Dogs are very inquisitive. Sniffing, smelling, and usually tasting almost anything in sight are natural behaviors for a dog. For that reason, we commonly see dogs ingest items that are not their food and at times can be very dangerous poisons.
There are two major areas where such danger may occur: inside the house, and outside of it. These areas are different in terms of what types of poisons the dog may be exposed to. In the house, dogs usually get themselves in trouble when they are bored. Outside it’s usually the dogs’ curiosity that endangers them.
The most common problem in the house is the ingestion of rat poison, which can be very tasty to your dog, but has a compound that can cause a life-threatening bleeding. However, there are many other poisonous things in the house that your dog can ingest. Such things as: human medication, all kinds of cleaning solutions, chocolate, antifreeze, yard chemicals that are stored in the house and, of course, some house plants. To avoid this problem you can follow the below tips for a poison-safe house.
However, we will mainly concentrate on the toxicity of poisonous plants affecting dogs in these pages. In order to prevent poisoning by house plants, you should not buy and place house plants in your home that will put your dog in danger. Outside, there is a constant problem of ingesting poisonous plants. Try adding bran flakes to your dog’s food or switching its diet to one higher in vegetable fibers. If that helps, then perhaps the chewing of plants was due to a lack of fiber in your dog’s diet. The only other thing to do is to monitor your dog’s ‘picking’ behavior when walking outside. When you see symptoms such as: vomiting, diarrhea, difficult breathing, abnormal urine (color, smell, frequency, etc.), salivation, weakness, and any other abnormal condition – take your dog to the veterinarian because it may be poisoned. You can also call the ASPCA animal poison control center for help – it’s open 24 hours a day.
- Be aware of the plants you have in your house and in your pet’s yard. The ingestion of azalea, oleander, mistletoe, sago palm, Easter lily, or yew plant material, by an animal, could be fatal.
- When cleaning your house, never allow your pet access to the area where cleaning agents are used or stored. Cleaning agents have a variety of properties. Some may only cause a mild stomach upset, while others could cause severe burns of the tongue, mouth, and stomach.
- When using rat or mouse baits, ant or roach traps, or snail and slug baits, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to your animals. Most baits contain sweet smelling inert ingredients, such as jelly, peanut butter, and sugars, which can be very attractive to your pet.
- Never give your animal any medications unless under the direction of your veterinarian. Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when used inappropriately. One extra strength acetaminophen tablet (500mg) can kill a seven-pound cat.
- Keep all prescription and over the counter drugs out of your pets’ reach, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins, and diet pills are common examples of human medication that could be potentially lethal even in small dosages. One regular strength ibuprofen (200mg) could cause stomach ulcers in a ten-pound dog.
- Never leave chocolates unattended. Approximately one-half ounce or less of baking chocolate per pound body weight can cause problems. Even small amounts can cause pancreatic problems.
- Many common household items have been shown to be lethal in certain species. Miscellaneous items that are highly toxic even in low quantities include pennies (high concentration of zinc), mothballs (contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. one or two balls can be life threatening in most species), potpourri oils, fabric softener sheets, automatic dish detergents (contain cationic detergents which could cause corrosive lesions), batteries (contain acids or alkali which can also cause corrosive lesions), homemade play dough (contains high quantity of salt), winter heat source agents like hand or foot warmers (contain high levels of iron), cigarettes, coffee grounds, and alcoholic drinks.
- All automotive products such as oil, gasoline, and antifreeze, should be stored in areas away from pet access. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be deadly in a seven-pound cat and less than one tablespoon could be lethal to a 20-pound dog.
- Before buying or using flea products on your pet or in your household, contact your veterinarian to discuss what types of flea products are recommended for your pet. Read ALL information before using a product on your animals or in your home. Always follow label instructions. When a product is labeled “for use in dogs only” this means that the product should NEVER be applied to cats. Also, when using a fogger or a house spray, make sure to remove all pets from the area for the time period specified on the container. If you are uncertain about the usage of any product, contact the manufacturer or your veterinarian to clarify the directions BEFORE use of the product.
- When treating your lawn or garden with fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides, always keep your animals away from the area until the area dries completely. Discuss usage of products with the manufacturer of the products to be used. Always store such products in an area that will ensure no possible pet exposure.
These helpful tips were compiled by:
Jill A. Richardson, DVM.
Veterinary Poison Information Specialist
ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center
1717 Philo Road, Suite #36
Urbana, IL 61801