Sunday, June 14, 2009


Now that summer has arrived for the whole country, your pets will be having more opportunities for exposure to poisonous substances, some outdoors and some indoors. Even though a lot of poisonings can be treated if caught early enough, it is still much better for your pets if they NEVER have the chance to be exposed. The ASPCA has been a longtime supporter of poison control for animals and they publish a lot of information on poisons and toxic materials on their web site. Questions On Dogs and Cats is devoting this whole issue to this problem and much of this information comes from that provided by the ASPCA.

By taking the time to read this material closely, pet owners should be able to make the proper decisions ahead of time in order to limit their pets' exposure risks. In addition, educating yourself ahead of time will help you to act promptly and decisively if your pet should happen to be poisoned. Helpful Buckeye suggests that all pet owners should consider printing this whole blog issue and keeping the copy handy for any future reference. The longstanding Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared," is the best way to handle Common Poisons and Your Pets.


Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008
With various dangers lurking in corners and cabinets, the home can be a minefield of poisons for our pets. In 2008, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which included everyday household products. Don’t leave it up to Fido or Fluffy to keep themselves safe. Below is a list of the top ten pet poisons that affected our furry friends in 2008.

  • Human Medications
    For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards, and 2008 was no exception. Last year, the ASPCA managed more than 50,000 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.

  • Insecticides
    In our effort to battle home invasions of unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our pets at risk. In 2008, our toxicologists fielded more than 31,000 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Thus, it’s always important to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.

  • People Food
    People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and certain citrus fruit can seriously harm our furry friends, and accounted for more than 15,000 cases in 2008. One of the worst offenders—chocolate—contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.

  • Rodenticides
    Last year, the ASPCA received approximately 8,000 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets, including bleeding, seizures and kidney damage.

  • Veterinary Medications
    Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2008, the ASPCA managed nearly 8,000 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.

  • Plants
    Common houseplants were the subject of nearly 8,000 calls to the Animal Poison Control Center in 2008. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts.

  • Chemical Hazards
    In 2008, the Animal Poison Control Center handled approximately 5,500 cases of pet exposure to chemical hazards. A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.

  • Household Cleaners
    Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Last year, the ASPCA received more than 3,200 calls related to household cleaners. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.

  • Heavy Metals
    It’s not too much loud music that constitutes our next pet poison offender. Instead, it’s heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury, which accounted for more than 3,000 cases of pet poisonings in 2008. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.

  • Fertilizer It may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded more than 2,000 calls related to fertilizer exposure. Prevention is really key to avoiding accidental exposure, but if you suspect your pet has ingested something lawn-side, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

Treat or Toxin?

How many times have you offered your pet a snack or treat without thinking of the potential consequences? Most pet owners think nothing of offering some of their own snacks to their pets. That may or may not lead to trouble. Check out this web site and click through the many descriptive might be surprised by what you find:

17 Common Poisonous Plants

  • Lilies--Members of the Lilium spp. are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.

  • Marijuana--Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and incoordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma.

  • Sago Palm--All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

  • Tulip/Narcissus bulbs--The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

  • Azalea/Rhododendron--Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

  • Oleander--All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects—including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

  • Castor Bean--The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

  • Cyclamen--Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

  • Kalanchoe--This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

  • Yew--Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

  • Amaryllis--Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

  • Autumn Crocus--Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.

  • Chrysanthemum--These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

  • English Ivy--Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

  • Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily)--Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

  • Pothos--Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum) belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Schefflera--Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

The ASPCA has very informative 6-minute audio/video with one of their veterinarians describing these plants. Be sure to watch the video accompanying this list….


A few of these have been mentioned in the previous sections, but a little repetition might be advantageous.

  • Chocolate, Macadamia nuts, avocados--These foods may sound delicious to you, but they’re actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. Our nutrition experts have put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

  • Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine--These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

  • Alcohol--Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.

  • Avocado--The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

  • Macadamia Nuts--Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

  • Grapes & Raisins--Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

  • Yeast Dough--Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

  • Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones--Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

  • Xylitol--Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

  • Onions, Garlic, Chives--These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.

  • Milk--Because mature pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

  • Salt--Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!

Safeguarding Cats from Plants

As the days grow colder and shorter, plants from window boxes and screened-in porch planters are brought inside. Tulip, an inquisitive tabby, eyes the new additions to her environment, hopping up on the coffee table to get a better view. Within moments, she is nibbling the greenery—and a short time later, she's retching up a foamy green mess on the rug. It's not easy to keep cats and plants in the same space, but with some inventiveness, it is possible.

