Archive for the ‘What’s Poisonous for Your Pet’ Category

How to Disinfect Your Home Without Harming Your Pet

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

By Dr. Karen Becker for Mercola

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are more concerned than ever about keeping their spaces clean, but some may forget to read and heed warning labels on cleaners
  • The Pet Poison Helpline reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to pets inhaling, ingesting or having skin contact with common but poisonous household cleaners
  • Bleach and ammonia are common cleaners that are potentially lethal to pets, but mixing them with other substances can make them even worse
  • Experts say highly reactive chemicals may be effective in killing bacteria and viruses, but that’s also what makes them respond to others, creating new toxic chemicals
  • While large dogs may also be affected, small dogs and cats are much closer to the source of toxins on the floor after cleaning, disinfecting or deodorizing, and may be increasingly harmed over time

Since the first warnings of the dangers of COVID-19 emerged, the U.S. has been inundated with advice from doctors, scientists and government officials regarding how people should behave to avoid contamination.

Besides the handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing that humans have been advised to practice, it only makes sense for pet owners to think about how to protect their pets’ sensitive skin, organs and nasal passages if you’re using harsh cleaners in your home.

But some have forgotten to read and heed the warning labels on cleaning and sanitizing agents, and pets as well as humans have been harmed because of it. Remember, a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times greater than a human’s, and their chemical sensitivity potentially much greater (they don’t shower regularly to remove the accumulated chemicals).

In fact, since the first reports of what’s been termed a pandemic, Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to exposure to common household products that ended up injuring a vulnerable pet, from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles and numerous other exotic species.

Sadly, that can happen more easily than some people may think, especially when it comes to bleach, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, observed Bluefield Daily Telegraph, based in West Virginia. According to Ahna Brutlag, DVM, a senior veterinary toxicologist:

“People are very concerned about their families during this COVID-19 crisis. That includes their pets. When we started receiving calls from panicked pet parents regarding possible poisonings related to COVID-19 cleaning fears, we felt we needed to educate the pet loving community on the safest way to do it.”1

Everybody wants their home to be clean, but harsh and even toxic chemicals are being used on a more frequent basis in more households, and accidents do happen. For example, someone with an open jug of bleach on the floor next to their washing machine might not realize how easy it would be to knock over.

Brutlag says if a dog or cat walks through the spilled substance, it could cause skin irritation since it can be absorbed so easily into their paw pads. But if the animal licked its paws while self grooming, the chemical’s contact with their delicate internal organs could lead to stomach irritation, diarrhea, vomiting and worse.

Some Cleaners Are Harsh, but Mixing Them Can Be Deadly

Bleach is potentially toxic on its own, but mixing it with many other cleaners can create noxious fumes. Potentially deadly combinations include bleach with ammonia, which creates chlorine gas; bleach with vinegar, which creates a chlorine gas so toxic it was used in World War I; and bleach with rubbing alcohol, says Vy Dong, professor at the University of California Irvine and head of the Dong Research Group.2

Alexander Lu from Dong Research Group notes that bleach is comprised of “highly reactive chemicals that make it effective at killing bacteria and viruses, but its high reactivity is also what makes it respond to other chemicals, which can result in new toxic chemicals.”3

While both toilet bowl cleaner and bleach are commonly used in the bathroom, they can be a lethal combination due to the fumes created. Use one or the other, and again, make sure you have good ventilation and that your pet isn’t in the room. Dong had this to say about various chemical combinations:

“Molecules are like people with their own personalities and how they behave depends on who they are around … unless you understand the personalities of all the molecules in your bottle, don’t try this at home.”4

They may seem tame in comparison, but even a combination of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar forms a chemical called peracetic acid, which is corrosive enough to break down surfaces, as well as being toxic.

Hand sanitizer can become a hazard because of its high alcohol content, Brutlag says. If an animal should swallow enough of it, symptoms could arise in as little as a half hour, necessitating a call to either the animal’s veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.

