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PET POISON! 7 Top Toxins & Pet 1st Aid to Keep Cats & Dogs Safe

by | Mar 3, 2022 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care, Emergency Help | 29 comments

When you live with pets, be aware of poison prevention all year long, not just during March’s Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. A couple of years ago, we had a scare when Bravo-Dawg got into pet poison. Like many folks, I take a variety of vitamins to improve and maintain my health. I keep them organized in a pill caddy with a separate compartment for each day of the week. I keep the full bottles in a closed bottom drawer in the kitchen, while the pill caddy rests on the countertop pushed far back against the backsplash, well out of paw-reach.

Or so I thought. Within the 30 minutes between my departure for a meeting, and my husband’s return home from work, Bravo got a hold of the pill caddy. Like any good pet parent, my husband cleaned up the mess — and when I returned home about 90 minutes later, he told me about Bravo’s latest infraction.

Human Pills & Pet Poison

OH NO! The vitamins wouldn’t hurt him, but on that day for the first time, I also included OTC pain meds to relieve my chronic backache. I panicked, grilled my husband — did you find any pills? What kind? how many? Four or five day’s worth of pills were in question, so I sifted through coffee grounds and other schtuff in the trash.

I found four of the pain pills — so at most, Bravo ate one. Typically, dogs show toxic signs within 20 minutes, which might include vomiting blood, drunk behavior, seizures or even collapse. Bravo acted like his normal, goofy self, which makes me suspect he had a guardian angel that prevented him from gulping the dangerous pills. He ate all the vitamins. Oy.

Easter Lily poisonous to pets

Easter lilies are highly toxic to pets, especially cats. Be safe this Easter season!

Protect Pets from Poisoning

Dogs are prone to poisoning because, like human infants, they put everything in their mouths. Cats are more discriminating about what they eat, but contact poison can affect any pet if they walk through something toxic or it spills on fur and ingested during grooming.

Symptoms vary depending on the poison, amount of exposure, and the individual animal. You may see anything from drunken staggers and collapse, to salivation, seizures, or hyperactivity.

7 TOP PET POISONS & FIRST AID HELP

  1. Poisonings from human medications (both over-the-counter and prescription meds) has become the most common pet poisoning over the last several years. Dogs either gulp down tasty candy-coated pills, or owners give them human drugs without realizing the risks. Cats may play with pills, and accidentally swallow them. Be aware that pets don’t metabolize Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen or neproxin (Aleve) the same way people do, and can die from taking them. A single extra-strength Tylenol can kill a cat. Keep meds out of reach in pet-proof cabinets.

poison pills
2. Chemical toxicity used to top the list but the safer flea and tick products have reduced the numbers of overdosing. Problems still happen when you misunderstand directions. What’s safe for a dog may be deadly for a cat! Wash your pet immediately if you suspect toxicity, and call the vet. Antifreeze poisoning also can be an issue because it often tastes sweet, which attracts dogs.

lilies poison pets

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!!! Lilies are toxic to cats & dogs.

3. Plant poisonings are dangerous to mouthy pets. Some varieties that can be harmful to pets include lilies, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. Dogs fall victim most often because of their urge for recreational chewing. But some cats nibble leaves or paw-play with plants and may be poisoned when they later lick their claws clean. Holidays can offer all kinds of risks so prepare for holiday safety with these tips, and also beware of Easter lilies this holiday–learn more here!

4. Pest baits also tempt dogs and cats, and can poison pets that catch or scavenge poisoned rodents, roaches or snails. Rodent baits contain the same cereal grains often used in commercial pet foods so dogs may willingly eat the poison. Anticoagulants like warfarin prevent blood from clotting, and cause uncontrolled and fatal bleeding from the rectum, nose, and even the skin. Pest poisons may take 24 to 72 hours to induce signs, but once the dog or cat shows distress, treatment may not be as effective and can be too late. Veterinarians have antidotes for some, and others require gastric lavage and supportive care. Pets get poisoned by eating dead varmints that have succumbed to pest baits, too.

BEWARE THE DANGERS OF SWEET POISON!

5. Dogs love sweet flavors and often poison themselves by eating chocolate. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate contains higher concentrations of the caffeine-like substance, theobromine, but even eating too much of that candy Easter bunny can prompt a bout of diarrhea and vomiting. Find out more about chocolate toxicity here.

grape toxicity

DANGER! Grapes are highly toxic and can quickly kill dogs.

