For more than 50 years and since its inception by Congress in 1961, the third week in March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week. This year it falls on March 16th – 22nd and we are urging everyone to remember the four-legged members of the family, as they are among the most vulnerable.
Awareness is the key to preventing poisoning emergencies. Almost 91 percent of calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2013 involved dogs – a testament to dogs’ curious nature and indifference to eating just about anything. Of these calls, nearly half were for dogs that ingested human medications. It’s clearly wise to keep medications out of their reach, but there are many other common, household substances toxic to dogs. The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline went through their records and below are the five most common toxins that poisoned pets in 2013.
43 percent of calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2013 were for pets that ate over the counter or prescription medications. The majority of the prescription medications were antidepressants, and the most common over the counter medications were NSAID’s such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), which can cause serious harm to pets when ingested.
16 percent of calls were for pets that helped themselves to foods that are safe for humans, but poisonous for dogs. The most prevalent cases were for dogs that ate chocolate. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous since it contains high amounts of theobromine – a relative of caffeine that can be deadly. Xylitol, a sweetener in sugarless gums and candies, is also very dangerous and can be life-threatening even when ingested in small amounts. Raisins and grapes are often overlooked by pet owners as potentially dangerous, but they are extremely toxic and can cause kidney failure. Other human foods toxic to pets include macadamia nuts, garlic, onions, yeast-based dough and table salt.
7.5 percent of calls were because pets ate insecticides in the form of sprays, granules, insect bait stations and more. While many household insecticides are well tolerated by pets, certain potent types such as organophosphates (often found in rose-care products), can be life-threatening even when ingested in small amounts.
6.5 percent of calls were for pets that got into mouse and rat poisons, which contain various active ingredients that are poisonous. Depending on the type ingested, poisoning can result in moderate to severe symptoms—anywhere from uncontrolled bleeding, swelling of the brain, kidney failure and seizures. Only one type of mouse poison (anticoagulant or blood thinner) has an antidote to counteract the effects of the poison. The rest, unfortunately, have no antidote and are more difficult to treat. There is also potential for relay toxicity, meaning that pets and wildlife can be poisoned by eating dead rodents that were poisoned by rodenticides.
Dietary Supplements and Vitamins
5.5 percent of calls were concerning pets that ingested dietary supplements and vitamins. While many items in this category such as Vitamins C, K, and E are fairly safe, others such as iron, Vitamin D and alpha-lipoic acid can be highly toxic in overdose situations. Additionally there were several cases involving xylitol poisoning from sugar free multi-vitamins.
Other concerns for pets are household plants that are toxic. A very comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants can be found at: