How to Prepare for Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month

Cat eyes pill.
Cat eyes pill.

Table of Contents:

  1. How to Pet-Proof Your Home
  2. Top 10 Pet Poisons
  3. Symptoms of Accidental Poisoning

Accidents happen, even to the best pet parents, and despite your best efforts, your pet may ingest a potentially harmful or fatal poison. Many common items in your home and yard are toxic to pets, so it is important that you educate yourself and keep these poisons out of reach of your furry friends.

Awareness is the key to preventing pet poisoning emergencies. March is designated as Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month and it is the perfect time to learn about the potential poisons your pet is exposed to everyday. Some poisons are rather obvious and easy to avoid, while others are not so easily identifiable.

How to Pet-Proof Your Home

Our pets are curious creatures who experience the world through their mouths. They can’t resist smelling or ingesting foods, plants, and household items that interest them. That’s why poison-proofing your home is so important. Here are some important steps from the Pet Poison Helpline that can make your home safer for pets:

  • Make sure your houseplants are non-toxic.
  • Store medications in secure areas, out of reach of pets.
  • Keep garbage cans secured behind closed doors.
  • Keep ashtrays, cigarettes, and smoking cessation products out of reach.
  • Secure your purse in an area where your pets cannot access it.
  • Keep pets out of the room when using toilet cleaners or other cleaning products.
  • If you use an automatic toilet bowl cleaner, always close the toilet lid.
  • Keep rodenticides (rat and mouse poison) away from your pets.
  • Never use flea and tick products made for dogs on your cat.
  • Keep glue out of reach. Some glues, such as Gorilla Glue®, expand greatly once ingested and require surgical removal. (Just one ounce of glue may expand to the size of a basketball.)
  • If antifreeze is accidentally spilled in the garage or driveway, clean it up immediately and dilute it with several gallons of water. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that is appealing to pets.
  • Keep pets off the lawn until commercially sprayed herbicides are dry.

Top 10 Pet Poisons

To help raise awareness, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) released its list of Top 10 Animal Toxins of 2018 after reviewing roughly 213,773 cases of potential animal poisonings.

Here are the results:

  1. Over-the-counter medications ranked number one in pet toxins, accounting for 19.6 percent of calls to the APCC. Included in this category are ibuprofen, naproxen, cold medications, and herbal supplements.
  2. Human prescription medications accounted for 17.5 percent of all APCC cases. The most common medications were ADHD medications, antidepressants, and heart medications.
  3. Food comes in at number three, with 11.4 percent of cases involving foods like grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and items containing xylitol.
  4. Chocolate accounted for 10.1 percent of APCC cases. (That’s almost 60 cases a day!)
  5. Veterinary products accounted for 9.3 percent of cases. Many pet medications are flavored to increase palatability and some pets may mistake these pet medications for treats. Remember that a “childproof container” does not mean pet-proof.
  6. Household items accounted for 7.3 percent of cases, including ingestion of paint, glue, and cleaning products.
  7. Rodenticide exposure increased to 6.3 percent of APCC cases. Along with rats and mice, our pets find baits very tasty, but ingestion can be deadly.
  8. Insecticide exposure accounted for 6.2 percent of cases.
  9. Plants accounted for 5.5 percent of cases, including indoor and outdoor plants and bouquets.
  10. Garden products round out the list at number 10, accounting for 2.3 percent of APCC cases. Many pets find fertilizer irresistible.

While it did not make the official Top 10 List, the APCC is also getting an increasing number of calls about marijuana and CBD products, especially edibles. Edibles may contain a highly-concentrated amount of THC, which can lead to low blood pressure, coma, and even death if your pet ingests them.

If you think that your pet has ingested any of these poisons or any other questionable substances, contact your veterinarian immediately. It is very helpful if you can identify the substance and bring the package or label along with you.

Symptoms of Accidental Poisoning

With some poisons, your pet will have an immediate reaction. With other poisons, it may take several days before you notice any symptoms. Here are some general symptoms you should look for, including:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Pale or yellowish gums
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures, or coma

Learn more about common dog poisons and common cat poisons.