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Common Poisonings

Our drastic jump from summer to winter weather encourages me to write once again about common problem we see around this season’s holidays, pets eating stuff they shouldn’t and getting sick.  Of course, when you think of Halloween, chocolate is first to come to mind and it continues to make the ASPCA’s list of top 10 pet toxins  for 2012, coming in at number seven.  I thought reviewing the top 10 list was a great idea to give everyone awareness and help prevent exposure.

Prescription medications for humans continue to top the list; over 25,000 cases were handled at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in 2012.  The most common medications were blood pressure pills, antidepressants and pain medications.  Most exposures occur when the person drops their meds on the floor and before they know it, the pet has gobbled up the pill, thinking it is a treat.  I have also seen cases where a dog will chew up a pill vial and eat the medication, showing the importance of safe storage of all medications.

Insecticides are next on the list; making up 11% of the total calls to the ASPCA, but makes up 50% of the calls for cats.  Cats are much more sensitive to insecticides than dogs, and it is always very important to read the labels on any product you are going to put on your cat and make sure it is approved for cats.  Also, some of the less expensive flea medications, even though labeled for cats, can cause serious reactions in cats.  It’s always best to check with your veterinarian when choosing a topical insecticide to you on your cat.

Over the counter medications, including pain medication, herbal remedies and nutraceuticals can also be problematic when your pet is exposed.  Of special importance is pain medication, one Tylenol pill can have deadly complications for a cat.  Dogs can also have serious side effects when given human pain medication.  Again, checking with your vet prior to giving your pet anything is the best plan.

On a similar note, pets can overdose on their own medication.  The most common time we see this is when a pet eats a bottle of the flavored tablets.  The flavored tablets do make it easier to medicate your pet, but because they taste good, and smell good to your pet, you have to make sure the medication is stored in a safe, pet proof area.

Household products, such as cleaning products, can be a problem.  Many of these products are corrosive and irritating and when a pet has topical contact or ingests the product, they require medical attention.  Household plants can also pose a problem, most notably lilies, which cause kidney failure and death in cats.  The ASPCA has a good list of toxic and non-toxic plants online.

Rodenticide exposure makes up 4% of the annual calls to the poison control center.  There are different kinds of rodenticides that affect different body systems and require different treatment.  If you know your pet has ingested rodenticide, always bring the box with you to the vet so the proper treatment can be started.

Regionally, we see some toxins more than others.  Slug bait is a concern, and causes seizures when ingested by pets.  Antifreeze is another problem and this is the time of year we see it.  For both slug bait and antifreeze there are safer options that can be purchased.  Of course salmon disease (not to be confused with salmonella) is seen when pets eat parts of an infected salmon, and the salmon are running in the Cedar River, so exposure risk increases this time of year.

I hope this article gives everyone some good info on how to prevent common pet poisonings.  As usual, feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas for articles at, visit our website at, or visit our Facebook page.