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Top 10 Pet Poisons and Toxicities

By: Courtesy of ASPCA

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Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center receives tens of thousands of calls involving animal exposures to potentially poisonous substances. In 2005, the Center managed more than 100,000 calls pertaining to a seemingly inexhaustible variety of items. Below is a compilation of the types of calls that the Center assists with, listed in order of the frequency reported:

1. Human Medications - In 2005, more than 46,000 calls involving common human drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements were managed by the Center. "Ingestions of certain medications could be very harmful or even fatal to pets," cautions Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice-President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "Owners should never give their pet any medication without the direction of a veterinarian, as even 1 extra-strength acetaminophen can be deadly to a cat, and just 4 regular-strength ibuprofen can lead to serious kidney problems in a 10-pound dog". Medications should always be stored in a secure cabinet above the counter and out of the reach of pets.

2. Insecticides - over 21,000 cases pertaining to products used to kill fleas, ticks and other insects were handled last year. "While there are products for eliminating fleas, ticks and other pesky bugs that are safe for use in households with pets, a key factor in their safe use is reading and following label instructions exactly," advises Dr. Hansen. "Some species of animals can be particularly sensitive to certain types of insecticides, so it is vital to never use any product not specifically formulated for your pet." Never give medication labeled for dogs to a cat. It is also a good idea to consult with your pet's veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.

3. Rodenticides - In 2005, approximately 6,900 calls about rat and mouse poisons were received. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems including bleeding, seizures or even damage to the kidneys or other vital organs. "Should pet owners opt to use a rodenticide around their home, they should make sure that the bait is placed only in areas completely inaccessible to their animals," Dr. Hansen instructs.

4. Veterinary Medications - Close to 6,200 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, dewormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements were managed by the Center last year. "Although these products are formulated for use in pets, it is very important to always read and follow label directions for use exactly," advises Dr. Hansen. "As with flea and tick preparations, many medications are intended for use in certain species only, and potentially serious problems could result if given to the wrong animal or at too high of a dose."

5. Household Cleaners - In 2005, approximately 5,200 calls pertaining to cleaning agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants were received. "Household cleaners can be quite effective in disinfecting surfaces in the home when used appropriately," says Dr. Hansen, " but gastrointestinal irritation or even severe oral burns could result with some cleaners depending on the circumstances of exposure." Additionally, irritation to the respiratory tract may be possible if a product becomes inhaled. "All household cleaners and other chemicals should be stored in a secure location well out of the reach of pets," Dr. Hansen recommends. When cleaning your pet's food and water bowls, crate or other habitat, a mild soap such as a hand dishwashing detergent along with hot water is a good choice over products containing potentially harsh chemicals.

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