We all think that we know the basics of keeping our pets safe, and yet each year there are more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning just in the United States. Items that are safe to handle and ingest for humans, including certain foods and medications we may take on a daily basis, can cause huge problems to your dog: gastrointestinal and neurological issues, cardiac and respiratory distress, even coma and death.
Here are the top 10 causes of dog poisonings.
The coatings on everyday meds appeals to dogs: it’s sweet like candy! Many human medications are toxic to dogs. Ibuprofen and naproxen are common causes of poisoning, especially in smaller dogs. Antidepressants, medications for ADHD, vitamin D derivatives, the muscle-relaxant Baclofan, birth control pills and some popular decongestants can cause a range of symptoms including seizures and kidney failure. Anti-cancer drug Fluorouracil is a topical that’s deadly to dogs. Even a chewed-on swab with a dab of this medication is rapidly fatal to your pet. The best rule is to keep all meds completely out of reach of pets, and store them wisely. A zip-lock bag can be chewed through and offers too much temptation with its view of the “treats” inside.
2. Rodent Poison
Animals become ill and often die after eating poison intended for rats and mice. They may also be the target of secondary poisoning if they eat the rodents that have themselves ingested the poison. The ingredient bromethalin is the culprit, and animals effected will show symptoms in anywhere from two days to several weeks. Look for loss of appetite, impaired movement or even paralysis in back limbs, muscle tremors, and seizures. A dog that has eaten rodent poison needs to have the digestive tract decontaminated as soon as possible. This is done by inducing vomiting and administering activated charcoal and an osmotic cathartic to induce the bowels to empty. Get your pet to the vet for treatment right away. Prevention is always best, so make sure your dog has no access to these poisons when you use and store them.
Veterinary doctors treat pets poisoned by chocolate too frequently. A chocolate chip cookie can cause big problems for a little dog, and a larger bite of chocolate is trouble for a big dog. If your dog eats chocolate – especially the darker kinds – call your vet right away. The dog will need to vomit. Warning signs may take up to 12 hours to appear, and include extreme thirst, diarrhea, pacing, panting, shaking, and seizures. The stimulants in chocolate can stay in the body a long time. Quick treatment can make a big difference toward a full recovery.
4. Poisonous Plants
How does your garden grow? Beautiful, and often common, house and garden plants can be extremely toxic to pets, causing vomiting, drooling, increased heart rate, seizures, coma, and even death. The ASPCA provides a complete list of plants to watch out for that includes lilies, oleander, autumn crocus, chrysanthemum, and English ivy. Marijuana causes depression of a dog’s central nervous system, and nibbling an azalea can lead to cardiovascular collapse and death. Be informed, and choose plants with your pet’s safety in mind.
5. Household Chemicals
Common household products can poison your pet, with toxicity severity ranging from mild to life-threatening. Detergents and fabric softener sheets can cause ulcers in the mouth and stomach, and household cleaners like bleach, drain and toilet bowl cleaners, and ammonia are also dangerous. Kerosene, gasoline, and tiki torch fluid are severely toxic and will cause the dog to have difficulty breathing. Mothballs, especially those with naphthalene, have toxins that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Window cleaners contain methanol or ethylene glycol, resulting in low blood sugar, and drunken walking.
6. Snail Bait
Metaldehyde is an ingredient in slug and snail bait (and sometimes used as solid fuel in camp stoves) that is poisonous to dogs, primarily affecting their nervous system. When an animal ingests this poison, the only treatment is to eliminate the metaldehyde from their system. The vet will pump their stomach – and if the dog is not convulsing – give activated charcoal to help absorb poison in the stomach and intestines. Prognosis for recovery really depends on how much of the poison the dog has eaten and how quickly they get help. Some dogs die within hours of ingestion, so seek help immediately.
7. Toxic Toads
The Colorado River toad and the giant/marine toad are the two most common toads found in the United States, and their skin is covered in a protective poison, toad poison is highly toxic to dogs and frequently fatal if not treated. Remove poison from the mouth by directly flushing with a garden hose and get your pet to a vet immediately. Mild sedation may benefit dogs that are anxious, in pain or distressed, and a cooling bath is sometimes used for high fever, along with drugs that combat abnormal heart rate.
Dogs exposed to toxic chemicals may not exhibit the classic signs of poisoning, but there will usually be some sign the animal is not well. A range of symptoms are associated with insecticide poisoning: fever, vomiting, anorexia, depression, muscle tremors, constricted pupils, increased heart rate, and respiratory failure are just a few. Agricultural, lawn and garden insecticide products can cause the toxicity. The sooner the dog is treated professionally, the better the prognosis. Use and store these products carefully, and avoid using flea and tick treatments on a sick animal as it will affect the body more easily due to a weakened immune system.
9. Heavy Metals
Metal poisoning can occur in several ways: breathing polluted air or lapping up contaminated water, licking a paint can, or even consuming large amounts of food and water that are treated with certain chemicals like chlorine. The extent to which these metals affect the dog depend on body weight, size and breed. If you suspect metal poisoning in your dog, a hair analysis can be conducted by your veterinarian to determine the level of danger and help decide on a course of action.
Dogs seem to love the smell and taste of antifreeze and it is one of the most frequent types of pet poisoning. It’s sweet, and dogs love sweet things. It’s the ethylene glycol that makes this product – and others like hydraulic brake fluids – so lethal. Keep containers tightly closed and stored out of reach, take care of leaks and spills by cleaning them up immediately and completely, dispose of containers properly, and never let your pet wander unattended where there is a possibility for access to antifreeze – places like roads, gutters, garages and driveways. Know the symptoms and get help immediately if you suspect antifreeze poisoning.
If you need help or more information, call your own veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435.
Try as we might, pet parents make mistakes and can’t always protect our beloved animals from the dangers that lurk in our homes and on our property. Careful storage and common sense can go a long way toward keeping our dogs safe from the most common causes of poisoning.