Poisons and Hazards: Safeguard your Pet

Every home contains a variety of everyday items and substances that can be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by dogs and cats. You can protect your pet’s health by becoming aware of the most common health hazards found in many pet-owning households.

You may be surprised at how many potential pet hazards exist around your home and even in your car.

Christmas, fireworks, heat stress, storms and snakes can all be very dangerous to pets. Many common household items such as food, medicines and plants can also be fatally toxic. Because of this, it is very important to familiarise yourself with commonly found poisons and to ensure these are not kept within reach of your much-loved animals.

Hazards to Cats

You can read all about the hazards to cats that you might find in your home or garden. Remember that outdoor pets could come into contact with and be harmed by something you are not familiar with.

Dangers Dogs encounter

Below is a list of hazards that your dogmay encounter within the home or garden. Different seasons in the year can present a totally different array of dangers.

Hazards to Cats
Hazards to Dogs

Hazards to Cats

Your cat is curious, sticking his nose into random places. But his exploration may expose him to some not-so-obvious dangers in your home. It just takes a bit of time and know-how to “cat-proof” your house so your kitty stays healthy and safe.

Human Medicines

Some human over-the-counter and prescription medicines pose serious threats to cats, so keep them in a place he can’t get into, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Cancer medicines
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Pain relievers (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen)
  • Vitamins and other supplements

You may have heard that some common medicines work for people and cats. Never give your pet any pills without first talking to your vet, though – it’s easy to give him the wrong medicine or too much, which can kill him.

Human Foods

Your kitty may beg when you sit down to eat (or try to steal some bites when you’re not looking), but some human foods can be poisonous for him, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (coffee, pop, tea)
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Raisins
  • Xylitol (found in toothpaste)
  • Yeast dough

More Household Hazards

Watch out for common household items that can choke or strangle your cat. Some may even block his intestines if he swallows them.

  • Chicken bones
  • Dental floss, yarn, or string
  • Holiday decorations, including lights and tinsel
  • Toys with small or movable parts

Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Common houseplants – and a few others that you may bring into your home can be hazardous to your cat’s health, including the following:

  • Aloe
  • Azalea
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Hyacinths
  • Lily
  • Marijuana
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettia
  • Rhododendron
  • Tulip

Insecticides and Chemicals

Some chemicals taste especially good to cats. To keep him safe, keep any chemicals locked away, especially:

  • Antifreeze
  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • De-icing salts (which pets may walk through, then lick from their pads)
  • Dog flea and tick medication (pills, collars, spoot-on flea treatments, sprays, shampoos)
  • Fertilizers
  • Herbicides
  • Insect and rodent bait

Hazards to Dogs

Each year, there are almost 68,000 cases of pet poisoning in the UK. Many of these were caused by household substances that may seem perfectly harmless to you. But just because something is safe for people doesn’t mean it won’t hurt beloved pets. Some of the most dangerous dog poisons are foods and medications we take on a daily basis.

Depending on how a particular substance affects your dog’s body and how much was ingested or inhaled, pet poisoning symptoms can include gastrointestinal and neurological problems, cardiac and respiratory distress, coma, and even death.

Human Medicines

Some human over-the-counter and prescription medicines pose serious threats to dogs, so keep them in a place he can’t get into, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Cancer medicines
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Pain relievers (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen)
  • Vitamins and other supplements

You may have heard that some common medicines work for people and dogs. Never give your pet any pills without first talking to your vet, though – it’s easy to give him the wrong medicine or too much, which can kill him.

Human Foods

Your canine companion may look so cute as he sits there begging for a bite of your chocolate cake or a chip covered in guacamole, but not giving him what he wants could save his life. Animals have different metabolisms than people. Some foods, such as onions and garlic, as well as beverages that are perfectly safe for people can be dangerous, and sometimes fatal, for dogs.

  • Alcohol. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in animals are similar to those in people, and may include vomiting, breathing problems, coma and, in severe cases, death.
  • Avocado. You might think of them as healthy, but avocados have a substance called persin that can act as a dog poison, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Macadamia nuts. Dogs may suffer from a series of symptoms, including weakness, overheating, and vomiting, after consumption of macadamia.
  • Grapes and raisins. Experts aren’t sure why, but these fruits can induce kidney failure in dogs. Even a small number may cause problems in some dogs.
  • Xylitol. This sweetener is found in many products, including sugar-free gum, toothpaste and sweets. It causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, resulting in weakness and seizures. Liver failure also has been reported in some dogs.
    Other foods you should keep away from your pet include tomatoes, mushrooms and most seeds and nuts

Chocolate and Cocoa

Though not harmful to people, chocolate products contain substances called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting in small doses, and death if ingested in larger quantities. Darker chocolate contains more of these dangerous substances than do white or milk chocolate.

The amount of chocolate that could result in death depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog. For smaller breeds, just half an ounce of baking chocolate can be fatal, while a larger dog might survive eating 4 ounces to 8 ounces, though 8 ounces would be extremely dangerous. Coffee and caffeine have similarly dangerous chemicals.