Rubbing alcohol, especially concentrated alcohol levels from 70% to 99%, may be good for cleaning, but mixed with bleach it turns into chloroform, which can cause unconsciousness, and chloroacetone, another tear gas. Both are described as “toxic and dangerous.”5


Many Cleaners Are Potentially Dangerous

Steps you can take to avoid problems include placing your dog in his crate (and your cat in a closed room) while using chemical-based cleaning products on your floors, bathrooms or laundry. But some might use such cleaners on the cages themselves. The ASPCA notes that it’s the dilution of bleach in water that’s important:

“Pet parents are often curious about the risks associated with cleaning their pets’ cages and toys with bleach. The bottom line is this: cleaning your pet’s cage or toy with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out, is not expected to cause harm. If the odor of bleach seems overwhelming, open windows and use fans to air the room.”6

One reason pets are so susceptible to chemical odors is because their systems are more sensitive, so the level of exposure for them is much higher than it is for humans. Even if you have a large dog — and especially if you have a cat or small dog — they’re much closer to the source of the toxins that are on the floor. Breathing them constantly would be not only unpleasant, but increasingly harmful over time.

Other substances many homeowners with pets wouldn’t think twice about using include carpet deodorizers that are shaken or sprayed on and left to sit for a period of time before vacuuming. Pets can easily walk through the room and inhale it or get it on their paws, and ingest it secondarily to grooming.

One way to protect both you and your pets is to make sure you thoroughly wipe down any surface with pure water after using conventional disinfectants. I use a medical-grade colloidal silver product around my house (proven to address aggressive viruses and bacteria) to safely address bacteria and viruses without risk to me or my furry family members.

If you opt for conventional chemical cleaning agents with poison control warnings on the label, make sure you (and your pets) have plenty of ventilation. Further:

“While we’re stuck at home trying to sanitize everything in sight, it might be tempting to get creative with mixing household chemicals to try to get your home as clean as possible. However, mixing household cleaners can be dangerous due to the chemical makeup of the unique cleaners … It’s highly recommended to stick to using one household cleaner at a time per surface to avoid mixing chemicals.”7

Better yet, opt for only natural cleaning products in your home, here’s a link to a Facebook Live I did about effective and non-toxic household cleaning products you can feel good about using around animals.

If you are still using conventional chemical cleaning products and notice changes in your pets, don’t hesitate to call the Pet Poison Helpline8 at 800-213-6680, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for information regarding potential poisoning of all animal species.

Grapes and Raisins Pose Serious Threat to Dogs

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

From the Boston Herald on January 20, 2917

Q My 3-year-old female Weimaraner got into a large quantity of grapes at the house this morning. After some quick research, I reached for some hydrogen peroxide and gave her a few teaspoons. Within a few minutes, she vomited up three large piles of the barely chewed grapes. I took her into my vet’s office, and they ran some tests and gave her some fluids and medication. She seems well now. What could have happened to my dog if she had eaten these grapes and I was not around?

 

A Grape toxicity can lead to kidney failure, with typically the signs of vomiting and diarrhea occurring a few hours after ingestion. Lethargy and a loss of appetite also can be seen, along with a lack of urine production. Raisins can also be toxic. Since they are dried grapes, they are toxic in a smaller quantity. The toxic dose for grapes is about 1⁄2 ounce per pound of body weight, but that can vary, so any consumption should be taken seriously.

I often suggest that if vomiting can be induced within an hour of an ingested toxic substance, then chances are good that the toxin will not have detrimental effects on the patient. One must be cautious in using hydrogen peroxide. The actual suggested dosage to induce vomiting is 1 ml per pound, and never give a large dog more than three tablespoons.

 Had you not been present to do what you did and then take your dog to your veterinarian, your dog might have suffered irreversible kidney damage. My guess is that your veterinarian did bloodwork, a urinalysis, gave some fluids to flush the kidneys and some activated charcoal to bind up any toxins. I suspect she will be fine given what you have described, and a follow-up blood panel might be warranted in a day or two to ensure that her kidneys were not negatively affected. Sounds like you did a good job and I would not be too concerned.