  • The Need to Nosh--Back in the days when the feline diet was strictly self-caught, cats got their veggies predigested from the stomach contents of their prey. Today, many cats still try to supplement meat-based cat food with leafy greens. In a study by Melanie Morgan and Dr. Katharine A. Houpt of the Animal Behavior Clinic of Cornell University, 36 percent of 122 cats were found to nosh on houseplants.
    This habit can prove dangerous. While not a complete list, the following plants and their relatives can cause everything from mild gastric distress to death: aloe vera, amaryllis, members of the lily family, asparagus fern, azalea, corn plant, dieffenbachia, dumb cane, many ivies, philodendron and the holiday favorites, holly and mistletoe. If you suspect ingestion and notice an abnormal breathing or heart rate, weakness, bloody diarrhea, oral ulcers, severe vomiting, hypersalivation or other serious physical changes, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) immediately (888-426-4435).
    Even cat-safe plants such as wheat grass and catnip can cause vomiting. Feline carnivores cannot properly digest raw grass or plant matter because they lack the microbes necessary to break down plant cellulose. So if you choose to grow greens for your kitty, have spot cleaner and paper towels handy. Some animals make the mental association between vomiting and eating fresh greens, and will purposely seek them out to alleviate stomach discomfort. To meet their need for plant-based nutrients without having to mop up afterward, offer fresh alfalfa sprouts, parsley, spinach, grated carrots (raw or steamed), peas, cucumber, steamed broccoli or green beans, or cantaloupe balls. Trial and error will determine which foods are appetizing to your cat and also sit well once consumed.
    The APCC notes in its Household Plant List that any plant material ingested by an animal may produce vomiting, depression and diarrhea. These signs are usually mild and self-limiting, and often do not require treatment. If you have plants that are mildly irritating to your cats, noshing may be discouraged by applying a commercial repellent to the potted plant or by setting up a motion detector on the plant stand. Changing the taste of the plant or surprising the cat with flashing lights or obnoxious noises will offset the rewarding aspect of the plant-chewing behavior. For truly toxic plants, either re-home them to an animal-free household or keep them relegated to no-pet zones. Hang them from ceiling hooks, for example, or set them atop high, "unscaleable" bookcases. You can also sequester them in a solarium with a door that can be latched shut.

  • Flower Potty?--While Tulip's vice was plant-eating, her companion calico, Violet, saw the ficus tree's big clay pot as an extra litter box. Large planters are frequently targeted as elimination spots, especially by cats who have spent part of their lives outdoors. By covering the entire pot with mesh netting that's gathered and tied around the tree's trunk or by tightly packing pebbles or marbles around the plant, the cat is barred from getting to the dirt and the plant can still be watered in the more conventional sense. To help a former outdoor cat make the litter box transition, put some dirt on top of traditional clay litter. (Note: mixing dirt with clumping litter will hinder the litter's binding properties.) Gradually reduce the amount of soil added to the box until there is none.
    Some cats begin to eliminate in planters for other reasons. If the planter had been out in the yard, a freeroaming neighbor cat may have used it as a toilet, inducing your cat to mark over the scent. In that case, scrub down the pot and do away with the offending soil. If you notice any other changes in your cat's elimination routine, get to the vet! These problems often stem from illnesses such as feline lower urinary tract disease, constipation or inflammatory bowel disease. Medication and planter modifications should resolve the problem.

If these tips don't solve your cat vs. plant dilemmas, adopt your plants out to a nice family with green thumbs, and learn to love silk or plastic imitations. Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT, ASPCA Companion Animal Programs Advisor National Shelter Outreach

What To Do If Your Pet Is Poisoned

Don’t panic. Rapid response is important, but panicking can interfere with the process of helping your pet. Take 30 to 60 seconds to safely collect and have at hand any material involved. This may be of great benefit to your vet and/or APCC toxicologists, as they determine what poison or poisons are involved. In the event that you need to take your pet to a local veterinarian, be sure to take the product’s container with you. Also, collect in a sealable plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed. If you witness your pet consuming material that you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any adverse effects. Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or for days after the incident.

Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
The telephone number is (888) 426-4435. There is a $60 consultation fee for this service.
Be ready with the following information:
· The species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved.
· The animal’s symptoms.
· Information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure.
· Have the product container/packaging available for reference.
Please note: If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your pet immediately to your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the APCC.
Be Prepared
Keep the telephone number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center—(888) 426-4435—as well as that of your local veterinarian, in a prominent location.
Invest in an emergency first-aid kit for your pet. The kit should contain:
· A fresh bottle of hydrogen peroxide, 3 percent USP (to induce vomiting)
· A turkey baster, bulb syringe or large medicine syringe (to administer peroxide)
· Saline eye solution
· Artificial tear gel (to lubricate eyes after flushing)
· Mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid (for bathing an animal after skin contamination)
· Forceps (to remove stingers)
· A muzzle (to protect against fear- or excitement-induced biting)
· A can of your pet’s favorite wet food
· A pet carrier
Always consult a veterinarian or the APCC for directions on how and when to use any emergency first-aid item.
Visit the ASPCA Store and take a look at the First Aid Kit they have for sale. You might feel more comfortable having this ready to go at home:

Animal Poison Control Frequently Asked Questions

The ASPCA has compiled the answers to your most frequently asked questions here. Feel free to bookmark this page for easy reference at this web site:

Quick Response
· I think my pet has ingested something potentially dangerous, but she seems normal. What should I do first: call the APCC or rush her to my local emergency veterinarian?
· What should I do if I think my pet ate something poisonous?
· What information will I need when I call you?
About the Animal Poison Control Center
· How do I get in touch with ASPCA animal poison control experts?
· What kind of services does the APCC provide?
· How much does it cost to use the APCC hotline?
· How many cases does the APCC handle daily?
· Where is the APCC located?
· Where does the APCC get its information about toxins and their effects on animals?
· Does the APCC test on animals?
· I live in Illinois—can I bring my pet to the APCC to be seen by a vet?
· I just spoke with a staff member on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline, but I have more questions. Can I call back?
General Information
· Are there certain potentially harmful substances that pets get into more than others?
· I’m a veterinarian; where can I learn more?
· What should I include in my pet’s first-aid kit?
· Are there any plants that are toxic to my pets that I shouldn’t keep around the house?
· How do I find out if a plant is toxic to pets?
· What houseplants are safe?
· I want to send my pet-owning friend a floral arrangement. What flowers are safe to send?
· What are the most common food hazards I should be aware of?
· Is milk bad for cats?
· Why is chocolate bad for dogs?
· How can I check to see if my pet food has been recalled?
· Can I feed my dog a human breath mint?
· Can I give my pet Ibuprofen?
· Can I give my pet aspirin?
· Can my pets actually chew through containers of aspirin?
Around the House
· What are the most common household items I should watch out for?
· What cleaning supplies can I use that won’t hurt my pets?
· Are any types of cat litter poisonous to cats?
· Is it safe for my pet to drink from the toilet?
· What are the some dangers pets face during Valentine’s Day?
· What are the dangerous substances pets should avoid during the Christmas holidays?
· What are some dangers pets face during the cold winter weather?
· What are some hazards pets face during the warm weather?

A Poison Safe Home

Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet
· Alcoholic beverages
· Avocado
· Chocolate (all forms)
· Coffee (all forms)
· Fatty foods
· Macadamia nuts
· Moldy or spoiled foods
· Onions, onion powder
· Raisins and grapes
· Salt
· Yeast dough
· Garlic
· Products sweetened with xylitol
Warm Weather Hazards
· Animal toxins—toads, insects, spiders, snakes and scorpions
· Blue-green algae in ponds
· Citronella candles
· Cocoa mulch
· Compost piles Fertilizers
· Flea products
· Outdoor plants and plant bulbs
· Swimming-pool treatment supplies
· Fly baits containing methomyl
· Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde
Common examples of human medications that can be potentially lethal to pets, even in small doses, include:
· Pain killers
· Cold medicines
· Anti-cancer drugs
· Antidepressants
· Vitamins
· Diet Pills
Cold Weather Hazards
· Antifreeze
· Liquid potpourri
· Ice melting products
· Rat and mouse bait
Common Household Hazards
· Fabric softener sheets
· Mothballs
· Post-1982 pennies (due to high concentration of zinc)
Holiday Hazards
· Christmas tree water (may contain fertilizers and bacteria, which, if ingested, can upset the stomach.
· Electrical cords
· Ribbons or tinsel (can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction—most often occurs with kittens!)
· Batteries
· Glass ornaments
Non-toxic Substances for Dogs and Cats
The following substances are considered to be non-toxic, although they may cause mild gastrointestinal upset in some animals:
· Water-based paints
· Toilet bowl water
· Silica gel
· Poinsettia
· Cat litter
· Glue traps
· Glow jewelry

As Helpful Buckeye suggested earlier, you should go ahead and print a copy of this issue so that you have it at hand if the need arises. If it appears to be an "unsafe" world out there for your pets, that's because it can be unsafe. A little preparation in advance can make it into a safer place for all of your beloved pets. Peace....


  1. Doc:
    Excellent information. Most of which I have come across at various times, but having it one place? Priceless.

    The only minor issue is really about timing as amayrillis bulbs are most often seen during the Christmas Holidays and immediately following to chase the doldroms of Jan/Feb....but the drift is still the same. Keep Fido and Kitty away.

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