Tips for avoiding common toxins, and keeping our pets safe


Tulips are among the most commonly reported toxic plants eaten by pets. Photo: 123rf

National Poison Prevention Week (in the United States) was established to raise awareness, reduce unintentional poisoning, and promote poison prevention. These safety goals apply to adults, children, and pets.

Many of us know that household cleaners and garden chemicals are toxic, but it’s important to realise that everyday items such as medications, certain foods, and plants can also make our pets sick.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation provides tips on how to check your pet’s environment and secure potential hazards out of reach to keep your companions safe.

Some common toxins include:

> Prescription and over-the-counter medications: These can be toxic if ingested in small or large amounts. Many paediatric and veterinary medications come with delicious flavours. While that’s helpful for routine administration, it may also invite your pet to eat the entire bottle or bag at once, resulting in toxicity.

> Foods: Chocolate is a common poison ingested by curious dogs with a sweet tooth. Grapes and raisins can also make pets very ill. Many human products, from peanut butter to chewing gum, contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is very harmful to dogs and cats even in small amounts.

> Rodenticides/or rodent poisons: These are certainly toxic for pets. These products cause bleeding, seizures or kidney failure in rodents and can have the same effect in our mammalian pets (dogs and cats) when eaten directly or when a pet eats a poisoned rodent. Use extreme caution when using these products on your property, as the sweet taste used to attract rodents can also attract a curious dog.

> Plants: Lilies, sago palms and tulips are among the most commonly reported toxic plants eaten by pets. While they may look pretty, consider the safety of your four-legged family members when adding a new plant to your home or garden.

> Recreational drugs: Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms are highly toxic to dogs. With the legalisation of marijuana in many US states and provinces, the number of reported cases of marijuana toxicosis in pets has increased significantly. Ingestion of edibles or baked goods is the most common risk, but pets can also be exposed to plant materials or commercial THC concentrate.

Common signs of toxicity include urinary incontinence, disorientation, ataxia or wobbly gait, lethargy, exaggerated responses to stimuli, and low heart rate. Signs of marijuana toxicity in dogs are non-specific, but starting appropriate treatment is critical to help a sick dog in the emergency room.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation ( is a nonprofit organisation funding health research benefiting dogs. Through its funding, researchers found that commercially available drug-screening urine tests made for humans are not very accurate in dogs. Therefore, veterinarians must often make this diagnosis based on reported exposure and clinical signs. Treatment relies on supportive care such as fluids, anti-nausea medications and anti-anxiety medications until the toxin effects wear off.

Take action: Keep your pets and family safe by examining your home and garden for potential poisons. Ensure that new plants added to the home are not toxic to pets. Secure chemicals, medications and hazardous foods out of reach using pet- or child-proof locks. Use caution and follow directions when using rodenticides, herbicides or insecticides around people and pets.

If you think your pet has been poisoned or has ingested something toxic, seek veterinary help immediately. Call your primary care veterinary team or the veterinary emergency clinic nearest you. Finally, several pet poison hotline services are available for free or with a subscription fee. Post their information prominently in your house and act quickly in case of a suspected poisoning to help keep your pets safe year-round. – Tribune News Service/American Kennel Club

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