 

Threats to pets: Tulip bulbs, cocoa mulch and others owners might not know

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

CHOCOLATES
Many common household and yard items can be toxic and even deadly for pets, and many owners aren’t aware of the dangers of some items, according to a Petplan survey. Lesser-known dangers include tulip bulbs and cocoa mulch. The most common source of calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in 2013 was human medications. Green Bay Press-Gazette (Wis.) (tiered subscription model)/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Grapes and raisins are still killing dogs, and lilies are still killing cats.

Chocolate, xylitol, prescription drugs and other items can be life-threatening, and life-saving treatment can rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills.

None of this is new information, but many people still don’t know that our houses and yards are full of things that can sicken or kill pets.

Only 34 percent of pet owners know that cocoa mulch is toxic, according to a survey conducted by Petplan insurance. Only 16 percent know that tulip bulbs are dangerous, and that’s a new one for me. A total of 67 percent knew the dangers of grapes, xylitol in sugar-free candy and gum, diced onions and coffee grounds.

Medications intended for humans topped the 2013 list of reasons people called the Animal Poison Control Center of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The telephone hotline handled 180,000 calls, and nearly 20 percent were for prescriptions, including 4,151 calls about pills intended to control blood pressure or heart rate and 2,836 cases involving pain killers.

Here’s the rest of the ASPCA Top 10:

2. Insecticides, 15.7 percent of calls.

3. Over-the-counter drugs including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, 14.7 percent.

4. Household items including expandable glues and paints, 9.3 percent.

5. Food for humans, including onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and xylitol.

6. Meds prescribed by veterinarians. Some are available in chewable form with nice flavors, and pets have been known to break through pill bottles to eat the whole batch.

7. Chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the higher the toxicity, 7.7 percent.

8. Rodenticides, 5.5 percent.

9. Plants, mostly houseplants eaten by cats, 5.4 percent.

10. Lawn and garden products, 2.8 percent.

Here are the symptoms that indicate you need to get to a veterinarian quickly: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, loss of appetite, tremors, seizures, excessive thirst and infrequent urination.

Human and pet meds can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure, especially in cats, according to veterinarian Jules Benson at Petplan. Internal bleeding, pancreatitis and kidney failure can all be caused by things that are toxic to pets.

The number for the ASPCA’s 24-hour poison hotline is (888) 426-4435. Have your credit card handy because the call will cost you $65.

There’s no charge for calls to national Poison Control Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222. They handle calls for people and for pets, but if they feel they can’t help they refer callers to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Go to aspca.org/apcc for further information.

AKC list of things that are poisonous to your pet

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Substances Poisonous to your Pet

Cicadas pose no major threat to pets

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

cicadaCicadas do not pose a major health risk for pets, according to experts including veterinarian Padma Yadlapalli, who says pets will likely spit out any cicada they try to eat. If ingested, gastrointestinal upset or possibly blockage could occur, so veterinarians advise discouraging ingestion. However, there is no danger of disease: “While they might be a nuisance, they don’t sting, they don’t bite, and they don’t carry disease,” says veterinarian Shelly Rubin. The Baltimore Sun (5/15), DogChannel.com (5/15)

As these red-eyed screechy little bugs begin emerging from the ground, concern among pet parents rises as well. This brood is different from the one we saw in 2004 and its appearance in this state will be limited to parts of Southern Maryland, which is good news. There are several thing pet owners should keep in mind during cicada season:

1.They are not toxic to pets. Most of the time, they are more of a nuisance than a health hazard.

2.Your pet might be interested in trying to eat one, but most likely would spit it back out right away. Cicadas might cause upset like vomiting or diarrhea if eaten, but this would be temporary and respond to conservative treatment.

3.Rarely, if your pet decides to overindulge and eat them like chocolate, they could technically cause an obstruction because your pet would not be able to digest them. But most likely they will just pass on and be seen in the stool.

4.Cicadas cannot transmit any diseases.

5.They do not bite or cause any skin irritation or other dermatological issues

The bright side of all of this is that cicadas are beneficial to the environment because they aerate the soil as they emerge. Our guests are only here for a short stay!

