Have you taken inventory of your medicine cabinets lately? Now that summer lawn and garden care is in full swing, are you properly storing pesticide containers? When you tidy up around the house, do you put food, liquor, and tobacco products safely out of harm's way? These precautions are second nature to households with children, but homes with animals must be just as secure. Let's tour a typical home and see what we find.
If you suspect your animal may have ingested any of the substances on this list or if you pet shows any of the symptoms indicated below, you should consider the situation a medical emergency and should contact your veterinarian immediately. Be sure to bring any containers or the remains of any substance you think your pet may have swallowed with you.
Organophosphates, identified as malathion, diazinon, and fenthion, and carbamates, most commonly known as carbaryl and carbofuran, are neurological poisons found in lawn and garden pesticides and flea and tick products. Signs of toxicity include apprehension, excessive salivation, urination, defecation, vomiting and diarrhea, and pinpoint pupils. If an animal has absorbed enough of any neurological toxin, sudden death may be the only sign.
Pyrethrins and pyrethroids, both natural and synthetic, are also neurological poisons. Natural names include pyrethrin I and II. Synthetic compounds include allethrin, resmethrin, and permethrin. They are found in insecticidal aerosols, dips, shampoos, and house and garden products. Signs of ingestion include excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and hyperexcitability or depression.
Coumarins, most recognizable as D-Conj, a rat and mouse poison, affect the ability of the blood to clot. Mice that consume the poisoned grain essentially bleed to death. Your pets will be affected the same way, and the severity of the symptoms often depends on the amount ingested. Even cats that eat poisoned mice can become ill. If you find an empty box, look for labored breathing, anorexia, nosebleeds, bloody urine or feces, and pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums.
Tobacco products cause excitement, salivation, vomiting, muscle weakness, and coma or death, and the toxic effects can develop within minutes. Marijuana causes involuntary muscle movements, depression or excitability, trembling, and salivation. Large amounts can be fatal.
Aspirin and other pain relievers are in every home, and these poisonings can be severe. When aspirin is prescribed for animals, the dosage must be strictly followed. Too much aspirin can lead to anemia and gastric hemorrhage. Ibuprofen and naproxen will cause painful gastrointestinal problems. One 200mg ibuprofen tablet is toxic to a small dog.
Never give acetaminophen to a cat or dog. In cats the drug affects oxygen in the blood, and it produces severe depression and abdominal pain in dogs. If not quickly eliminated from the body, just two extra-strength tablets in 24 hours will most likely kill a small pet. Clinical signs in cats develop within one or two hours and include excessive salivation, paw and facial swelling, depression, and ash-gray gums. In dogs watch for anorexia, vomiting, depression, and abdominal pain. High doses are usually fatal.
Garbage is not often regarded as poisonous. After all, many animals find compost attractive. But toxins are produced by bacteria fermenting the garbage. Rapid and severe signs include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, painful abdominal distention, shivering, shock, and collapse.
How should pets be protected from these poisons? Here are some very simple rules to follow:
What is poisonous?
- Properly dispose of and store all pesticide containers up and out of sight of your pets. Make sure the lids are tight, the containers undamaged.
- Use cords or locking lids for garbage cans. Put them in a heavy frame to prevent knock-down.
- Keep pets off lawns sprayed with chemicals. Consult with the lawn care company for proper information on drying time and compounds used. Wash pets' feet with mild soap and water if exposed.
- Keep your pets out of vegetable and flower gardens.
- Encase compost piles or use commercially made containers.
- Never assume that a human drug is applicable to an animal unless a veterinarian instructs you to use it.
Here is a quick reference guide to the more common house and garden plants and foods that are toxic to most all animals and children. If you have these plants or foods, you need not dispose of them-just keep them away from pets and children.
C = cardiovascular toxin
GI = gastrointestinal toxin
R = respiratory toxin
N = neurological toxin
KO = kidney/organ failure
* = Substance is especially dangerous and can be fatal.
Content provided by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Visit the AAHA pet owner Web site at www.healthypet.com for more pet care advice and to find an AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital near you.