If your pet has ever gotten into something they shouldn’t have, you probably remember the scare. It’s amazing how many items in our homes, yards, and garages appeal to our pets and how many of them can be poisonous. Cleaning up antifreeze spills, making sure leftovers are put away, and closing the garbage can seem obvious, but locking the medicine cabinet probably isn’t. It should be.

The Town and Country Animal Hospital team wants to help you keep your pet safe, so we are taking this opportunity to share information about preventing pet poisonings and recognizing the signs that your pet may be in trouble.

Pet poisoning risks

One of the most common ways our pets get into something potentially harmful is by raiding backpacks, purses, and coats left on the floor. Create a household “off the floor” policy, so that everything is hung up high or put away as soon as your family walks in the door. Also, ask overnight houseguests to keep their suitcases zipped and the guest room door closed, so your nosey pet does rummage through their luggage and ingest a toxic medication or toiletry item. 

Another common way pets end up eating something they shouldn’t is when a pet owner drops their own medication on the floor while preparing to take it. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, nearly 40% of pet poisonings  are caused by pets ingesting human over-the-counter or prescription medications. Instead of taking your medication in the kitchen, where your dog is likely to be underfoot, consider moving to another spot in the house where your pet doesn’t have access. And, medicine cabinets should be locked—child proof doesn’t necessarily mean pet proof.

Pet poisoning signs

Poisons can act fast, so don’t hesitate to act if you think—or know—your pet has ingested a toxic substance. The earlier your pet can be diagnosed and treated, the better their prognosis will be. 

At the same time, signs of poisoning sometimes take several hours to days to show up and can be subtle at first. 

Look for:

  • Changes in gum or tongue color
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Changes in thirst or urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Appearing dizzy, staggering, or disoriented
  • Panting heavily for over 30 minutes
  • Wheezing or crackling with breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lack of appetite for more than one day
  • Loss of consciousness

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call, or check with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour emergency hotline.

Potential pet poisons

While any non-pet product or human food might make your pet sick, the following products are some of the most toxic—and even fatal—to pets:

  • Bleach
  • Household cleaners
  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Detergents
  • Antifreeze
  • All alcohol, including beer, wine, liquor, and hand sanitizer
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Fertilizer, including bone and blood meal
  • Most human medications, both over-the-counter and prescription
  • Mouse and rat poison, or a poisoned rodent
  • Caffeinated drinks, coffee beans, or tea leaves
  • Garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Xylitol sugar substitute, which is found in some brands of gum, toothpaste, candy, and nut butters
  • Mushrooms
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions
  • Plants
  • Nicotine, including vapes, cigarettes, and nicotine gum
  • Essential oils and potpourri
  • Cocoa bean mulch
  • Chocolate

Ingesting any plant or flower can potentially lead to illness, but the most deadly are sago palms, lilies, aloe, and azaleas. If you are unsure whether a plant your pet eats is toxic, check the ASPCA toxic and non-toxic plant database

Look around your house, yard, and garage to identify anything that might cause problems for your pet, and then store those items well away from curious noses and mouths. 

Pet poison prevention

It’s important to be on the lookout every day for items that could pose a risk to your pet. Safely storing potential toxins and supervising your pet closely are the best ways to keep them safe, but pets can be mischievous and get themselves into trouble, despite your best efforts. If your pet does ingest something dangerous, call the team at Town and Country Animal Hospital right away, or take them to the nearest emergency clinic. Try to bring any wrappers, ingredient lists, or packaging with you. Above all, don’t wait to seek treatment for your pet. 

As always, we want to help keep your pet healthy and happy for many years to come. Please contact us with any questions.