There’s no place like home, right? Home is where our families and pets feel safe, comfortable, and at ease. But, lurking behind your cabinets, in the garage, and in your garden are a host of harmful toxins that could sabotage your pet. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), “more than 90 percent of pet poisonings occur in our homes.” This is a staggering statistic that we can change with some careful attention to pet-proofing. Consider a few of the following potential poisons in your home and how you can prevent toxicity from affecting your pet.
In the house
Most households harbor some kind of medication, whether it be over-the-counter pain-killers or prescription anti-depressants. In 2017, human medications topped the list of the most common pet poisonings reported to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). Given the multitude of medications available, countless toxicities can affect your pet. Keep all medications out of nose’s reach to eliminate ingestion risk. Remember that the term “child proof” is meaningless to a pet who is able to chew open a plastic container.
Many human foods can be extremely toxic to animals. In fact, 10.9% of the ASPCA-APCC cases in 2017 were related to toxins in foods, many used every day. Use caution when preparing or eating foods with the following ingredients and consider purchasing substitutes whenever possible.
- Xylitol — This sugar substitute is common in chewing gum, baked goods, and certain kinds of toothpaste.
- Grapes or raisins — These are extremely dangerous, because the toxic dose is unknown. Even one piece of fruit can be detrimental.
- Chocolate, especially baking chocolate — Typically, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.
- Garlic and onions — These foods can lead to life-threatening anemia. Garlic is more potent than onions. Cats may be more susceptible to this toxicity.
- Avocados — Larger breed animals, such as cows and goats, and birds are more susceptible to an avocado’s toxic effects.
- Yeast dough — A warm stomach is the perfect environment for yeast to rise, until it causes severe effects such as gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV, or bloat).
- Macadamia nuts — Ingesting these nuts can cause muscle and nerve malfunction, although the toxic mechanism is not known.
In the garage
Ethylene glycol is a sweet-tasting chemical found in many automotive liquid products, such as antifreeze/coolant, windshield de-icer, motor oil, or brake fluid, that lures animals to drink. Unfortunately, even a small dose of this chemical is highly toxic and can cause acute kidney failure in dogs and cats. Consider replacing your ethylene glycol liquids with products containing propylene glycol, many of which are labeled “pet safe,” since they are much safer than ethylene glycol.
Rodenticides, which are commonly used to control mice or rat infestations in homes or garages, use different action mechanisms. These products are intended to kill small rodents and can be extremely hazardous to our pets, if ingested. Pets can suffer the toxic effects of these products either by ingesting the poison, or by consuming a rodent who has ingested the poison. If you have pets, consider refraining from using rodenticides in your home.
In the garden
Modern-day gardening brings a host of readily available products to deter insects, weeds, or other pests. Fortunately, the use of some harmful insecticides, such as organophosphates and carbamates, and herbicides, such as paraquat, is decreasing; however, many products are still widely used and can be dangerous to our pets. Try to refrain from using these products on your lawn where your furry friends play, but if you absolutely must use them, ensure that you wait the suggested amount of time after application before allowing your pets onto the treated areas.
Many popular garden plants are potentially toxic to animals if ingested, sometimes in only small amounts. Here are a few common plants that can be toxic to our pets.
- Lily species, especially Lilium sp and Hemerocallis sp. — Lilies are particularly dangerous to cats, and small amounts can cause severe acute kidney failure.
- Oleander, foxglove, and milkweed — These all contain cardiac glycosides (i.e., poisons) and are toxic to many species, including humans.
- Sago palms and rhododendron species (e.g., azaleas) — Ingestion can cause various conditions, including those affecting the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or nervous systems.
While ridding your garden of all potentially toxic plants may be difficult, understanding the risks they pose to your dogs and cats is important. If you are planning your landscaping, be mindful of toxic plants and choose safer alternatives, if possible.
Just as many of us child-proof our homes to make them as safe as possible, we must also pet-proof our environment. Dogs and cats can be notably mischievous, so ensure that all potential toxins are out of nose and paw’s reach. If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxin, call the Pet Poison Helpline or contact us right away.