Poison in Grapes & Raisins

6. Both fresh and dried grapes (raisins) are quite toxic in dogs. We don’t know the exact poisonous substance that causes the reaction, and sensitivity varies from dog to dog. No dog should eat any amount of this fruit because even a small dose can be fatally toxic for your dog. Be particularly aware of wild grapes in the yard or fields.

The most dramatic and serious problem caused by grape/raisin toxicity is sudden kidney failure with a lack of urine production. For unknown reasons, not all dogs suffer kidney failure after ingestion of grapes or raisins. Researchers continue to investigate why some dogs die and others are not affected by the poison.

The first signs of distress often include vomiting and/or diarrhea with only a few hours of ingestion. After about 24 hours, you may see grapes or raisin pieces in the feces or vomitus. Affected dogs lose their appetite, become lethargic and unusually quiet. They may suffer abdominal pain, and “hunch” their back from the discomfort. Dehydration develops from the diarrhea and vomiting, but they only pass small amounts of urine. Eventually they stop urinating at all when the kidneys ultimately shut down. Prognosis is guarded, even when treated, and most dogs die once the kidneys stop producing urine. Grape/raisin toxicity is an emergency that needs prompt veterinary intervention.

Poison in Sugar Free Treats

7. Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used for sweetening sugar-free products. You’ll find it in chewing gum, candy, toothpaste, some peanut butter products, or even baked products. It also comes as a granulated powder. Both forms are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol ingestion causes a rapid release of insulin in the dog, which in turn results in a sudden decrease in blood glucose levels. Depending on the size of your dog, a single piece of sugar-free gum may cause symptoms that result in death.

The ingested substance may cause vomiting, incoordination, seizures, or even liver failure. Bleeding may develop in the dog’s gastrointestinal track or abdomen, as well as dark red specks or splotches on his gums. Usually the symptoms happen quickly, within fifteen to thirty minutes of ingestion, but some kinds of sugar-free gum may not cause symptoms for up to twelve hours. See this warning video from the FDA:

FIRST AID FOR PET POISONING

If you see or suspect your dog has eaten toxic foods or substances, induce vomiting immediately (but only if the dog remains conscious). Take a sample of the vomitus or feces if available to help the doctor be sure of the diagnosis. You’ll find more tips on how to make pets vomit at this post.

Invisible poisons also threaten pets. Learn about carbon monoxide poisoning in this post.

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Details on specific signs and treatments of various poisons are also listed in “The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats.” For more information on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Today, my vitamins and other meds live in a pet-proof area. Knowing Shadow-Pup, his next lesson from Karma-Kat will be how to open drawers.

He already figured out the doors, counters, and cabinets.

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29 Comments

  1. Cathy Keisha

    Great info. You also never know what your human is dragging in on their shoes like ice melt and, oh, don’t forget snow globes which are deadly for cats.

    Reply
  2. kelly

    All great reminders for what pet parents need to keep an eye out for. Xylitol terrifies me because it hits so fast and is in products we wouldn’t even consider.

    Reply
  3. Ruth Epstein

    Always good to remind everyone as rather we are safe than sorry. Thanks for the great post

    Reply
  4. Debbie Bailey

    Great tips of things to remember to keep out of reach. Better safe than sorry!

    Reply
  5. The Island Cats

    Wally says…great minds think alike! There can never be enough reminders of those things that pose a danger to our pets.

    Reply
  6. Dash Kitten

    I had no idea tht these sweeteners were so dangerous! We never use them, and our cats HATE chocolate but WOW that stuff is nasty!!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Cats aren’t at as high a risk because they really don’t care for sweets. Wish I didn’t care for sweets! 😛

      Reply
  7. Golden Daily Scoop

    Great reminders for all pet parents. We are constantly scanning our floors, counters and kids rooms for dangers! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Yep, such concerns make is better house keepers (whether we want to or not! LOL!)

      Reply
  8. Sonja

    Good reminders. We feed Monte human food so we had to know what could harm him 100%

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Sonja, the folks like you who home feed do things right and research ahead of time!