This week’s expert is Dr. Padma Yadlapalli with Freetown Animal Hospital in Columbia. Send your questions to sun.unleashed@gmail.com.

Protecting pets from household toxins

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Pets are exposed to the same potentially harmful substances as the humans they live with, possibly to a greater extent because they are smaller and closer to the ground, according to this article. Simple changes can reduce pet — and human — exposure, including vacuuming frequently and keeping potentially harmful substances such as medications in a safe place. Emergency veterinarian MeiMei Welker discusses the harms of slug bait, rodenticide and marijuana poisoning, while veterinarian Marli Lintner explains the uniquely sensitive nature of birds to home toxins, such as fumes from nonstick pans, due to their respiratory systems. The Oregonian (Portland) (3/1)

We think that our indoor pets are safe from predators, cars and disease, but our homes may be exposing our pets – and ourselves – to risks of a different realm.

Everything from the mattresses we sleep on to the motes of dust on the shelves may contain flame retardants or other chemicals, says Laurel Standley, an environmental consultant and author of “#ToxinsTweet: 140 Easy Tips to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Environmental Toxins.”

Standley began studying the effects of household toxins in pets after she, her mother and sister all lost pet cats to cancer.

She grieved the losses but Standley, who earned a doctoral degree in chemical oceanography, also grew concerned about what made them sick in the first place.

She worries about the prevalence of chemical flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) found in many electronics, polyurethane foams, carpet padding, furniture, mattresses and other common household items.

“Each time we sit down on couches with foam cushions, dust particles fly out and fill our homes with dust containing flame retardant chemicals,” Standley says.

The products are being phased out after growing concern about their health effects. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed new standards to reduce use of fire-retardant chemicals in furniture and baby products.

Some studies have associated hyperthyroidism in cats to the presence of PBDEs, including one published in February 2012 in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

“Proving cause and effect is extremely difficult,” Standley says, “But that’s not an excuse to not protect our pets.”

Plastics also contain harmful chemicals, including bisphenol A and phthalates that have been associated with reproductive and other endocrine effects.

Some of these chemicals have been restricted from children’s products (such as the Multnomah County ban on sippy cups and baby bottles made with BPA).

“The same chemicals haven’t been regulated for dog or cat toys,” says Jennifer Coleman, outreach director at Oregon Environmental Council. “They could still have an impact on endocrine systems.”

Like infants, pets are also smaller than adults, metabolize more quickly and are closer to the ground. This makes them more vulnerable to harm from many of the products humans use, she says.

One way to reduce their exposure is by replacing plastic food bowls with those made from stainless steel, ceramic or glass instead, Standley suggests.

The fish in those food dishes can also be toxic; fish living in polluted streams can accumulate toxic substances in their systems, she says.

Even the plastic liner of the cans they come in may leach BPA.

Pigments and dyes are also likely to contain chemicals, so look for toys without a lot of color or bleaching, Coleman advises.

“My strategy with my own dog is to do the simple things that make the most sense to me,” she says.

She avoids vinyl and PVC plastic and opts instead for those made from rubber or fabric, such as tug ropes and stuffing-free toys. Even tennis balls can be toxic; the ones designed for dogs often contain lead.

Of course, some toxins will make your pet sick sooner rather than later.

At DoveLewis, veterinarians see some toxins more often than others. Metaldehyde slug bait ingestion can cause major muscle tremors that can be fatal, as well as liver problems, says staff veterinarian Dr. MeiMei Welker.

The emergency animal hospital also sees a fair number of dogs sick from marijuana ingestion, while rodenticide toxicity – suspected in the death of a prize-winning Samoyed recently– is a near-daily occurrence.

There are several kinds of rat bait, but the anticoagulant rodenticides are slower to act and allow more of a window of time to administer the antidote.

If your pet consumes poison of some sort, it’s best to bring the packaging to the veterinarian so he or she can treat it most effectively.

