In a toxic world, pets are even more vulnerable than we are

Toxins in the Doghouse

Poison Prevention Week 2010 has come and gone. It ended this past Saturday.

No matter. It’s not like we missed a big Poison Prevention party with Oprah-style prizes and a fireworks display.

Whatever was important about poison prevention last week is just as important this week because we live every day of our lives in a toxic world. In fact, a quick look around the Poison Prevention website (, is downright scary.

For instance, you’ll find that poisoning is one of the leading causes of death in children and adults. And more than 90 percent of the 2 million reported poisonings in the U.S. every year occur in the home.

That’s not too surprising when you consider the many ways we’re exposed to poisonous agents such as medicines, lead, mercury, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, household cleaning materials, solvents, aerosol chemicals, and air fresheners (those sweet aromas are usually wrapped in synthetic chemicals).

Of course, poison prevention isn’t just a human issue. In fact, our animal friends are even more vulnerable than we are.

Gum, chocolates, flowers…

Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) was one of the organizations that observed last week’s poison awareness campaign.

Pet owners and veterinarians can call on PPH experts 24 hours a day for advice in treating just about any species of animal for just about any type of poisoning. But before you call, you can refer to these items from the PPH list of the most common pet toxins.

This sweetener, used in sugarless gum, candy, and desserts, is actually beneficial to humans–it’s been shown to help prevent tooth decay. But xylitol is quite toxic to dogs. As I’ve mentioned before, the ASPCA reports that dogs experience a sharp drop in blood sugar just a few minutes after consuming xylitol. This prompts lethargy, vomiting, seizures, and even liver failure. Immediate attention is required.

Most people are aware that chocolate is dangerous for dogs. Very small amounts of milk chocolate are not a problem. But baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate can be quite toxic, prompting vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and even death. Candy wrappers can cause additional problems if consumed–especially in small dogs.

Certain types of lilies can be toxic to cats. When lily petals, leaves, or pollen are eaten, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur.

No surprise here–cats, dogs and other pets will suffer toxic harm by ingesting just about any fertilizer or pesticide. Fertilizers are gastrointestinal irritants and may contain other toxic chemicals. Among pesticides, ingestion of rodent, snail, and slug baits can cause brain swelling, kidney failure, and death.

In general, keep medicines away from pets. Specifically, NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and antidepressants can cause big problems, including liver failure, kidney failure, and death.

And one seasonal note: Cats love to play with plastic “grass” in Easter baskets. But it can be very harmful if swallowed.

You can find more information about the best ways to avoid pet poisoning on the website for Pet Poison Helpline–

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

“Pet Poison Hotline: Most Common Items that Put Pets at Risk” News release from Pet Poison Helpline, 3/1/0/10,

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