      Reply
  9. Aimable Cats

    I looked a little at xylitol when I had a spammer on my site who wanted to promote xylitol. Evidently, it’s not as bad for cats as it is for dogs, but I still turned down their membership. One of the unlikely places for it is in some kinds of peanut butter, which otherwise would be acceptable for dogs.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Also, cats don’t detect sweet so it’s not as big a problem with kitties trying to get into such things. Dogs have taste more like people and get themselves into trouble.

      Reply
  10. The Daily Pip

    We had an incident with a grape with our former dog. It was a case where one rolled off the counter and he grabbed it really fast. Fortunately, he was OK, but it was pretty scary.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      One of my friends, a colleague in CWA, had a horrible experience when her dog got into wild grapes growing at the edge of her yard. Took them a while to figure out why the dog was sick–and yes, the dog didn’t survive. Tragic.

      Reply
  11. Dear Mishu

    Thanks for the great post. Leaving sugarless chewing gum lying around is potentially really dangerous – thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Lots of people aren’t aware. I think many dog folks understand this now, but…what about non-dog peeps who spit out chewed gum in the park where a dog could get it? That worries me.

      Reply
  12. Beth

    Thank you for all these tips. I recently stopped buying gum since it was stressing me out worrying that the dogs would get into it. My other dogs really don’t get into things, but Theo has taught me how to much better at dog proofing!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I’m very careful about gum, too. What scares me is all the new things they’re putting it in–like peanut butter.

      Reply
  13. Pets Naturally (@dogtrainer4ever)

    Chemical toxicity is huge, even when following directions. For me, it’s just not worth the risk. I’ve been very lucky to have had success with natural products.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Natural is a great option, when it works. Here in N Texas, the bugs carry the dogs off (cats, too…and people!).

      Reply
  14. Cathy Armato

    Not following directions on medications & other products is so important and easily overlooked.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
  15. Sweet Purrfections

    I don’t think I knew about grapes. Thanks for sharing this important information.

    Reply
  16. Mark

    Great top 7 list of toxic substances for our dogs here Amy

    I particularly agree with #7 on Xylitol. The amount of products that have this artificial sweetener in it is astounding! In case your reader might find it helpful we actually include a detailed breakdown of the common issues with Xylitol and other toxic substances for dogs in a recent article here:
    https://yourplayfulpets.com/xylitol-toxic-substances-dogs/

    Thanks again for a great list
    Mark

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Mark, great post about Xylitol.

      Reply
  17. marjogo75

    So is syrup of ipecac safe for a dog, and I know not to give it for any thing corrosive. I have one dog who will eat anything on the floor. I worry about dropping pills. I had a parakeet who flew lose in the house before kids or other pets. He ate all the leaves off a poinsettia plant which was in our back catch all room. He was fine. I had a male Lab that ate a lot of chocolate in an Easter basket. He was fine. I am still alert.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Well, the answer is–it depends. Syrup of ipecac is safe for dogs (for one dose) but you must know the dose. It’s not recommended for cats. Birds are much more sensitive to some things than dogs and cats and I’m not an expert to ask about them. I do know that poinsettia for cats and dogs can be irritating, but isn’t as toxic as sometimes reported (still not good to leave within reach of pets!). Milk chocolate isn’t nearly as toxic as baker’s (dark) chocolate, and big dogs probably can tolerate more than smaller ones. It’s dose-related. I’m very glad you’re still alert–it’s up to us to keep them safe! Thanks so much for your comments.

      Reply
  18. Frank Steele

    Great blog! We had an issue with pet poison years ago. Luckily, everything worked out okay. It’s scary, for sure.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Puppy Vomiting & Why Dogs Vomit: How to Treat Puppy Vomiting At Home - […] cases of poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects, you may need to induce vomiting. Learning how to make puppies […]
  2. How to Pet Proof Holidays: 11 Life Saving Tips - […] any sort of candy may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Also refer to these common pet poisons. You can find a…
  3. Poison Pet Plants Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do - […] Poison pet plants can kill cats and dogs any time of year, but spring can be particularly dangerous when…
  4. Pet Poisons 101: Keep Cats & Dogs Safe from Pet Toxins - […] PET POISON! 7 Top Toxins & Pet 1st Aid to Keep Cats & Dogs Safe […]

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