Protecting Your Pets from Poisons: What You Need to Know

In 2017, Frank Bauer was alarmed to discover his beloved seven-year-old lab/shepherd mix, She-ra, had consumed a bottle of construction glue. In addition to containing toxic chemicals, the glue expands several times its original size once it hardens.

Frank immediately called the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) and took She-ra to his local veterinarian. She underwent surgery to remove the large blockage and was fortunately sent home the next day with no long-term injuries.

She-ra’s story illustrates the severe complications that can arise when a pet ingests toxic substances, as well as how easily that can occur with a wide range of household items. In recent years, the APCC has received hundreds of calls about pets ingesting construction glue alone.

Based on the number of calls received by the APCC, the most common pet-ingestion danger involves over-the-counter medications. Almost 40% of the more than 300,000 calls to the APCC hotline last year centered on the consumption of over-the-counter and prescription human medications including ibuprofen, naproxen, and cold medicines. Cats are particularly sensitive to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relievers.

The APCC releases a “Top Toxins” list every year, providing critical insight for pet owners, veterinarians, and shelters nationwide. This year’s top five:

  1. Over-the-counter medications
  2. Prescription medications
  3. Food Products including grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic
  4. Chocolate
  5. Veterinary products including chewable pet medications

All pet owners always need to be aware of and keep these poisonous and harmful substances out of their pets’ reach.

It’s also essential for pet owners to recognize the symptoms of toxicosis – conditions caused by the action of a poison or toxin – which may include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms or other symptoms you think may be linked to a harmful exposure. You can also call the APCC’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435, which receives an average of 1,200 calls every day. Please keep these numbers in an easy-to-find location for quick access.

National Poison Prevention Week, March 17 – March 23, reminds people to keep toxic items and materials away from pets, but it also encourages us to share these warnings with friends, family, and colleagues in your real and virtual communities, and I hope you do. This room-by-room infographic may help.

It’s easy to think an emergency like what happened to She-ra will never happen to you and your family, but it absolutely can, and with potentially tragic results. For the benefit of you and your pets, please be careful, be safe, and be prepared.

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