If your child eats dish soap or a piece of a plant, who would you call? Hopefully your local poison center came to mind. But what happens if your furry family member eats something they shouldn’t? Sometimes your local poison center can help. Other times you may need to call an animal poison center. There are two available to call:
Unlike human poison centers, the animal poison centers charge a fee for their services.
In order to prevent a pet poisoning from happening, awareness is key. Let’s take a look at some noteworthy pet poisons.
Dogs are very sensitive to the effects of chocolate. However, the dose makes the poison. A single M&M or a small piece of a candy bar likely will not be a problem. Dark concentrated chocolates with a high percentage of cacao are most harmful. When dogs eat chocolate, it can cause vomiting, hyperactivity, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, seizures, and death. Don’t forget about cocoa mulch in your yard or garden – a definite no-no if you have dogs.
Grapes and Raisins
These can cause kidney damage in dogs. Veterinarians are unsure what the toxic compound is and don’t yet know the toxic dose. Ingestion of small amounts are not harmful in most dogs. However, since it is unknown which dogs are going to be sensitive, it is a good idea to make sure grapes and raisins are out sight, smell, and reach of dogs.
This is a leading cause of death in pets. Dogs and cats can both be poisoned by caffeine. But more dogs are poisoned because they will eat pretty much anything while cats are pickier. Signs of poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, increased blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures. Caffeine can also lead to liver and kidney damage. Coffee grounds, espresso, and caffeine pills are most concerning because they have high amounts of caffeine.
This is a natural sweetener found in chewing gum, candy, oral care products, and personal care products. It can also be bought in bulk for baking, which can be an issue if your dog gets into baked goods made using xylitol. It will cause very low blood sugar initially. If not treated, xylitol poisoning can lead to liver damage and death.
Cats and dogs can be very sensitive to plants. Some plants are poisonous if they nibble on the leaves or if they lick the pollen that gets on their fur. Pet Poison Help Line has a common poison list that can be searched to find out if the plants you have are a problem for your pets. Lilies of all varieties are extremely toxic to cats, causing kidney failure. Even small amounts can be dangerous. You may not realize the cat is sick until the kidneys are already severely damaged. The Pet Poison Helpline page, No Lilies for Kitties, provides more detailed information.
Acetaminophen (Pain Reliever)
Often well-meaning pet owners will use children’s acetaminophen to treat pain in their cat or dog. Giving a cat acetaminophen can cause methemoglobinemia (a decrease in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen). You will see a bluish coloring to their lips and gums. Face and paw swelling are also common. If left untreated, cats can have liver damage as well. Acetaminophen poisoning in dogs is similar to humans. Overdose can lead to liver damage. Avoid using acetaminophen in cats and dogs unless recommended by a vet.
Rodenticides are products used to kill rodents such as mice and rats. Read the package to see what the ingredients are if you need to use a rodenticide. Bromethalin is toxic to all animals, especially cats. If eaten, dogs show weakness, paralysis, tremors, seizures, and coma. Cats more often have paralysis. Fewer products now have anticoagulants, or blood thinners, due to new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Dogs are very sensitive to brodifacoum, but not bromadiolone. Your vet can do blood tests to determine if your pet needs to be treated with Vitamin K to reverse the effects of the poison. Cats do not seem to be affected by brodifacoum and bromadiolone unless very large amounts are ingested.
Vitamin D – Found in vitamins and supplements, some rodenticides, and psoriasis creams – can be toxic in dogs. Vitamin D containing rodenticides are soft baits, making it easy for dogs to eat. Dogs find psoriasis creams to be very tasty, so if they find a tube, they tend to eat the whole thing. Symptoms to watch for include loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, increased urination, and seizures. It can also lead to kidney failure and death.
Care should be taken when using fertilizers in your yard and garden. If fertilizer is applied to your yard, make sure you wipe off your dog’s paws and muzzle after they have been in the grass. It is also important to store bags of fertilizer away from dogs. If ingested from the container or licked off paws, fertilizers can cause drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, and seizures. Organic fertilizers can be very attractive to dogs because they contain bone, blood, feather, and fish meals. Symptoms are a little different when organic fertilizers are eaten: vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal blockage, and swelling of the pancreas.
This ingredient is found in products such as antifreeze, windshield de-icers, brake fluid, and motor oils. The liquid has a sweet taste. Even a very small amount can be toxic. Early symptoms include tiredness, vomiting, stumbling, excessive thirst and urination, low body temperature, and seizures. If left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure and death.
Because dogs have more cannabis receptors in their brains, the effects of eating cannabis can be more serious. Most of the time, dogs and cats who eat cannabis products are fine, but may need a few days of monitoring at the vet. If you notice your dog has a glazed expression on their face and urine dribbles down their leg, its likely they got into cannabis. Pets can also become unsteady on their feet, hyperactive, disoriented, very vocal, and sleepy. More serious symptoms are an increase or decrease in body temperature, or an increase or decrease in blood pressure and heartrate.
In general, if you think your dog might eat it, they probably will. Store everything out of the reach of dogs. Cats tend to be pickier about what they eat, but they can be poisoned by very small amounts of some substances. In general, the dose makes the poison and time is of the essence.
Unlike in humans, pets can often be initially treated at home by making them vomit. Consult your vet or poison experts before using household hydrogen peroxide to empty the stomach.
If you think your pet has eaten or drank something they shouldn’t have, call either the ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. They will help the best they can but will often recommend you call the pet poison centers for more detailed recommendations.