“Oh no, my dog ate a grape, what do I do?” 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
My Dog Ate a Grape! 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. UPDATE: Experts now believe that tartaric acid (found in grapes, tamarinds, and cream of tartar) causes the toxic reaction in dogs.
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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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!