It’s no secret dogs will eat just about anything — helpful when you’ve dropped some popcorn on the floor, but not so great when your pup finds the Easter chocolate before your kids do. To combat accidental poisonings, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC)analyzed the 213,773 cases it handled last year and found the 10 most common toxins responsible for sickening pets.
If your dog or cat consumes something potentially toxic, always call your vet or local emergency clinic ASAP. “Many times it’s not only safer for the animal, but it’s going to be less on your pocketbook to be preemptive,” says Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT, Medical Director at the APCC. Expect to answer questions about your animal’s weight, age, and any existing health conditions or medications as well as what they’ve ingested, how much they ate, and how long ago. That information can help determine whether you’ll need to seek veterinary care or just carefully monitor your pet at home.
Don’t induce vomiting unless directed by a professional. “If you’re dealing with something like a cleaning product that can cause burns in the stomach and esophagus, it’s worse to make them vomit because you can cause more damage,” Dr. Wismer says.
Of course, your best bet is always to prevent poisoning in the first place. Take extra precautions with the 10 most common toxins listed below — plus an extra one sneaking up the ranks:
OTC drugs like ibuprofen, cold meds, and herbal supplements accounted for 19.6% of calls made to the APCC last year. Always check with your vet before giving any new medications to a pet, and keep bottles tightly closed and stored in a safe place.
Prescription meds including treatments for ADHD, depression, and heart disease came in a close second with 17.5% of calls. Most cases were unintentional — yet another reminder to keep scripts out of kids’ and pets’ reach.
If you’re known to give your pup tons of people food, think twice. Common ingredients like grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic are toxic to pets. If you have a dog, watch out for the sweetener xylitol found in candy, gum, baked goods, and even toothpaste. “Xylitol is probably the most dangerous because it can drop their blood sugar and cause liver failure,” Dr. Wismer says. And of course, alcohol is always a no-go.
Chocolate gets its own special entry, because when combined with other foods it would probably top the list every single year, Dr. Wismer says. The APCC gets nearly 60 cases related to cocoa every single day! The toxicity depends on the size of animal and the darkness of the chocolate. For a 20-pound dog, it would take 16 ounces of milk chocolate, 9 ounces of dark chocolate, or only 1.5 ounces of baking chocolate to cause seizures.
While prescribed medicines are safe to use as directed, make sure you’re carefully monitoring the dose — and keeping the supply out of paws’ reach. “What we’ve done to make it easy to give dogs pills is make them chewable and flavored, which also means it’s also really easy for a dog to eat his entire bottle of pills,” Dr. Wismer explains.
Some of the same items you keep away from your kids (think paint, glue, and cleaning products) can cause similar harm to your pets. This category accounted for 7.3% of cases last year.
Rat and mouse bait is designed to look palatable — a helpful feature if you’ve got a pest problem, but a serious concern if you’ve got pets around.
Similarly, watch out for ant traps, bug spray, and other pesticides. These poisons accounted for 6.2% of the APCC’s cases last year.
They’re pretty to look at, but many common flowers and plants are poisonous to cats and dogs. The sago palm, for example, is a popular perennial in the Southern U.S. and houseplant everywhere, but the toxic leaves, trunk, and especially the seeds can cause liver failure in dogs. Cat owners, watch out for lilies in Easter and Mother’s Day flowers. They can cause kidney failure if ingested.
Last but not least, fertilizers and weed killers can also do major damage if your pet acquires a taste for them. Keep an eye out while gardening (and after you’re done planting, too).
While it didn’t make the official list, Dr. Wismer notes that the APCC is getting a growing number of calls about marijuana (newly legal in an increasing number of states) and CBD products, especially edibles. “Many times these are products that are highly concentrated and also contain chocolate, so dogs find them very tasty,” she says. The concentrated THC can lead to low blood pressure, comas, and even death.
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