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Poison Prevention for Man’s Best Friend

Posted: April 12th, 2011 | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Although the Illinois Poison Center handles calls about human-related exposures only, we know many of our readers still need poison prevention tips for their furry, four-  legged friends. Did you know there was an animal poison control center located right here in Illinois?  Well this week the ASPCA Animal Poison Control offers some great tips to keep pets safe from potentially harmful-substances.

Most of us have heard the adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Nowhere is this more true than in veterinary medicine.  Dogs and cats are very mobile and it isn’t difficult for them to find things to get into.  Puppies and kittens explore the environment with their mouths, while bigger dogs and cats may have no problem reaching the countertops. This makes them very prone to accidental poisonings if the proper precautions are not taken.

If you’re in Illinois, you know who to call when your child is exposed to a potentially harmful substance: the Illinois Poison Center (1-800-222-1222); but what happens if it is your pet?  There is a dedicated animal poison control center you can call – 1-888-426-4435.  The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center is located in Urbana, IL.  It is the only 24-hour, 365-day facility of its kind in the United States.  We are staffed by 25 licensed veterinarians, 10 of whom are board certified in general and/or veterinary toxicology.  We provide assistance to pet owners and veterinarians with questions related to medications (both human and veterinary), toxic chemicals, plants, products and substances.

While most of us realize that household cleaners and automotive products are toxic, there are many other common items found in our homes that may be poisonous to our pets.

Dogs (and cats) are not small fuzzy people

Human foods can get animals into trouble.  Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs, while onions and garlic can cause anemia (low red blood cell count) if enough is ingested by dogs and cats.  Chocolate and coffee both contain stimulants that can cause agitation, increased heart rate and seizures in dogs and cats. Another dangerous food item is the artificial sweetener, xylitol.  It is used in many sugar-free mints and gums.  If ingested by your dog it can cause low blood sugar, seizures and liver failure.  Another human food that reminds us that dogs are not small fuzzy people is macadamia nuts.  Macadamia nuts cause hind limb weakness and paralysis in dogs.  Fortunately, the signs are reversible.

Here are some quick tips to prevent poisonings in your pet:

  • Human medications should never be given to your pet without consulting your veterinarian first.  Animal doses for some medications are very different than human doses.  For example, even one 500 mg acetaminophen can kill a cat.
  • Never store your meds and your pet’s meds in the same place.  Take your medication in a secure area away from your pets.  Many calls to APCC are of the “I dropped my pill and my pet ate it” variety.  Almost 25 percent of the cases handled by the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in 2010 were to help diagnose and treat pets who accidentally ingested human medications.
  • Houseplants and flower bouquets can also be dangerous to animals.  A good resource to check the toxicity of houseplants is ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plant list.  As a reminder with Easter coming up, please do not allow your cats any access to Easter lilies. One bite, or even just ingestion of the pollen, can cause kidney failure and death.

In 2010, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center handled more than 167,000 cases of pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances.  For a complete list of the top 10 pet toxins of 2010, and other items that may pose a danger to your pets, visit  our website.

If you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s 24-hour APCC hotline at 1-888-426-4435.  A consultation fee may apply.

Contributed By:

Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT
Medical Director
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
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