Poison Control and Prevention

For 46 years, the third week in March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week by U.S. Public Law 87-319. According to the National Safety Council, thousands of lives have been saved due to physical barriers like child-resistant packaging and awareness campaigns. Likewise, in recent years, the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline have worked tirelessly to raise awareness about protecting our vulnerable and unknowing pets from common household items that are highly poisonous to them.

Each year, the Pet Poison Helpline receives thousands of phone calls from pet owners, veterinarians and veterinary technicians about potentially poisoned pets. Says Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC and associate director of Veterinary Services for Pet Poison Helpline, “Fifty percent of the calls are for pets that have been accidentally poisoned by something that is safe for humans, but toxic to pets. It only takes a few minutes to educate clients on how to avoid these situations.”

Below are the most common household items that are toxic to pets. Please share this information with your clients. Ensuring that pets don’t ingest them will be well worth the time and effort needed to keep them a safe distance away.

Xylitol
Many sugarless gums, including some Trident™, Orbit™, and Ice Breaker™ brands, contain xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Candies, mints, flavored multi-vitamins, desserts and baked goods may also be made with xylitol. Even small amounts when ingested can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, or with large amounts of ingestion, liver failure. Signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, tremors and seizures.

Human medications
Common human drugs including NSAIDs (e.g. Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin®), acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) and antidepressants (e.g. Effexor®, Cymbalta®, Prozac®) can cause serious harm to your pets when ingested. NSAIDs can cause serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure. Acetaminophen can damage red blood cells in cats, limiting their ability to carry oxygen, and in dogs, it can lead to severe liver failure. Ingestion of antidepressants, which, of all human medications account for the highest number of calls to Pet Poison Helpline, can lead to neurological problems like sedation, incoordination, agitation, tremors and seizures.

Flowers
As beautiful as they are, some flowers can cause severe toxicity, or even fatalities, in animals. Certain types of lilies including tiger, day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese lilies, are highly poisonous to cats. Severe kidney failure can result from ingestion of even a few petals, leaves, or even the pollen. In addition, ingestion of certain spring bulbs (e.g. daffodils, tulips) can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. More serious reactions include abnormal heat rate or changes in breathing.

Chocolate
While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie may not be an issue, certain types of chocolate can be very toxic. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to our pets. The chemical toxicity in chocolate is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death.

Fertilizers
Many fertilizers are basic gastrointestinal irritants. However, some are often combined with dangerous chemicals and compounds called organophosphates or carbamates, which can be harmful or deadly to pets. Ingestion can result in drooling, watery eyes, urination, defecation, seizures, difficulty breathing, fever and even death.

Pest Control Products
Rodent, snail and slug baits are often used to keep pests at bay. However, if ingested, these poisons are extremely harmful to pets. They are highly toxic and without immediate veterinary attention can be fatal. Rodent baits typically can result in blood clotting disorders, brain swelling or kidney failure, while snail and slug baits can result in severe tremors or seizures.

Remind your clients that what is safe for humans isn’t always safe for pets. If they think their pet has ingested something poisonous, it is always better (and less expensive) to get help immediately, rather than waiting until a pet is showing severe symptoms.

Remind them to contact you or a pet poison control hotline immediately for life-saving help.

About ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides 24-hour-a-day, year-round advice on animal poison-related emergencies to pet owners, veterinarians, and animal clinic professionals. With experience in more than one million cases involving pesticides, drugs, plants, metals,  and other potentially hazardous items, the specially trained staff of veterinary toxicologists has access to an extensive database, which they can quickly access to help diagnose problems and give treatment advice. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also provides corporate services such as consulting on legal cases, product formula issues, product liability and reporting on alleged cases of animal illness due to product exposure. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline is available by calling 888.426.4435. There is a $65 consultation fee, payable by credit card, for this service. This includes follow-up consultation should a client or their veterinarian need further assistance with a pet’s case.

About Pet Poison Helpline
Pet Poison Helpline™, a division of SafetyCall International®, is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $35 per incident includes unlimited follow-up consultations. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800.213.6680. Additional information can be found online at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.