March is National Pet Poison Prevention Month, a good time to remind pet owners that many household items can be poisonous to their four-legged companions.
By Malcolm Mayhew
Everyday items we might not think could be harmful to our pets - from a stick of gum to a flower - can cause illness or even death among cats and dogs.
Below are some of the most common household items that should be kept out of your pet’s reach:
Several sugar-free gums contain xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar, or with large amounts of ingestion, liver failure1. Signs of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, weakness, difficulty walking, tremors and seizures. The ingredient can also be found in certain candies, mints, multi-vitamins and desserts.
More than a dozen varieties of plants and flowers can be harmful, even deadly, to cats and dogs, including lilies, oleander, and tulips. See WebMD’s list of plants that are poisonous to pets here.
No matter how much your dog begs for a piece of the chocolate you’re nibbling on, do not give it to them. Chocolate is toxic to dogs2 and ingestion of it can result in severe illness. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, as well as caffeine. Dogs cannot metabolize caffeine and theobromine as well as humans, and thus are more sensitive to the chemicals’ effects. Other foods to keep away from pets include grapes, raisins, nuts, onions, garlic, chives, and raw meat. A full list can be found here.
It’s never a good idea to treat your pets with over-the-counter or prescription medications designed for humans. Even a medication that does not require a prescription can be extremely dangerous to your pet. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen can cause acute kidney failure and should never be given to pets3. Do not try to treat your pet’s medical problems without consulting a veterinarian.
Keep these items in a secure place, away from your pet’s curious mind and insatiable appetite: antifreeze, fabric softener sheets, insecticides and pesticides, weed killer, lawn fertilizer, mothballs, rodent bait, paint, bleach, cleaning chemicals.
If you think your pet has ingested something potentially dangerous, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control center right away. The Pet Poison Helpline can be reached at 855-764-7661; the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is at 888-426-4435.