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Poison Preparedness: A Pet Parent's Guide on How to Prevent, Recognize and Respond to a Toxin Ingestion!

Did you know that many common household items that are perfectly safe for us humans are actually extremely dangerous for our pets?

In this blog post we highlight everything pet parents need to know about pets and toxins. Keep reading for a list of the most common toxins, helpful strategies to help prevent pet poisonings, as well as a step by step guide on what you should do in the event your pet swallows something toxic.

What Items are Poisonous for Pets?

Unfortunately there are countless everyday items that are extremely poisonous to pets - foods, plants and various household substances. Familiarizing yourself with these pet toxins is the first step in protecting your pet from an accidental poisoning.

'People Foods' Dangerous for Pets:

  • grapes

  • raisins

  • currants

  • xylitol (artificial sweetener) - hides in many foods including gum, candy, some peanut butters, baked goods and more

  • chocolate, especially dark/cocoa

  • particularly fatty foods such as bacon or meat scraps

  • alcohol (including that found in raw bread dough)

  • macadamia nuts

  • garlic

Household Products Dangerous for Pets:

  • rodenticides (rodent bait)

  • insecticides (insect repellent)

  • antifreeze

  • toothpaste containing xylitol

  • over the counter medications such as tylenol and ibuprofen

  • recreational drugs such as marijuana

  • nicotine / tobacco

  • prescription human medications

  • prescription animal medications

  • veterinary products

Household Plants Dangerous for Pets:

  • lilies

  • poinsettias

  • fern/sago palm, especially the seeds

  • rhododendron/azaleas

  • tulips

  • philodendrons

  • oleander

  • english ivy

For a comprehensive reference list of pet poisons by species, visit the ASPCA Poison Control website or review the AVMA Household Hazard List.

Strategies to Minimize Your Pet's Exposure to Toxins

  • Ensure any rodenticides used in or around your home are placed securely out of reach from pets. Keep the packaging (or take photos) of any products used.

  • Keep all medications in chew-proof containers, out of reach from your pets

  • Before purchasing any plants for in or around your home, use a plant-identifying app to confirm they are safe for your pets

  • Use gates to block your pet's access to any areas where people food is likely to be dropped, such as beneath a young child's highchair

How Can I Tell If My Pet Swallowed a Toxin?

Signs and symptoms pets commonly experience after consuming something poisonous include:

  • Vomiting, often times multiple times in a row

  • Diarrhea

  • Dark, tar-like stool

  • Blood in the stool

  • Neurologic abnormalities (tremors, seizures, stumbling, etc)

  • Collapse

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Abnormal bruising and bleeding

  • Lethargy

  • Ataxia (difficulty walking)

  • Difficulty breathing

What Should I Do If My Pet Swallows a Toxin?

Pets are curious animals that use their mouths to explore the world around them. Due to this inquisitive nature, no matter how hard we try to prevent it, sometimes our pets swallow things that are dangerous for them. In the event your pet swallows a toxin, follow these 5 Steps:

Step One: Collect Helpful Information That Will Inform Your Pet's Care Plan. This includes information such as:

What Was Consumed? Specific brand names and ingredients lists are especially helpful! Every toxin has a unique affect on the body and therefore treatment for a toxin ingestion is not a one size fits all approach. To formulate an effective treatment plan that targets the adverse affects associated with the particular toxins consumed, your pet's veterinary team will need to know the details of what was consumed.

Tips for Collecting This Information:

  • If the product is small, bring entire packaging with you

  • Take photos with your phone of packaging and ingredients list

  • If it was a plant your pet ate, take photos of the plant! There are now apps that are able to identify plants through photos.

  • Ordered item online? You likely have all the product specifications right on your phone in a digital order receipt

How Much Was Consumed? The quantity of toxin consumed in relation to your pet's body weight will determine the level of toxicity they'll experience. Depending on the toxin consumed, your veterinarian can sometimes even enter these specifics into a veterinary toxicity calculator to evaluate the level of concern.

When Was The Toxin Consumed? Passage of time plays a key role in determining the treatment plan for a pet poisoning. If your pet consumed the toxin 5 minutes ago, their care plan will look much different than if they consumed the toxin 5 hours ago.

Remember: Always, always, always be honest about whatever it was your pet consumed. Sometimes our pets get into things we feel uncomfortable disclosing, but it's important to remember that the veterinary team is there for one purpose and one purpose only: to help your pet. The faster your provide accurate information about what it was your pet ate, the faster the veterinary team can develop an appropriate treatment plan to help your pet.

Step Two: Contact professional help immediately! If you suspect your pet consumed a toxin, do not wait to see if concerning symptoms develop before seeking veterinary advice - in many cases, by the time effects of a poison are noticeable, it is too late. 

If you are in a location with veterinary services nearby, contact the closest veterinary hospital with open hours (ideally your pet's typical veterinary hospital). Calmly relay the information you've gathered to the veterinary team and wait for their instructions on how to proceed.

Pet Poison Control is a great virtual resource, especially if you are in a situation where immediate access to veterinary care is not possible. They too will need all of the same information as a veterinary team, so be prepared to calmly relay the information you've gathered in Step 1. Based on the information you provide and the tools you have available to you, the Poison Control team will advise on best next steps.

Tips For Contacting Poison Control:

  • Poison Control helplines often have long wait times. If possible, it can be helpful to dial multiple hotlines on different phones in order to place yourself in multiple queues at once.

  • There is usually a consultation fee associated with Pet Poison Control, so be prepared with payment to provide over the phone.

Step Three: Create a Plan for Safe Transport

Driving under duress puts you at a high risk for a vehicular accident, and the risk dramatically increases if you are also attempting to monitor your sick pet while driving. Before transporting your pet to the veterinary hospital, ensure you are calm enough to do so. And whenever possible, seek a second person to accompany you on the ride. That way, one person can focus on driving while the other person focuses on monitoring the pet and communicating with the veterinary team as necessary. Taking a moment to create a safe transport plan greatly reduces the risk of creating a secondary emergency.

Step Four: After handing your pet into the helping hands of the veterinary team, it's vital to consider a practical plan for financing the recommended treatments. Time is of the essence when treating a poisoning, so it's ideal to start financial preparation as soon as you have a moment to yourself in the waiting room, rather than waiting to investigate financial options until after you see a treatment plan.

There are several financing institutions that offer an easy application process with on-the-spot approval that you can access right from your phone. Every veterinary hospital has unique policies in terms of which lending programs they accept, so be sure to ask prior to beginning any application process. Care Credit is the lending company most widely accepted across veterinary hospitals.

Do You Provide Emergency Treatment for Toxin Ingestion at Epping Road Veterinary Hospital?

If you are a client of Epping Road Veterinary Hospital in the vicinity of our hospital and suspect your pet has ingested a toxin, we encourage you to call us immediately. A member of our team with collect the information outlined in Step One and will outline the best next steps for your pet. Depending on the particular circumstances, best steps may include: an urgent appointment at our office, referral to an emergency hospital and/or referral to Pet Poison Control.


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