Does your pet ever give you a look that makes you wonder what they might have just eaten?? Other than pet food and treats, pets end up eating some very strange things! It is amazing how curious our furry friends can be and in the midst of exploring your home there are plenty of things that we would never consider as “food” that they decide to taste, chew or swallow! Unfortunately, unless we catch them in the act or find a clue (sometimes within some vomit or poop), we are usually at a loss as to what they may have ingested. As one of the veterinarians at Westway Animal Clinic I can attest to the fact that we have seen pets swallow some crazy items over the years – toys, pennies, underwear, tampons, socks, hair, bracelets, foam and lego pieces are some of the more memorable. The list is endless and so is the potential for toxicities associated with ingesting these odd things.
While puppy and kitten owners tend to be more likely to think about pet proofing their homes we all know that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age! Older pets have just had more time to learn how to open cabinets and doors – not to mention the fact that they know where all the “good things” are! Puppies and kittens are likely to make chew toys out of dangerous household items including electrical cords. Be sure to secure them!
While ensuring everybody in the household is aware of how to keep your pet out of danger, guests may not be as careful. When hosting friends it is important to outline what is okay – or not – to feed your pets. It may be wise, depending on your pet (or your company!!), to keep pets confined while others are visiting. There have been many occasions of pets accidentally, or more rarely purposefully, ingesting alcohol or drugs (prescription or street drugs) – this can lead to very serious consequences for our pets. While these things are more likely to be considered harmful, we don’t think about things like chocolate (which many people would consider a pleasant treat without realizing, the darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is) or raisins and grapes (which may cause kidney failure in some dogs). If you are cooking for your pet be wary of garlic, onions, certain varieties of mushrooms, leeks and chives – these can all damage the red blood cells and cause anemia in our pets.
Even while baking, remember never to leave dough unattended. The yeast in uncooked bread dough expands rapidly once inside the stomach – it can literally compromise the pet’s ability to breathe and can be life threatening. Yeast fermentation also releases alcohol which can result in alcohol toxicity.
Plants are something we don’t think about. Many types of plants can be toxic when ingested and so it is important to be aware of what your pet has access to. Think twice before buying plants for your friends as gifts during holiday seasons, poinsettia and lillies are amongst the most toxic – even the bulbs, leaves, pollen and water from the vase can have life-threatening consequences, especially in cats who are likely to develop significant kidney damage.
There are so many things that are safe for humans to ingest but not for animals. It is common for pet owners to medicate their pets with human products; for example, Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be lethal in very small doses. Toxicity can also occur from ingesting vitamins, human supplements, human toothpaste (fluoride) and other human medications. Keep these things out of reach!
Unfortunately, there are also many common over-the-counter pet products sold in pet stores that can be dangerous. Flea products (including flea collars), tick sprays, parasite shampoos, powders and medications can actually contain insecticides that are poisonous to pets – using these products can result in serious seizures and other significantly damaging effects. Please use caution when purchasing products from the pet store; we recommend purchasing medical/health related pet products through your veterinarians because it is the safest for your pets’ well-being. Each pet is unique and it is up to us to work with you, the pet owner, to identify what each pet requires. We also work closely with the companies so that if there are any issues with a product, we know right away and can protect the pets in our care.
With all of this said, accidents happen and sometimes our pets just get the better of us! For this reason we must know what steps to take in the instance when you believe your pet may have ingested something toxic. While inducing vomiting is usually a gut instinct of most pet owners, depending on what they ingested, and when they ingested it, it may be dangerous to do so. If there is a package or container for the product, read it and/or bring it with you to the vet. If your pet is covered in a toxin, wash it off as best as you can with plenty of water and a mild soap (if necessary). Remember to rinse well and dry them as best you can (if time allows). Certain toxicities will require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous fluids, stomach pumping or anti-seizure medications. When in doubt – call your veterinarian immediately. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you believe your pet has been exposed to/ingested something toxic:
- Check to make sure your pet is safe: breathing and acting normally. Do not wait to see if any symptoms develop, sometimes things can go downhill quickly and it decreases our chances of reaching a positive and happy outcome.
- Contact your veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680
- DO NOT induce vomiting without being instructed to do so by a veterinary professional
Keep in mind that the prognosis is always best when a suspected toxicity is reported immediately. It’s always less expensive and better for your pet for you to call immediately so that together we can assess how to ensure your pet is safe.
Written by Dr. Bisni Peter