Protect Your Pet From Three Common Poisons

I have spent several nights over the last few weeks working at a veterinary emergency hospital near San Francisco. We see an incredible range of...

I have spent several nights over the last few weeks working at a veterinary emergency hospital near San Francisco. We see an incredible range of cases, but during my last two shifts in particular I treated a huge number of dogs for exposure to toxic substances.

There are literally thousands of household products, plants, foods, human medications and chemicals that are poisonous to dogs and cats. To view two (non-comprehensive) lists of potential poisons, click here (for household products) and here (for plants).

Despite the huge number of hazardous plants and materials out there, I have noticed that three of them seem to be more commonly ingested by pets than the others. So, although I encourage you to be proactive about protecting your pet from all potential poisons, please be especially aware of these three.

  • Chocolate. Toxicity depends on the size of the pet, the type of chocolate consumed (darker chocolate is more dangerous than lighter chocolate), and the amount of chocolate that is eaten. Severe intoxication with chocolate can lead to irregular heart rhythms and death. Many dogs seem to find chocolate just as delicious as we humans do. Sadly, for dogs chocolate can be much worse than a guilty pleasure.
  • Rat and mouse poisons (rodenticides). Even small amounts of rodenticide can be deadly to cats and dogs. The most commonly used rodenticides cause internal bleeding. There is an antidote, but it must be administered rapidly to prevent severe illness or death.
  • Chewing gum. This is a relatively new player in the world of pet poisons. Not all chewing gum is toxic. However, several popular brands contain a sweetener called xylitol. Xylitol can cause dangerously low blood sugar in dogs. It also has been linked to liver damage.
  • I recommend that pets never be allowed access to any poisons. However, please be especially careful with the three listed above. Dogs are more likely than cats to be exposed to each of these poisons because they are less selective about what they eat.

    If you suspect that your pet has consumed any poisonous product, contact a veterinarian immediately. Acting quickly can help to prevent serious consequences.

    If possible, always bring the packaging from the product that was consumed, as well as any remaining product to the veterinarian’s office when you seek treatment. This will help the vet to positively identify the type and amount of toxin consumed.

    Remember, however, that the best way to keep your pet safe from poisons is to make sure he or she does not have access to them in the first place.

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