March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month—that’s quite the mouthful! However, coming up with a catchy name for a serious topic, such as this, is challenging. You may believe your furry pal is immune to toxicity, because you are a responsible pet owner. However, this thought has likely also crossed the mind of countless other responsible pet owners who endured fear, guilt, and sadness after their furry pals accidentally ingested poison. The truth is, you do your best to be a responsible pet owner, but accidents still occur. You can’t keep your pet safe from every potential danger, but you can learn to better protect them. To jumpstart the conversation about this serious topic, our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team is sharing information about common pet toxins—some with which you may already be familiar, and others that may be new to you—to help you learn how to protect your pet from being poisoned and to encourage you to provide these details to your pet-loving family and friends. 

Pet toxin #1: Over-the-counter medications

You are likely aware that you should not share your prescription medications with your pet. However, over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also be toxic to your pet. OTC pain relievers’ sweet coatings make them easier for people to swallow, and extra appealing to pets. Many people keep these medications in convenient places, such as in backpacks, purses, and unsecured cabinets, where curious pets—thinking these pills are tasty treats—can sniff them out and  gobble them up. In addition, many a pet owner has mistakenly given their furry pal OTC pain medications, such as ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which has caused their pet’s death. 

Safety tips —Help prevent your pet from being poisoned by storing all medications in securely closed cabinets, and keeping backpacks and purses off the floor and out of your furry pal’s reach. 

Pet toxin #2: Fabric softener dryer sheets

Another common pet poisoning hazard is lurking in your laundry basket. You may think an inconspicuous item, such as a dryer sheet, is harmless, but these static reducers are quite dangerous for pets. Often made from synthetic materials, dryer sheets can cause gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction if your pet ingests one. In addition, these items are coated with chemicals that help disperse static cling, and can be toxic to pets. Pets are attracted to dryer sheets’ sweet fragrance, but if they ingest one, the chemicals can irritate your pet’s skin, mucous membranes, and stomach lining. In some cases, these chemicals can also cause lung damage, central nervous system (CNS) depression, and acute kidney disease. 

Safety tips — Store all laundry products in a locked or pet-proof cabinet. If you suspect your pet has eaten a dryer sheet, contact Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital immediately, and do not induce vomiting. 

Pet toxin #3: Batteries

Batteries are found almost everywhere in homes, and if your pet ingests a battery, they can become seriously ill. When punctured, alkaline batteries leak a substance that can burn your pet’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach. While burns may occur within one to two hours, the full extent of your pet’s injury or complications may not become apparent for 24 hours.

Safety tips — Store batteries out of your pet’s reach, and check electronics regularly to ensure the batteries cannot fall out easily. 

Pet toxin #4: Sugar-free products 

Sugar-free gums, candies, and mints contain xylitol—a sugar substitute that is extremely toxic to pets, especially dogs. In addition to sugar-free gums and candies, xylitol is often an ingredient in products such as toothpaste, chewable vitamins, and mouthwash. When a dog ingests xylitol, their pancreas responds by releasing an abundance of insulin, which causes their blood sugar to drop below the normal range (i.e., hypoglycemia). Xylitol ingestion can also damage the liver, and severely affected dogs may experience acute (i.e., sudden) liver failure. 

Safety tips — To help prevent your pet from ingesting xylitol—as well as other potentially harmful ingredients—avoid sharing your food with your pet, discard table scraps immediately after a meal, and ensure your trash can is secure. 

Accidental poisoning is every pet owner’s worst nightmare, and by spreading the word about common pet toxins, you may help save the life of a loved one’s pet. However, accidents still happen, and if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, immediately contact our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team or the Pet Poison Helpline.