Preventing Toxic Exposures In Pets

It’s a pet owner’s worst nightmare—your animal has accidentally been exposed to a toxic substance and needs immediate medical care. What do you do? Whom can you call? And how can you prevent potential toxic emergencies in the future?

March marks Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month, a time that highlights potential poisoning risks to pets and emphasizes common-sense poisoning prevention. Here, we’ll look at some common poisoning risks for pets and how you can address them.

Common Poisoning Risks for Dogs

Most toxic exposures among dogs can be traced to several common causes.

  • Human Medications. Dogs are naturally curious and can sometimes get into human meds. Some prescription drugs are deadly to dogs, even in small doses, and even over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen can be fatal. Your best prevention is to keep all human meds stored securely out of the reach of pets.
  • Rat Poison. Dogs can easily become ill by consuming poisons meant to kill rats and mice. The active ingredient, bromethalin, can cause loss of appetite, tremors, paralysis, and seizures. Seek veterinary attention immediately if you believe your pet has consumed rodent poison.
  • Chocolate. Dogs cannot metabolize chocolate safely the way humans can. Toxic reactions depend on the amount of chocolate consumed and the size of the animal, with smaller dogs at the greatest risk for a poisoning emergency. Warning signs include thirst, diarrhea, restlessness, tremors, and seizures. Symptoms may not appear immediately, so if you think your pet has consumed a dangerous amount of chocolate, contact your vet ASAP.
  • House & Garden Plants. Many commonly cultivated plants can be poisonous to dogs if consumed in sufficient quantities. They include Arum, Aloe, Lily, Clematis, Chrysanthemum, Hosta, and Yucca. The ASPCA’s complete list of plant toxins can be found here. The insecticides used on plants and in homes can also present a poisoning risk. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, tremors, and increased heart rate. Contact your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog has consumed toxic plants or insecticides.

Common Poisoning Risks for Cats

Dogs and cats are susceptible to somewhat different poisoning risks, though many of the general categories are similar.

  • Human Medications. As with dogs, human medications accidentally consumed by cats can have significant negative results, including death. Always store both prescription and over-the-counter meds securely out of your pets’ reach. Caution items include antidepressants, cold medicines, diet pills, pain relievers (like ibuprofen or naproxen), and vitamins.
  • Human Foods. It may surprise you to know that some of the foods we enjoy are dangerous to cats. These include alcohol, caffeine, chives, onions, grapes, raisins, and onions. Also, chocolate or other candies that contain xylitol present a serious poisoning risk. All potentially toxic foods should be stored safely, away from curious paws.
  • House & Garden Plants. You’ve probably heard the cautions about keeping your cat away from holiday plants like poinsettia and holly. But there are many other common house and garden plants that are toxic to cats. These include Aloe, Azalea, Chrysanthemum, Lily, Hyacinth, Rhododendron, and Tulip. Symptoms of toxic exposure include gastric disturbances, loss of appetite, shaking, or elevated heart rate.
  • Antifreeze. Antifreeze is especially dangerous to cats because its odor is often perceived as sweet and appetizing to cats. The active ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is highly toxic to cats even in small amounts. Symptoms of exposure include vomiting, loss of coordination, twitches, tremors, and increased thirst and urination. Seek veterinary attention immediately if you observe these symptoms. Always store antifreeze securely and check your car’s radiator regularly for potential antifreeze leaks.
  • Other Hazards. Household products such as bleach, detergent, and fertilizers are also potentially toxic to cats and should be stored securely where pets cannot reach.

Whom to Call if You Suspect A Toxic Exposure

If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to poison, there are several things you can do immediately.

  • Keep your pet calm and warm
  • Identify the toxin if possible
  • Contact your vet ASAP

Other resources:

At Richmond Road Veterinary Clinic and Tates Creek Animal Hospital, we understand how important your pets are to you. Our expert staff is skilled in treating a variety of toxic emergencies and stands committed to providing the best treatment available.

Not an emergency? Contact us for a well-pet checkup!


Scroll to Top