Other common toxins seen at DoveLewis include raisins and grapes; the sugar substitute Xylitol; Easter lilies; chocolate; ibuprofen and naproxen (Aleve); and acetaminophen.

The canary in the kitchen

Birds are uniquely sensitive to their environment; there’s a reason the phrase “canary in a coal mine” became so popular.

They’re very sensitive to aerosols, and their respiratory systems are very different than ours, says Dr. Marli Lintner of the Avian Medical Center.

Bird lungs are designed to breathe in very clean, thin air, so breathing in some toxic inhalants can kill them immediately or make them very sick.

“Any sort of fume that makes your nose tingle or your eyes water is bad news for the birds,” Lintner says.

Fumes from nonstick pans pose one of the biggest threats to our feathered friends.

Once the pans overheat – usually when the temperature reaches above 530 degrees Farenheit – a gas called polytetrafluoroethylene is released, says Dr. Deborah Sheaffer, staff veterinarian at the Audubon Society of Portland.

They can die very quickly, so if you see your bird panting or having trouble breathing, you should take it to the veterinarian immediately.

Lead poses another common avian household hazard. Paint, stained glass window frames, curtain weights, costume jewelry; foil from champagne bottles; and old bird cages can all be toxic.

“When people have pet birds, they really need to be cognizant of what’s around them,” Sheaffer says. “They’re curious and inquisitive and they like to chew on things.”

This may be a lot of information for you to chew on too. Just remember that making your home safer for your pets makes it safer for humans as well.

Offering your pet toys made from fabric or natural rubber instead of vinyl and PVC plastic can help reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals.Jennifer Coleman

How to help reduce toxins in your home

Vacuum frequently, preferably with a cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter, even on tile or wood floors (the goal is to not sweep dust up from the floor).

  • Eliminate carpet wherever possible; the less carpet you have, the easier it is to control dust.
  • Use rugs made of natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool or jute.
  • Vacuum your couch regularly.
  • Dust with a simple damp rag. Dry dusting can stir dust back into the air.
  • Replace plastic food dishes with those made from stainless steel, ceramic or glass instead.
  • If you have birds, avoid using nonstick pans whenever possible.
  • Don’t expose birds to smoke or household aerosol products such as harsh cleaners, perfumes, hairspray, etc.
  • Keep pets off the countertops and secure medications and other toxins safely in cupboards.
  • If you’re afraid your pet ingested something he shouldn’t have, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 (consultations cost $39).
  • Don’t try to make your pet vomit; in some cases it could make the situation worse.

 

 

 

Resources:

 

 

 

 

The most common toxicity cases at DoveLewis last year include:

 

  • Total toxicity: 512
  • Food toxicity (chocolate, grapes, salmon, Xylitol, raisins, Methylxanthine, alcohol, mushrooms): 121
  • Plant toxicity: lilies (19) and marijuana (125) = 144
  • Medication: 161 (includes NSAID, Albuterol, Cholecalciferol, Ibuprofen, Phenlpropanolamine, Acetaminophen, Ivermectin, Vitamin D, Metronidazole)
  • Household: 71 (includes Anticoagulant Rodenticide, Metaldehyde, Bromethalin, Ethylene Glycol, Zinc Phosphide, OrganoPhosphate)
  • Flea product toxicity: 15

Monique Balas

Owners beware: Poisoning from this rodenticide is tough to treat

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Pet owners using rodenticides should be aware that cats and dogs are susceptible to the products’ poison, and veterinarians fear an increase in bromethalin toxicity in pets because of a ban on brodifacoum. Bromethalin is the active ingredient in Assault, Fastrac, Gladiator, Rampage, Talpirid and Vengeance, and it causes brain and spinal cord swelling characterized by weakness, incoordination, seizures, paralysis and death. There is no definitive diagnostic test and no antidote, note veterinarians Lee Pickett and Jennifer Coates. Supportive treatments are available but they are intensive, and animals that survive are often left with neurological deficits. PetMD.com/Fully Vetted blog (3/12), BerksPets.com (Reading, Pa.) (3/11)

