How to prevent accidental poisonings

For parents of small children, using caution when handling and storing potentially poisonous substances becomes second nature. After all, you don’t want your little ones eating or drinking something that could make them sick.

The same should be true of your dog. There are a number of different types of poisonous substances that your dog can get into. Unattended items such as food, alcohol and tobacco products can become a serious health hazard for your pet. Dog-proofing your house should be just as critical as childproofing, since this is an important step in keeping the furry member of your family healthy and happy as well.

Common dangers

Outdoor items like pesticides are a common threat that can become a severe problem if your dog comes in contact with them. Organophosphates such as diazinon and fenthion, and carbamates such as carbaryl and propoxur can be found in flea and tick repellents, as well as in a number of pesticides that are commonly used on lawns and gardens.

If your dog consumes any of these neurological poisons, you may see symptoms like excessive elimination and salivation, diarrhea, vomiting, apprehension, and pinpoint pupils. Consuming larger amounts of these substances can lead to sudden death. This is why it is so important to keep all pesticides out of the reach of your dog, and keep him inside whenever you use these types of products.

Another type of neurological poison comes from the family of pyrethrins or pyrethroids, depending on whether the substance is natural or synthetic in nature. These ingredients are often found in insecticidal shampoos and dips, so use caution when treating conditions like fleas in your dog. You can also find these compounds in some home and garden products, and they go by names like resmethrin, permethrin and allethrin.

If your dog gets into any of these substances, the signs are similar to organophosphate poisoning, but can also include tremors, depression, or extreme excitability.

Rodent poisons are another commonly used substance that can be a danger to dogs. D-Con, a popular poison, contains coumarin, which interferes with blood clotting. When mice eat the poison, they basically bleed to death, but the same thing can happen to your dog if he gets into it. Your dog will show symptoms like bloody urine or stools, nosebleeds, anorexia, or labored breathing. Another sign is pinpoint hemorrhaging on the gums. Symptoms can vary based on how much of the product has been consumed.

Pain killers may seem like an easy way to comfort your dog if he’s ailing, but these medications can be dangerous as well. Ibuprofen consumption can result in gastric problems, and aspirin can cause gastric hemorrhaging and anemia. If your veterinarian prescribes aspirin for your dog, it is essential that you give a precise dosage every time. Never give your pet acetaminophen, since even two extra strength tablets in a 24-hour period can kill a dog. If your dog ingests acetaminophen, he may become depressed, or experience abdominal pain, vomiting and anorexia.

Sometimes, everyday household products are the culprits of poisoning. For example, tobacco products can cause vomiting, salivation, muscle weakness and even coma or death. Even your trashcan can harbor potentially dangerous substances for your dog. Bacteria found in garbage can cause abdominal distension, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and shock.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested any of these poisons, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. Bring the empty container or a sample of the substance that you suspect your dog has consumed. Prompt medical attention may make the difference between life and death.

Reduce the risk

However, the best treatment for a poisoning is to avoid the situation in the first place. By following a few simple guidelines, you can make a big difference in your dog’s risk factors for an accidental poisoning:

  • Store all pesticides in airtight containers out of your dog’s reach. Dispose of contents properly and safely.
  • Purchase garbage cans that have locking lids, and keep them in a heavy frame so your dog cannot knock them over.
  • Keep your dog off of lawns that have been sprayed with pesticide. If your dog does come in contact with this type of substance, wash his feet with warm, soapy water right away.
  • Don’t allow your dog to nose around in vegetable gardens or flower beds.
  • Keep compost piles out of your dog’s reach.
  • Never give your dog human medicine without your veterinarian’s approval.

Products to watch out for

This list will offer a quick reference for some of the most common household and outdoor substances that your dog might come in contact with. Keep these products out of the reach of your children and your pets.

C = cardiovascular toxin
GI = gastrointestinal toxin
R = respiratory toxin
N = neurological toxin
KO = kidney/organ failure
* = Substance is especially dangerous and can be fatal.

Alcohol (all beverages, ethanol, methanol, isopropyl): N
Almonds* (kernel in the pit contains cyanide): R
Amaryllis bulb*: GI, N
Anthurium*: KO
Apricot* (kernel in the pit contains cyanide): R
Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale)*: GI, C
Avocado (leaves, seeds, stem, skin)*: C, S, KO, fatal to birds
Azalea (entire rhododendron family): C, GI, N
Begonia*: KO
Bird of Paradise: GI
Bittersweet: GI
Bleeding heart*: C
Boxwood: GI
Bracken fern: N
Buckeye: GI, N
Buttercup (Ranunculus): GI
Caffeine: GI, N
Caladium *: KO
Calla lily*: KO
Castor bean* (can be fatal if chewed): GI, C, N
Cherry (kernel in the pit contains cyanide): R
Chinese sacred or heavenly bamboo*: R, contains cyanide
Chocolate*: GI, N
Choke cherry, unripe berries*: R, contains cyanide
Chrysanthemum (a natural source of pyrethrins): GI, N
Clematis: GI
Crocus bulb: GI, N
Croton (Codiaeum sp.): GI
Cyclamen bulb: GI
Delphinium, larkspur, monkshood*: N
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia)*: GI, R, severe mouth swelling
Elderberry, unripe berries*: R, contains cyanide
English ivy (All Hedera species of ivy): GI
Fig (Ficus): General allergan, dermatitis
Four-o’clocks (Mirabilis): GI
Foxglove (Digitalis)*: C, can be fatal
Garlic* (raw or spoiled): GI
Hyacinth bulbs: GI
Hydrangea*: R, contains cyanide
Holly berries: GI
Iris corms: GI
Jack-in-the-pulpit*: KO
Jimson weed*: R
Kalanchoe*: C, can be fatal
Lantana*: KO (liver failure)
Lily (bulbs of most species): GI
Lily-of-the-valley*: C, can be fatal
Lupine species: N
Marijuana or hemp (Cannabis)*: N, GI, can be fatal
Milkweed*: C
Mistletoe berries*: N, C, shock
Morning glory*: N, Seeds toxic to birds
Mountain laurel: C
Narcissus, daffodil (Narcissus): GI
Oak* (remove bark for use as a bird perch): KO
Oleander*: C, very poisonous, can be fatal
Onions* (raw or spoiled): GI
Peach* (kernel in the pit contains cyanide): R
Pencil cactus/plant* (Euphorbia sp.): GI, dermatitis
Philodendron (all species)*: KO
Poinsettia (many hybrids, avoid them all): GI, dermatitis
Potato (leaves and stem): GI, N
Rhubarb leaves*: KO
Rosary Pea (Arbus sp.)* (Can be fatal if chewed): GI, C, N
Scheffelera (umbrella plant)*: KO
Shamrock (Oxalis sp.)*: KO
Spurge (Euphorbia sp.): GI
Tomatoes (leaves and stem): GI, N
Yew*: C, fatal to most animals

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association