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Top Household Poisons Affecting Dogs

By: Alex Lieber

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As something to drink, window cleaner holds no appeal for most people. For you, the product's value is simply the way it cleans your dog's nose prints off the windows. However, your dog has the hard-wired philosophy of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" – and poisons himself tasting the liquid.

Household cleaning solutions are one of the five most common causes of pet poisoning in the home, according to the Animal Poison Hotline. APH is a 24-hour hotline available year round to pet owners and pet caregivers who are concerned about their pet's well being after ingesting an unknown or toxic substance.

Dogs are famous for their frisky and inquisitive nature, which often leads them to consume harmful items. Unfortunately, the average household contains many potentially dangerous substances that your dog can get into.

Many hazards are seasonal, explains Dr. Lynn Hovda, RPh, DVM, DACVIM. For instance, antifreeze toxicities often rise during winter because people change their antifreeze mixture. Dogs are attracted to the smell and taste of antifreeze, which is deadly. During spring and summer, dogs are at higher risk to consume commonly used lawn care products such as fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides.

To educate people on the most common toxic substances dogs consume, APH has compiled the top five, ranking from the greatest number of exposures to the least number of exposures. They are:

  • Pesticides. Hovda explains that most of these pesticides (and fertilizers) are not harmful when applied according to directions or by a qualified lawn care service. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This can occur if the product is not stored properly or if too much is used on the lawn. Insecticides are particularly dangerous because they have a higher degree of toxicity.

  • Prescription drugs. The container may be child-proof, but your dog may be persistent in chewing off the lid and getting to the pills inside. All drugs should be placed out of reach of dogs and children.

  • Over-the-counter medication. The same risks apply with OTC drugs. It is also important to remember that certain OTC drugs won't have the same effect on pets. (Aspirin, for instance, can be dangerous.)

  • Plants. Pets are infamous for their creative destruction of plants. For dogs, most grasses are non-toxic, while ingesting poinsettia stems and leaves may cause some stomach upset and vomiting.

  • Household products and cleaners. Household products and cleaners vary quite a bit in chemical makeup and toxicity. Soaps, detergents, shampoos, alcohols, petroleum distillates and acids are some common ingredients. They can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea or chemical burns, leading to organ damage.

    If you suspect a poisoning, call your veterinarian or clinic immediately with the following information ready:

  • Name of the poison
  • How much was absorbed, ingested or inhaled
  • How long ago you believe the poisoning occurred
  • Weight of your pet
  • Signs of poisoning: vomiting, tremors, excessive salivation, color of gums, heart and breathing rates and, if practical, body temperature.

    To learn more about poisoning and what to do, see the related story "Poisoning – What You Should Know."

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