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pick your poison: most common causes of pet poisoning

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan

March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Every year, thousands of pets are accidentally poisoned when they ingest something that they shouldn’t.  

The folks at the Pet Poison Hotline have recently put out a top 10 list of the most common emergencies they took calls about last year. Some of them are obvious toxins, but others are not. Take a look at the list below and make a mental note to store these potential hazards out of the reach of your pets.

The list starts with the most common emergencies and goes down the list from there. Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever owners should pay special attention – those two breeds topped the list of the breeds most likely to get into something they shouldn’t have!

  • Certain “people foods:” This category includes chocolate, grapes, raisins and the artificial sweetener xylitol, all of which can be fatal if ingested in large enough quantities.
  • Insecticides, especially those that contain organophosphates: Pay special attention to spot-on flea treatments, because often these are not safe for cats. Be sure to read the directions before you apply a product to your cat.
  • Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison): The same properties that make these toxic for rodents are also poisonous for dogs and cats. They cause internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening, and pets are also subject to what is called “relay toxicity,” which is poisoning from eating a poisoned mouse or rat.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen: Pets that are given human over-the-counter pain medications are subject to stomach and intestinal ulcers, as well as kidney failure. Never give an NSAID to your pet without first checking with your veterinarian.
  • Household cleaners: Because of their corrosive nature, ingesting these can cause severe illness and death.
  • Antidepressants, such as Prozac and Paxil: Severe neurologic problems, sedation and tremors can occur with ingestion of these medications. 
  • Fertilizers, especially those that contain blood and bone meal: These fertilizers are especially tasty to our pets, but their ingestion can lead to pancreatitis and bowel obstruction.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and cough/cold medications: These can cause liver failure, and the effects can be especially severe in cats. 
  • Amphetamines (Adderall, Concerta): These medications used to treat ADD and ADHD can cause neurologic signs like tremors and seizures in pets.
  • Veterinary pain relievers, like Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Previcox: Because these medications are made for dogs, they are often flavored, making them a tasty treat that may be too hard to resist. Overdosing on these medications can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.

Our pets don’t mean to jeopardize their health when they accidentally ingest toxins--they just can’t resist. Luckily, the good people at the Pet Poison Hotline are there to help. One simple call to them starts the ball rolling on finding out exactly what the potential problems are with the particular toxin your pet ingested and how to begin to treat them.  

If your pet has gotten into something you think might be harmful, be sure to call the hotline (1-800-213-6680) or your regular veterinarian right away. And always remember to do your part to protect your four-legged family members by making sure potential dangers are well hidden from curious mouths.

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Posted by Elizabeth Merker
on April 03 2012 10:02

Both my cats have pica & will try to eat ANY food except fresh fruit. We cook & bake a lot here so we are always on watch. I recently found out that grapes & raisins are on the no-no list, mine like to play with grapes & will try to eat raisins! Even though they are not even 2 yet, this is why I purchased the insurance for them. We watch very carefully but they try really hard. Thanks for putting this up, these are important things to know-I was recently at the vet sitting next to a woman with a very ill dog who had eaten a whole pack of diet gum(xylitol I'm sure), I really hope that poor baby made it.

Posted by Supitchaya Punnawiroj
on March 19 2012 16:17

Is C.E.T. AquaDent something I should avoid since it contains xylitol?

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