Not an exciting topic-but an important one! Based on ASPCA Poison Control 2011 the top toxins here are some common toxins your dog or cat may ingest...
1. Human Prescription or Over-the Counter Medications: Over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are commonly found in households. The most common offenders are acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), heart medications, anti depressants, and ADHD medications. Keep in mind, this can include ingestion of veterinary prescriptions-either medications meant for another pet or an overdose of your pet's own medication.
What are the symptoms? The symptoms can vary, but range from GI symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea), changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to liver failure, and kidney failure. Acetaminophen is particularly toxic to cats! If a cat eats two extra strength sized tablets of acetaminophen, this can be fatal.
What can I do if my pet ingests a medication? Contact your veterinarian immediately or the pet poison control hotline. If your pet has eaten the medication recently, your veterinarian may be able to induce vomiting. Your pet may also need supportive care such as IV fluids, anti nausea medications, and more. Prevent access to these medications for both dogs and cats by keeping the medications in a secure cabinet. Also please consult your veterinarian before giving your pets any over the counter medications.
2. Insecticides: Products typically include those used around the home/yard or topically on your pets to kill parasites. This can include amitraz, organophosphates and pyrethrins/throids.
What are the symptoms? GI effects, such as vomiting and diarrhea can be seen, as well as central nervous system disease (uncoordinated, seizures, and dilated pupils) and heart disease (slow heart rate and changes in blood pressure). However these products can also cause sudden death in cats and dogs.
What can I do if my pet is exposed? If topical exposure, wash your pet immediately with mild dish soap (Dawn, etc). Once again call your veterinarian or poison control hotline. Supportive care may be necessary, including an antidote, IV fluids and blood pressure monitoring. Prevent exposure by being certain to not use dog topical products on cats! Also keep cats away from dogs when applying topical flea/tick products to dogs based on label instructions and keep pet's away from areas sprayed with insecticides.
3. Household Plants: A variety of plants are poisonous but most commonly ingested toxic plants include yew plants, ornamental/true lilies, amaryllis, tulips, daffodils, rhododendrons, etc. Easter lilies and related lilies are particularly toxic to cats causing life threatening kidney failure.
What are the symptoms? Predominately GI irritation (vomiting, diarrhea) and oral irritation (hyper-salivating, pawing at mouth, and oral ulcers) are seen. But more severe disease can be seen such as renal disease and heart disease.
What can be done if my pet eats plants? Contact your veterinarian or the poison control hotline immediately. Know the identity of the plant will help determine if the plant is toxic. Your veterinarian may choose to give supportive care, such as IV fluids. To prevent, do not keep toxic plants around the house.
4. People Food:We worry the most about chocolate, xylitol (in chewing gums), grapes/raisins and onions, but any human food in excessive amounts or even in small amounts can cause sickness.
What are the symptoms? Typically GI symptoms are most common (vomiting, diarrhea), but you can also see heart disease (abnormal heart rates and rhythms) as well as dangerously low blood sugar (causes collapse and seizures), kidney failure, and sudden death.
What can be done if my pet gets into these foods? Treatment can include inducing vomiting and supportive care, such as IV fluids and protecting the GI tract, heart, and kidneys. Prevention is the key. Prevent your pets from accessing the trash, gum, etc. Also do not feed your pets table food.
5. Household Products: Most commonly we find that pets eat batteries, detergents, glow jewelry, super glue, and string type material (tinsel, etc), but there are a lot of toxic household products!
What are the symptoms? The symptoms vary greatly depending on what was eaten. Often we see ulceration of mouth/GI tract, drooling, not eating, pawing at mouth and GI irritation, such as vomiting and diarrhea, especially with strings/foreign bodies.
What treatment is needed? Immediately wash mouth out immediately for anything that might be caustic. Supportive care such as IV fluids and GI protection if often needed. At times surgery can be necessary for things such as strings in the GI tract. Again prevention is best, so try and keep these products away from your pet.
General Advice to prevent toxicities in your pets
Keep all medications stored in a high, tightly closed location
Keep a close eye on your pet when outdoors
Make sure all of your trash/human food is kept in closed containers that your pet cannot access
Remember your pets can be very resourceful!
Where can I find more information?
Contact your local veterinarian for more information or in case of of emergency.
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital