans come similar variations in effects on animals. Most of the time vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal abnormalities are the extent of the signs because of the irritation of the medications to the stomach lining. However, there are possibilities of more potentially harmful effects, so it would be wise to place that call to the ASPCA hotline or your local veterinarian for further instructions on how to proceed in helping your pet.
Other gravity-friendly toxic bombs can be as close to your pet as the dinner table. Take note: citrus fruits, avocados, raisins, onions and chocolate are toxic to your pets. Granted, the amounts of these foods needed to cause a life-threatening situation would have to be substantial in most cases, but the consequences of consumption in small amounts could necessitate a trip to your veterinarian for supportive care. Vomiting and intermittent episodes of the green-apple-quick step would be discomforting and possibly painful for your pet, as well as leading to dehydration and weakness.
And if you have houseplants or gardens that would make even Adam and Eve jealous, keep in mind that some of those plants can be deadly to your animals.
Aloe plants, American holly, azaleas, oleanders, baby's breath, carnations and lilies are just a few of the plants that can be toxic to your pet. And with Easter on the way, keep in mind that Easter and tiger lilies can be especially toxic to cats, seriously damaging the kidneys within 18 hours after ingestion. Diarrhea, vomiting and muscle weakness are just a few of the clinical signs of toxic plant consumption. Again, if you suspect your pet has eaten a toxic plant substance, call your veterinarian or the poison control hotline immediately.
Finally, two of the most common pet poisons you need to worry about are pyrethrins and organophosphates. Ironically, these chemicals are used to control fleas in pets. They are more deadly to cats than dogs, especially as it relates to topical flea products. Be sure to always use cat-only flea products for your cat, and never those intended for dogs only. Most of these products contain pyrethrins, an insecticidal agent from the pyrethrum plant. If you apply one of these topical flea medications as directed and to the proper species for which it is prescribed, they should be safe and effective. However, if you apply them incorrectly or in the wrong amounts, immediately bathe your cat in hand-dishwashing liquid thoroughly and dry the kitty with a dryer-tumbled warm towel until dry, and observe your cat for any signs of tremors or seizures. If that should happen, take your cat immediately to the nearest emergency clinic. Once the insecticide has been absorbed into the cat's system, it can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood, muscle weakness, diarrhea, a rapid weak pulse, lowered body temperature, seizures and death.
It's important to remember to always take the container or box of what you think poisoned your pet to the clinic and, if calling the veterinarian or the poison control center, be ready to read the ingredients from the box to clarify the same to the doctor. Time and accuracy are of the essence here, and your pet's life depends on what you do. Poisons are around us and our pets all of the time. Unfortunately, our pets don't read, they don't know to keep things out of their mouths that shouldn't be there, and they certainly don't share in our human enjoyment of just looking at pretty plants. To them, your houseplants might be the salad course before dinner, so make sure you protect your dogs and cats. Show you care by being aware.
Dr. Greg Lewis, DVM, is a veterinarian performing spay/neuter surgery at the Yavapai Humane Society's Spay, Neuter and Wellness Clinic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the clinic at 771-0547.
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