The EPA provides a list of rodenticides that meet their safety standards and are approved for homeowner use on their website. Two, diaphacinone and chlorophacinone, are short-acting anti-coagulants similar to warfarin, which we touched upon yesterday. Any pet poisonings that are caused by these products should be comparatively simple to diagnose and treat, as long as pets are seen by a veterinarian in a timely manner.
The third active ingredient on the EPA list, bromethalin, is more concerning. Bromethalin is a neurotoxin. It causes fluid to build up within the brain. The swelling puts pressure on nerves, which inhibits their ability to transmit impulses. The symptoms that develop depend on the dose of the poison that an animal ingests. At relatively low exposures, symptoms include unsteadiness, weakness that starts in the hind end and can progress forward, muscle tremors, depression, and vomiting. When a dog gets into a large amount of bromethalin, the symptoms are more severe. Pets typically develop some combination of the following:

 

  • muscle tremors
  • seizures
  • hyperexcitability
  • unsteadiness
  • paddling of the limbs
  • high body temperature
  • a loss of voice
  • stiffness in the front legs

 

Testing for bromethalin exposure is not readily available so diagnosis is dependent on a history of exposure (if that is known) and a pet’s clinical signs.
With hindsight, I think I may have treated one dog for bromethalin poisoning, though I didn’t know it at the time. This dog belonged to an owner who was in town for a horse show. My patient was brought into the clinic with a weird panoply of symptoms, some of which fit with those mentioned above. We suspected that he had gotten into something at the horse show, but could never determine exactly what that might have been. My guess is that someone may have put out a bromethalin-containing rodenticide around the barns.
Decontamination (e.g., inducing vomiting and giving activated charcoal) is very helpful within a few hours of ingestion, but once symptoms develop treatment for bromethalin poisoning revolves around trying to decrease swelling within the brain, dealing with symptoms as they arise, and patient support. Since I didn’t have a definitive diagnosis for my patient, I was limited to symptomatic and supportive therapies. It was touch and go for awhile, but he was much improved after a few days of hospitalization, and a follow-up phone call to his home in California revealed that he had made a complete recovery.
He was lucky, if he had eaten more of the poison or had been brought in even a day later, I probably wouldn’t have been able to save him.
I hope bromethalin poisonings do not increase as a result of the ban on brodifacoum. Sending pets home with vitamin K after exposure to brodifacoum is far less stressful than hospitalizing them for severe neurologic dysfunction without a way to reach definitive diagnosis and no antidote in sight.

Human medications pose pet health risks

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Accidental pet poisonings in 2012 increased 7% over the previous year, according to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, and human medications are often the culprit. Insurance claims for toxin exposure and ingestion submitted to PetPlan averaged $465 after deductibles were met. To prevent accidental pet poisonings, veterinarians recommend storing medications properly and taking them when pets aren’t around. “Assume anything a kid can get into, pets can get into,” said veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald. The Wall Street Journal

Annie, the Berlin family’s three-year-old Cavachon, has always been alert to the possibility of dropped food, not least thanks to living with three kids under the age of 15.

So when Josh Berlin, 48, went to the kitchen to take two Tylenol for a headache last August, Annie was hot on his heels. Shaking out gel capsules from the bottle, Mr. Berlin accidentally dropped three from his hand to the floor.

image

‘Anything on the kitchen floor, she thinks it’s fair game,’ says Beverly Hills, Calif., pet owner Ronna Berlin of her family’s three-year-old Cavachon, Annie, pictured at home.

“Before I could do anything, she had lapped one up,” he recalls. Knowing that Tylenol’s active ingredient, acetaminophen, is toxic to pets, the Berlins rushed Annie from their Beverly Hills, Calif., home to their local veterinarian, who referred her to a nearby animal hospital. There she received an intravenous neutralizing agent and was kept overnight for observation.

