The holidays are upon us, which means a lot more cleaning, cooking and company. During this hectic time, people have a number of standard household cleaning and cooking items left out, open and more readily accessible to the family pet–items that may be harmful or even fatal if ingested.
By being aware of the danger these substances present and knowing what to do in an emergency, pet owners can ensure safe and happy holidays for the entire family.
For example, many people are winterizing cars for holiday travel. Automotive substances such as oil, gasoline and especially antifreeze, should be stored properly and safely away from curious pets since a teaspoon of antifreeze can be fatal to cats and dogs.
Veterinarians at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital offer the following recommendations to help keep your pets safe from poisonous substances and what to do in case of an accidental poisoning.
While these tips were prepared as a holiday reminder, they are applicable year-round to keep animals safe from harm.
Keep Your Home Poison-Safe for your Pets
All pets are curious and can’t resist investigating anything that may pique their interest. Unfortunately, households contain many dangerous substances like cleaning products, pesticides and medications that could prove fatal for curious pets. Just as new parents need to "baby-proof" their home, pet-owning families need to be aware of potential poisons and know what to do if a poison emergency arises.
- Be aware that many plants-in home or yard–are potentially toxic to animals. Holiday plants, such as poinsettias, can cause nausea if pets eat them. Others, like Easter lilies, are extremely toxic and should be kept in places inaccessible to pets.
- Pet-proof the area where cleaning agents are used or stored. Cats especially like to crawl into dark cabinets that are usually off limits. Know what cleaning products you have and what the warning label recommends in case of accidental poisoning. This information could be vital to your veterinarian.
- Store rat or mouse poison, ant or roach traps or snail and slug bait in secure areas. These products contain sweet smelling, inert ingredients such as jelly, peanut butter and sugars which pets love. The poisons are also sweet, making them even more tempting. If a pet gets into these poisons, call your veterinarian immediately.
- Never give your animal any medications unless under the directions of a veterinarian. Many medications that are safe for humans can be deadly when given to pets. Keep all prescription and over-the-counter drugs in closed or locked cabinets. Pain-killers, cold medicines, antidepressants, vitamins and diet pills are examples of human medications that can be lethal, even in small doses.
- Never leave chocolates where your pet could get them. One half ounce or less of baking chocolate per pound of body weight can be fatal. Even small amounts of boxed milk chocolate candies can cause pancreatic problems.
- Onions, whether cooked, raw, powdered or dehydrated, can be harmful to your pet. This product splices red blood cells, making them unable to supply the amount of oxygen needed. The minimum toxic dose varies, depending on the animal’s size and sensitivity. Owners often notice the damage when the red blood cells are eliminated in the pet’s urine, turning it bright red in color.
- Miscellaneous items that are highly toxic to animals, even in small amounts, include: ? pennies ?mothballs (one or two can be life-threatening in most species) ?potpourri oils ?fabric softener sheets ?automatic dish detergents ? batteries ?homemade play dough ?winter heat source agents like hand or foot warmers ?cigarettes ?coffee grounds ?alcoholic drinks.
- Automotive products such as oil, gasoline, and antifreeze, should be stored properly. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be deadly in a seven pound cat. Antifreeze tastes sweet, so dogs will quickly ingest lethal quantities if allowed access.
- Before using any flea product on your pet or in your home, contact your veterinarian. Read ALL information and always follow label instructions. When a product is labeled "for use on dogs only," NEVER use it on cats. Also, when using a fogger or a house spray, keep all pets and children away from the area for the time specified on the label. If uncertain about the safe use of any product, contact the manufacturer or your veterinarian BEFORE using the product.
- When treating your lawn or garden with fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides, at any time of the year, keep your animals away from the area until it has completely dried. Contact the manufacturer or your veterinarian with any questions about danger to pets. Always store these products where pets cannot reach them.
If you think your pet might have become poisoned:
- Call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary facility as soon as possible.
- If you aren’t sure if the ingested substance is poisonous, call your veterinarian or the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center at 1-800-332-3073.
- Observe your pet for symptoms which may include vomiting, diarrhea, unusual drooling, burns or irritations around the mouth, difficulty breathing, unusual behavior, unconsciousness or convulsions. If any of these symptoms are evident, seek immediate veterinary care.
- If possible, identify the substance and how much of it was ingested. Look at the product label for pertinent information. Take the product with you to the emergency veterinary facility.
- It is very important not to induce vomiting if you suspect your pet has swallowed a caustic substance. Your veterinarian will induce vomiting if necessary.
- Speed is crucial! The faster you get your animal to the vet, the faster treatment can begin. The veterinarian can induce vomiting and pump the stomach, administer activated charcoal to keep the poison from entering the blood stream and provide intensive care to speed its removal from the system. But, remember, these treatments are complex and should only be done by a professional with access to necessary medications and supplies.