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Pet Poison: Chemicals in your Household That Are Harmful to Your Furry Friends

The thought of your pet eating something poisonous to them can be terrifying. In situations like that it’s better to act quickly than to wait. The first step is to confirm if what your pet has consumed is in fact poisonous. A great way to find out and speak to an expert is to call the number below:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Number 1-888-426-4435

To ensure your pet doesn’t eat anything toxic in the future, the best way to do that is to not have any poisonous items out in the home for them to actually consume. Below is a list of chemicals and what they are found that should be hidden or far away from your pets: 

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and other aspirin free pain medications)

Can be toxic to both dogs and cats but cats are the most significantly affected and can have severe changes to the red blood cells (methemoglobinemia) that can result in brown/blue mucous membranes (gums). Cats can also have severe facial and paw swelling due to acetaminophen ingestion.

2. Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)

This is a very serious ingestion to both dogs and cats and can be fatal. It can cause a drunken gait and abnormal mental status as well as gastrointestinal signs initially, then the patient can appear normal after that. Unfortunately, the next stage is acute kidney failure, which can be fatal without hemodialysis. If there is any suspicion of this ingestion, your pet must be evaluated immediately.

3. Aspirin

Although dogs and cats can tolerate low doses of aspirin they are highly susceptible to gastrointestinal ulceration, bleeding, and perforation of ulcers. Do not use this drug without direct order from your veterinarian

4. Batteries

Ingestion of the whole battery as well as chewing on batteries can lead to clinical signs including pain, hypersalivation, oral inflammation and ulceration, vomiting, anorexia, and gastrointestinal ulceration and or bleeding due to battery acid exposure. X-rays should be taken to see if there are battery parts in the GI tract. Seek veterinary attention if there is suspicion of battery ingestion.

5. Cleaning agents and liquid Potpourri

There are many categories of cleaning agents including caustic agents (alkaline or acidic), irritants, alkalis and acids. Clinical signs can include skin irritation, oral ulcerations (from grooming or ingestion), corneal erosions and ulcer, irritation of the eye, excessive salivation, vomiting, bloody vomit and diarrhea, and difficult breathing due to inflammation of the upper airway. Decontamination and supportive care is often needed.

6. Cigarette Ingestion

Tobacco products contain nicotine. Cigarettes and cigars have varying degrees of nicotine in them. The butts themselves contain 25% of the total nicotine. Clinical signs develop quickly (15-30 minutes) and include hyperexcitablity, hypersalivation, fast breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting. Muscle weakness, twitching, collapse, coma, and death can occur at high enough doses. Animals seen ingesting any tobacco products or even several cigarette or cigar butts should present to a veterinarian for medical care and decontamination.

7. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve) Ingestion (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory or NSAID)

Ibuprofen is an over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that is commonly used for aches and pains in people. Ingestion of even small amounts of ibuprofen or naproxen can lead to vomiting and diarrhea as well as gastric ulceration, bleeding and intestinal perforation. At high enough concentrations it can cause permanent kidney damage and affect the central nervous system leading to seizures, inability to walk, coma and death.

Cats are twice as sensitive as dogs are due to a lack of an enzyme to help digest the medication.

Treatment of the patient includes decontamination through emesis (inducing vomiting), prevention and treatment of gastric ulceration, renal failure and CNS effects. Common therapies will include giving activated charcoal, gastrointestinal protectants such as omeprazole, carafate, misoprostol, and IV fluid therapy. Blood will also be monitored to check kidney function as well.

The prognosis is good if the patient is treated immediately after ingestion.

8. Lead

Lead can be found in paint in older homes. Pets who live in these homes who have been seen eating paint chips or scratching at paint are suspected to be exposed.

Clinical signs include vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, anorexia, abdominal pain, seizures, dementia and/or blindness. Other more subtle signs are possible.

9. Marijuana

Marijuana can affect dogs and cats. The exposure is not dose-dependent as the amount of THC is not generally provided in recreational marijuana (though can be found with medical marijuana). Clinical symptoms include hypersensitivity and hyper-reactivity (flinching). Other clinical signs include tremors, swaying, ataxia (drunken gait), dilated pupils, and leaking urine. Pets can generally recover well from this toxicity but knowledge or suspicion of the toxin exposure is paramount to diagnosis. Urine drug screening can be variably positive, as dogs and cats excrete different metabolites than are identified in the human tests that are 

10. Moth balls

Naphthalene is the most dangerous type. Toxicity has been reported after just one moth ball ingestion

Clinical signs include vomiting, anemia, changes in urine color, lethargy and seizures. Hepatitis can occur 3 to 5 days after exposure as well as kidney failure. Seizures and coma can result as well.

11. Prescription Medication

If your pet ingests more than the prescribed dose of their own prescription medication or if they ingest yours or a family member’s prescription medication, please seek medical attention. Contact your primary veterinarian, or if after hours contact an emergency facility and call animal poison control.

12. Rodenticide (rat poison)

Intoxication with various substances intended for killing rodents is a common problem in dogs and sometimes cats. There are many products available, but most fall into one of three categories, based on the mechanism of action.

Those that inhibit the function of vitamin K (vitamin K antagonists) are the most common culprits. The other two categories are calcifying substances and uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation. Immediate veterinary attention should always be sought as soon as possible, even if ingestion is only partially suspected. If caught early enough, vomiting can be induced and prevent systemic absorption. Typically vomitus from dogs that have ingested one of these compounds is bright blue-green in color.

For the vitamin K antagonists, there is a 2-7 day lag period between ingestion and the onset of bleeding, varying between compounds (warfarin, diphacinone, brodifacoum and bromadiolone). Treatment generally consists of decontamination via emesis (inducing vomiting) and administration of activated charcoal to bind to any toxin remaining in the intestinal tract. Administration of vitamin K orally at home for 30 days is often recommended. Repeat blood clotting (coagulation) testing is done 48 hours after discontinuing vitamin K administration. Prognosis for this type of exposure is generally good.

If your pet has signs of internal bleeding such as pale gums, labored breathing, abdominal distension, or weakness, he or she may require inpatient care and may need a blood transfusion and injectable vitamin K. If this is the case, prognosis is variable.

Cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3 products increase blood calcium concentrations much higher than normal. The calcium then deposits in various tissues, disrupting normal function. The major organs damaged are the kidneys, intestines and liver. Signs of renal and liver failure and GI signs begin to be seen 24-48 hours after ingestion.

The uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation (active ingredient Bromethalin) inhibit cellular respiration. At higher doses, the body system usually affected first is the central nervous system. Thus, the first clinical signs seen include severe excitation, tremoring and/or seizuring. At lower doses, lethargy, depression, gastrointestinal signs and anorexia predominate. Death occurs with low doses as well as high, especially if low dose exposure occurs repeatedly. Cats are reportedly more sensitive than dogs. Either species however must be treated as an emergency. Death ensues from respiratory muscle failure.

There are no known antidotes for Bromethalin. Treatment is primarily supportive: control of swelling in the brain, oxygen supplementation or ventilation if complete respiratory failure and control of seizures. The overall prognosis is poor without prolonged intensive care.

13. Toilet Tank Drop Ins/Toilet water

The drop in products often are made of a corrosive cleaning agent. Due to the dilution of the toxin in the toilet tank and bowl the concentration is usually not very high. Typical clinical signs include gastrointestinal irritation which could include vomiting and diarrhea