More Household Hazards

Watch out for common household items that can choke or strangle your cat. Some may even block his intestines if he swallows them.

  • Chicken bones
  • Dental floss, yarn, or string
  • Holiday decorations, including lights and tinsel
  • Toys with small or movable parts

Veterinary Products

Sounds a bit daft but this includes medications as well as flea and tick treatments. Just as we can be sickened or killed by medications intended to help us, cases of pet poisoning by veterinary drugs are not uncommon. Some of the more commonly reported problem medications include painkillers and de-wormers. And you may think you’re doing your dog a favor when you apply products marketed to fight fleas and ticks, but thousands of animals are unintentionally poisoned by these products every year. Problems can occur if dogs accidentally ingest these products or if small dogs receive excessive amounts. Talk to your vet about safe OTC products.

Indoor and Outdoor Plants

Common houseplants – and a few others that you may bring into your home can be hazardous to your cat’s health, including the following:

  • Aloe
  • Azalea
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Hyacinths
  • Lily
  • Daffodil
  • Marijuana
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettia
  • Rhododendron
  • Tulip
  • Sago Palm

Insecticides and Chemicals

Some chemicals taste especially good to cats. To keep him safe, keep any chemicals locked away, especially:

  • Antifreeze
  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • De-icing salts (which pets may walk through, then lick from their pads)
  • Dog flea and tick medication (pills, collars, spoot-on flea treatments, sprays, shampoos)
  • Fertilizers
  • Herbicides
  • Insect and rodent bait

Rodenticides

Unfortunately, many baits used to lure and kill rodents can also look tasty to our pets. If ingested by dogs, they can cause severe problems. The symptoms depend on the nature of the poison, and signs may not start for several days after consumption. In some instances, the dog may have eaten the poisoned rodent, and not been directly exposed to the toxin.

Poison Protection: Pet-proof your home

The best way to reduce the chances that your dog will be the victim of pet poisoning is by preventing exposure to dangerous substances. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep all medications, even those in child-proof bottles, in cabinets that are inaccessible to your dog. If you inadvertently drop a pill on the floor, be sure to look for it immediately. Supervise anyone, such as the elderly, who may need help taking medications.
  • Always follow guidelines on flea or tick products.
  • Although you can safely give some ”people foods” to your pet as a treat, others are toxic. If you have any questions about what is safe, ask your veterinarian. Or, err on the safe side and give treats made specifically for animals.
  • Be sure any rodenticides you use are kept in metal cabinets or high on shelves where your pets can’t find them. Remember that dogs can be fatally poisoned by eating an exposed rodent, so always be very cautious about using these products. Tell your neighbors if you put out rat bait, so they can protect their pets from exposure, and ask them to do the same for you.
  • When buying plants for your home, opt for those that won’t cause problems if your dog happens to nibble on them. The ASPCA has an online list of toxic and nontoxic plants by species. If you choose to have toxic plants, be sure they are kept in a place where your animals can’t reach them.
  • Store all chemicals and cleaners in pet-inaccessible areas of your home.

Top 10 Christmas Hazards: Be aware!

  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine, a bit like caffeine, which, while tasty, is severely poisonous to cats and dogs.
  • Mince Pies and Christmas Puddings. All grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas are toxic to dogs; as are foods that contain them – which means no mince pies for your pooch, we’re afraid.
  • Blue Cheese. While delicious to us, blue cheese contains a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs are extremely sensitive to.
  • Tinsel. While it might look like a lot of fun to play with, tinsel can cause dangerous blockages in an animal’s stomach.
  • Macadamia nuts. Often lurking in biscuits or eaten as a decadent Christmas snack, these nuts cause severe illness in dogs.
  • Garlic, chives and onion. Found in many festive foods like gravy, stuffing and sausages, all Allium species are poisonous to dogs.
  • Snow Globes. Imported versions can contain antifreeze – as little as one tablespoon can be fatal for a cat.
  • Candles. They may create a cosy atmosphere, but candle flames can burn paws and the curious noses of furry friends. There’s also risk of them falling over when brushed against.
  • Fairy Lights. Cats are curious and will try to chew on anything, including fairy lights – which can burn and even electrocute them.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol can cause severe liver and brain damage in animals. As little as a tablespoon can lead to problems for your cat or dog.

Get your pet to a vet

If you’re away from home, go to the nearest vet in an emergency. We are not fussed if you don’t come to us, just get your pet the help they require.

It’s best to ring ahead so the vet you choose can prepare for an emergency case. This will also help you to determine if they are open or not.

Give your pet first aid

Constantly reassure your pet that they are ok, talk to them or hold them if possible. If you can’t try to make their transit as calm as you can.

Giving your pet first aid treatment on the way to the vets is important, you may be the one that makes the vital difference as to whether they recover or not.

If the vets are closed

Always call your vet in any emergency situation. If your vet’s closed, you can still get out-of-hours help. All vet practices provide an out-of-hours service for emergency cases.

You may be directed to another vet surgery, but this will be within an hour’s drive of your usual vet.

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