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March Is Poison Prevention Awareness Month

Heaven Can Wait Animal Society makes sure all of the rescued pets like Chester pictured above are kept safely away from potentially harmful substances.

Heaven Can Wait Animal Society makes sure all of the rescued pets, like Chester pictured above, are kept safely away from potentially harmful substances.

By Carol Lisowski

Are you prepared to render assistance to your pet should they accidentally ingest a poison?

Pet poisoning with common household and outside items is, unfortunately, a fairly common situation.  Appropriate pet proofing and awareness of what to do in the event of a pet poisoning situation are both critical to the well-being of your pet. Keep the telephone numbers of poison control centers as well as your veterinary emergency hospital posted where they are readily available.

Specific treatment will depend upon what a pet has been exposed to. Sometimes induction of vomiting is indicated, while in other cases IV fluid therapy and oral charcoal therapy may be indicated. The Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680 is available 24 hours a day and is useful in those cases where poisoning is suspected. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested something poisonous, call the helpline or your local veterinarian immediately.

The ASPCA’s Poison Control Center has generated their annual list of harmful substances for our pets.  For the 4th year in a row, human medications top the list. Many drugs that are meant for our use can be very dangerous to our pets.  NEVER give a pet any human medication unless you have been instructed to do so by your veterinarian!

  1. Heart medications and drugs for Attention Deficit disorder make up the largest percentage in this category.
  2. Insecticides are the second most common issue for pets. Improper use of flea and tick medications can cause seizures, skin issues or even death in many pets, especially our cats.  With spring approaching keep in mind the toxins in the lawn fertilizers, home treatments, and bug sprays that you might be using.  Other outdoor dangers are animal toxins such as toads, insects, spiders, snakes and scorpions, blue-green algae in ponds, citronella candles, compost piles, outdoor plants and plant bulbs including Sago Palms and Oleanders (prominent in Las Vegas), and swimming-pool treatment supplies.
  3. Over-the-counter medications, along with the prescriptions listed above account for more than 25% of all calls fielded by the ASPCA Poison Control. Common examples of human medications that can be potentially lethal to pets, even in small doses, include: pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, diet pills and even vitamins. It is important to remember that over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous to our pets and have caused deaths.
  1.  “People foods” like chocolates, alcoholic  drinks, avocados, coffee, fatty foods, garlic, salt, yeast, and various others come in at #4 on the list. Many seemingly harmless treats, like grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts or onions/onion powder, can cause severe issues for our pets.
  2. Finally, in 5th place are household items, like paint, drain cleaners/openers and other cleaning products. Because our pets are often very curious, it’s important to store all of these types of things behind closed doors.

A growing concern is an additive found in many pet medicines as an artificial sweetener, known as Xylitol.  It has been getting a lot of attention recently.  While this sugar alcohol compound is commonly added to human foods such as gum, candies or sweets as a sugar replacement, ingestion by dogs can lead to toxicity in some cases in as soon as 30-60 minutes.

This compound causes an insulin-like effect on the body resulting in low blood sugar and potassium. Signs may include vomiting, weakness, depression, and wobbliness. If you suspect your dog has accidentally consumed Xylitol, it is best to call an emergency veterinary clinic and have your pet examined as soon as possible.

While in some cases vomiting can be induced at home with hydrogen peroxide, other cases will need IV fluids and other supportive care at the veterinary clinic. Now that this effect has been documented, many manufacturers of pet drugs and supplements are removing this additive from their products and looking at alternative sweeteners.  If your Vet prescribes medicine for your pet, ask if it contains Xylitol.

Practice safeguards for your pets the same as you would for your children.  After all, most of us pet owners consider our pets our children and want them to lead long, safe and healthy lives.

Learn more about pets at the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society website or Heaven Can Wait Facebook page.

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