All pet parents want to keep their fur babies safe. So they may be shocked to learn their home can be a minefield of potential hazards that can cause severe harm or even death for their feline and canine family members. Cats and dogs are curious animals and tend to get into things, so nothing is foolproof. But there are some easy precautions that you can take to make it less likely that they will find something that they shouldn’t.
Most people know to keep chocolate hidden away from their pooches—it can be toxic to dogs and the APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) handles about 76 cases of chocolate exposure per day. But there’s a host of seemingly innocent items in your home that cause harm. In 2020 alone, the APCC helped more than 370,500 animals. So here’s what to keep out of paws’ reach and information on what to do if your pet is accidentally exposed to a toxin.
Crucial poison information
First things first: If you suspect your pet has ingested any poisonous substances, contact your veterinarian or call APCC’s hotline at 888-426-4435 immediately. You’ll need to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight, and health history, as well as what symptoms the animal is exhibiting. Symptoms of toxicity can vary depending on the hazard, amount consumed, size, and animal species.
Signs you may notice if your pet ingests something poisonous may be stomach upset, loss of coordination, increased or decreased urination, and seizures. All poison exposures and items cause different signs, but these are most commonly observed while others are more internal. Your vet or the APCC will ask about the product package, the strength of ingredients, and the amount your pet was exposed to, so having the product close at hand when you call is always a plus.
Danger No. 1: Human medicine
Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, vitamins, and supplements ranked as the top toxins in 2020 for the third year in a row, making up about 17% of APCC’s total case volume. Take all medications behind a closed door. Typically, it is recommended to take them in the bathroom with the bathroom door closed. That way if the pill is dropped, there will be time to search for it without having to worry about your pet finding it first. Other medications to keep locked up include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and prescriptions.
Danger No. 2: Edible hazards
Human foods made up 13% of 2020’s total toxicity cases at APCC, with most calls about grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute), onions, garlic, protein powder, and snack bars. Yeast dough is another danger. When eaten, yeast can rise in a pet’s moist, warm stomach and cause a dangerous gas accumulation. Beyond being painful, this may result in a bloated stomach or even a twisted stomach, known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, a serious medical emergency. In addition, the yeast can become fermented, thereby producing alcohol within the stomach that can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
And of course, there’s chocolate. Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine all contain substances called methylxanthines. These compounds are stimulants. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death. Other edible dangers to keep away from your pets include alcohol, avocado, leeks, chives, and macadamia nuts.
Danger No. 3: Non-Edible hazards
Most homeowners have toxic items lying around their garage and home. Think items such as antifreeze, insecticides and pesticides, pool chemicals, and lawn fertilizer—all of which can be a significant hazard to your pets. Keep all pesticides and cleaners in high cabinets fortified with a childproof lock. Be aware that childproof rat poison containers are not pet-proof and that dogs especially can and will chew into them. Additionally, mice and rats will move blocks of rodent poisons. So they can end up in areas that are accessible to pets, even if they weren’t placed in areas that pets can get into initially. Non-edible items also include personal care products. Keep toothpaste, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and fabric softener sheets out of snout’s reach.
Danger No. 4: Plants and flowers
Consumption of plants and flowers inside and outside the home may cause vomiting and gastrointestinal upset for dogs and cats. The APCC received 9,000 more calls in 2020 than the previous year for pet plant consumption. All plants and flowers should be kept out of reach from your pet to avoid broken glass or pottery, giving them access to potentially contaminated water. And eating that actual plant or flower, which could cause stomach upset or even be toxic. Instead, feature nontoxic plants in your home such as African violets, bamboo, roses, or spider plants.
Danger No. 5: Household hazards
Holiday decorations also present a danger to our furry friends. Puppies and inquisitive dogs can chew on electric cords, putting them at risk of serious burns or electric shock. Pet-proof your home just as you would childproof it for a toddler. It is also recommended to tour the house at your pet’s level to spot and remove any potential temptations from their view.