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National Poison Prevention Week

Pet parents may often feel that they spend a fair amount of time asking their pets, “What do you have in your mouth now?!” While most of the time it is not something dangerous, unfortunately there are numerous toxins and poisons in and around most homes that pets can get into. March 17-23, 2019 has been proclaimed as National Poison Prevention Week which aims to spread awareness of harmful contaminants that can affect both humans and their four-legged family members. Following are some suggestions for poison-proofing your home. 

Begin by checking any plants or cut flowers in the home or garden. Many plants, including lilies, azaleas, daffodils, lily of the valley and others are toxic. Depending on the plant, just one or two nibbles can be fatal! Home fragrances, such as liquid potpourri, can burn your pet’s skin and be toxic if your pet decides to give it a taste. Spray aerosols or any heavily fragranced products should not be sprayed around birds, as they are especially sensitive to airborne chemicals. Ashtrays, cigarettes, nicotine chewing gum or patches should be kept out of reach--even one cigarette butt contains enough nicotine to poison a pet. Batteries should also be kept out of reach of pet’s paws, as they can cause chemical burns. 

The kitchen can pose many dangers to pets. Human foods that are toxic to pets include raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, unbaked yeast bread dough, fatty foods, salty foods, and chocolate. Other toxic kitchen hazards are caffeine, alcohol, table salt and xylitol. Garbage cans should have a tight top lid so that curious pets do not go digging through the garbage, which can contain any of the above toxins, coffee grounds, moldy foods, bones, or many other hazards.

Pet parents must also keep over-the-counter or prescription pills, inhalers and dietary supplements away from their pets. Instead, place these items in a medicine cabinet or cupboard. Pets can easily get onto countertops or tables and even chew through plastic bags to get to the medications. On the topic of medicines, never give any medicine to a pet without first checking with a vet to make sure it’s okay, as many medicines that are safe for humans are not safe for our pets (e.g., both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are extremely poisonous to pets); and getting dosage instructions specific to the pet.  Also, pet parents may not be aware that flea and tick products meant for dogs should not be used on cats, as they may cause tremors and seizures. 
In the bathroom, keep pets away from potential hazards such as cleaning products, toiletries, dental floss, etc., and make sure to always close the toilet seat to keep them from drinking the water, especially if the toilet seat is automatic. In other parts of the home and garage, we find many other threats to our pets, such as rodenticides and antifreeze. Many pet owners don’t realize that rodents may actually track or otherwise transfer the toxins to a location accessible to the pet. There is also a real possibility of a poisoned mouse dropping dead in an accessible location, and being eaten by a pet. This would almost certainly result in death of the pet. Antifreeze tastes sweet to pets and should be placed in an area out of sight or out of reach. Consulting a vet on the best pest-control products to use would help to avoid this problem. Instructions on insecticides and similar products should be read thoroughly for warnings. Glue, many are surprised to learn, can also be poisonous to pets, and certain glues, such as Gorilla Glue, can expand to the size of a basketball when ingested! 

While we may not be able to keep our pets from getting into everything, educating ourselves to learn how to best protect our pets is the best defense. If you believe your pet has eaten something harmful, don’t wait! Contact a trusted veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. To find out more about Poison Prevention Week, go here

Also, a great infographic is available here