As pet owners, we want the very best for our furry friends, both feline and canine, and do our best to keep them happy and healthy via a balanced diet, routine veterinary appointments, and plenty of play and exercise.
But sometimes, best intentions can get in the way and simple oversights can be problematic when caring for our animals. Sometimes, even the most benevolent gesture, like a treat, can be dangerous – albeit completely unbeknownst to us.
Dr. Jerica Lugo, VMD, of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital has treated numerous patients who have accidentally encountered pet poison hazards in and around their homes. She regularly encourages all owners to reassess their surroundings, to put proper safeguards in place for curious animals.
Here, Dr. Lugo lists six common household pet poison hazards that you may not be aware of:
“One of the major toxins that a lot of people don’t realize is grapes,” says Dr. Lugo.
What makes grapes a formidable pet poison hazard – and a great unknown – is that, for some dogs, they’re completely harmless. Because of that, some pet owners will offer them to their pets as treats based on prior experiences.
“People will say, ‘Years ago, I had a dog and I fed them grapes – and they were fine,’” says Dr. Lugo. “But every dog is affected a little bit differently… A large dog can experience toxicity to a few grapes, while a smaller dog might not.”
Veterinarians believe that a particular type of acid in the fruit may be to blame, but they’re not sure why – or why it seems only to impact certain pets. But the bottom line is that even just a few grapes have led to kidney failure in many dogs.
For that reason, “we recommend no grapes for any dogs, across the board.”
Spring is approaching, and soon many families will be featuring a beautiful bouquet of white Easter lilies as a centerpiece on their dining room tables or mantles.
And as long as they’re not cat owners – that’s probably A-OK.
But lilies are also pet poison hazards that are particularly dangerous for kitties.
“The thing about cats is they’re very curious and they will frequently chew on plants that are available in the house,” says Dr. Lugo. “Lilies are particularly dangerous. Every single part of the plant is toxic to cats, and also results in kidney failure for our kitties.”
Dr. Lugo says that often, pet-owners will not realize that their lilies have even been chewed on. And sometimes – they haven’t.
“It may be that a cat brushed against the pollen and then licked it off of themselves,” she says. “So, I always tell people with kitties, ‘NO LILIES IN THE HOUSE.’ It’s just better to be safe and keep the plants outdoors, even if they were a gift. They’re just so, so toxic. And that’s for every kitty across the board.”
Medications – both for human ailments and animals – are yet another pet poison hazard pet-owners should be aware of and keep out of reach.
“When pets are in pain, many owners tend to give them Tylenol or Ibuprofen, because they know how it’s helped relieve their own pains in the past. But ibuprofen is actually incredibly toxic to pets. It can cause bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.”
The bottom line? Even if medication is safe for human consumption, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe for pets.
But that’s not all.
“Any medication, whether canine or human, can become toxic if a large quantity is ingested,” says Dr. Lugo. “Some medications prescribed for pets are flavored to encourage them to take it – but an inquisitive or curious pet might steal the bottle and eat all of the contents and get sick from something that is usually safe.”
Dr. Lugo’s advice is simple. When in doubt – call your veterinarian.
If your pet is in pain or showing symptoms of pain, phone your pet’s doctor – or the animal ER if your doctor isn’t available – and get that greenlight for a safe, animal-friendly pain relief medication.
And even then, be careful.
“Even if the medication is made for pets, if they ingest more than their recommended dose, be sure to call your vet,” Dr. Lugo says.
Different medications, she says, have different effects. If your dog or cat gets two pills instead of one, that may not be a big deal with one prescription – but might prove harmful with another.
“Call your doctor to find out right away if this is something that is toxic and concerning.”
Pesticides in general are a poison scare – and that means anything from mouse or rat poison to pesticides sprayed on the lawn to prevent ticks and other seasonal pests.
Dr. Lugo and the Doylestown team have seen many dogs who have ingested mouse, rat, or ant bait. Mouse and rat poisons, in particular, can be very deadly.
“People hide these traps in spaces they don’t think their pets can access.” Unfortunately, a lot of the time, these baits smell interesting. They’re meant to attract these pests, but dogs will be very interested – and motivated – in getting to them, as well.
“It’s best that you don’t put them inside of your property or anywhere your pet can reach them,” Dr. Lugo continues. “It’s advisable to have an exterminator or pest control to come and handle your pest problem in a way that is safer for your pets.”
It may sound silly or quirky that a pet could stumble upon someone’s stash of marijuana. But it’s very serious in terms of toxicity to our animals.
Dr. Lugo stresses that your vet is not present to pass judgment of any kind – their primary concern is your pet’s health.
“We as veterinarians don’t care what you do in your spare time,” she says. “But if these substances are kept at a level where your pet can reach and ingest them, they can get really, really sick.”
Many people don’t even think of marijuana as being a pet poison hazard because humans can ingest it without toxicity. Unfortunately, for our pets – it often causes neurologic symptoms and urinary problems.
“If you think your dog may have ingested something that they shouldn’t have – please definitely tell your veterinarian,” Dr. Lugo continues. “We’re not here to judge, we’re not the police, we’re not going to report you – we just want to know how best to take care of your pet. Marijuana is a toxin that we see more often than you’d think.”
Warmer weather is coming, and many pets may be allowed outside with their owners as they work on their cars.
But antifreeze and other automotive fluids – like oil, gasoline, brake fluid, and more – are incredibly toxic, as you might imagine.
Antifreeze also has a very sweet scent which is appealing to our pets.
“Even if you spill a small amount of antifreeze in the garage, it can cause significant kidney damage if your dog or cat happens to lick it,” says Dr. Lugo.
“Keep pets out of the garage while you’re working and make sure the workspace is clean before they come back in,” she says. Dogs may make great mechanics’ helpers – but they’ll do better by advising indoors, from the window.
Dr. Lugo adds that there are other more obvious pet poison hazards – like chocolate – that pet-owners have become increasingly aware of throughout the years. It’s the unknowns that remain a big problem. As always, when in doubt – ask your veterinarian. They’re ready to help you.