Cases of accidental pet poisonings are on the rise. A new study from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that its Animal Poison Control Center, based in Urbana, Ill., handled more than 180,000 calls about poisonous substances in 2012, up 7% from the previous year. The problem might be bigger than those numbers suggest, since many pet owners—like the Berlins—head straight to the vet instead of calling a hotline, says the center’s medical director, Tina Wismer.

image

When Siamese cat Lilly of Doylestown, Pa., began vomiting blood, her vet  suspected she accidentally swallowed her owner’s blood-thinning medication.

Human medications and supplements are some of the most common toxins ingested by pets. Prescription medicines for humans have accounted for the majority of the ASPCA center’s calls for the past five years, with a 2% increase last year to more than 25,200 calls. Over-the-counter medications and supplements ranked third, up 2.8% to nearly 18,500 calls, after insecticides. Veterinary medications came in fourth, up 5.2% to nearly 10,700 calls.

Based on the ASPCA’s center’s statistics, the fatality rate from accidental poisonings appears to be low, at 0.2% of cases. Dr. Wismer says the center isn’t able to determine the outcome of each call, so that rate could be higher.

Follow-up figures suggest that insecticides and rodenticides are the deadliest household items for pets. But common medicines for humans can also prove lethal, depending on the pet’s weight, the amount consumed and the strength of the toxin. “One acetaminophen will kill a cat,” says Kevin T. Fitzgerald, a veterinarian with VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver.

Symptoms vary by toxin. An amphetamine such as Adderall, used in humans to treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, triggers seizures in both dogs and cats. An anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen might result in stomach ulcers or kidney failure, says Jules Benson, vice president of veterinary services for pet insurer Petplan.

Pets’ tastes tend to follow prescription and health trends. In 2012, calls about prescription pain medications jumped 63%; antidepressants 47.5%. “More and more people are on these drugs, and dogs find them on the nightstand,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. And it isn’t always the medication they want in the first place: Prescription bottles can make an attractive chew toy for a bored pet.

image

Shakespear, a Basset Hound in Charlotte, N.C., overdosed on pain pills intended for another dog.

There is some evidence, too, that medications have gotten more tempting in recent years. Supplements for joints are often made of beef cartilage or shellfish, and more manufacturers are using gelatin-based soft gels or capsules, says Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, a website that evaluates supplements. A dog’s sweet tooth makes sweetened or flavored human meds attractive. “Our pets have such good noses that even though the bottle is closed, they can smell the stuff,” says Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian with the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, Calif.

Dogs are more susceptible to accidental poisoning than cats. Labrador Retrievers got into the most trouble last year, accounting for nearly 14,000 calls to the APCC. “Dogs experience the whole world by tasting it,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “Cats are a little more picky.”

But not immune. Although more than half of the APCC’s 10,000 cat cases in 2012 involved exposure to insecticides and toxic cleaners that cats walked across and then ingested while grooming, there are certain medications—notably, the antidepressant Effexor—that cats will willingly consume, says Dr. Wismer.

Sarah Rothmann, of Charlotte, N.C., suspects that superior sense of smell was what prompted her 10-year-old Basset Hound Shakespear to “counter surf” last August, standing up on his hind legs to paw a bottle of veterinary pain pills off the kitchen island. The intended patient, Woody, another of her six rescued Bassets, was supposed to take half of a chewable, flavored tablet every 12 hours. Shakespear chowed down on eight full tablets in one sitting.

It was the first time Shakespear had surfed for something that wasn’t clearly food. “We have stuff up there on the counter all the time, including medications, and he’s never touched it,” says Ms. Rothmann, 42. After a call to the APCC, Shakespear got a daily dose for a week of human-heartburn medicine Pepcid to prevent stomach irritation from the overdose.

Pet poisonings can be costly. The APCC typically charges $65 for consultations. In 2012, Petplan’s average insurance claim for vet visits associated with accidental poisoning was $465, after a deductible of $50 to $200. Dr. Benson says the company has seen claims as high as $10,000 in more severe cases. And while insurance covers accidents including poisoning, some insurers might not cover a pet that has a track record of eating unsuitable items.

Holidays aren’t always merry for pets

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The holidays present numerous opportunities for pets to ingest toxic substances and foreign objects or otherwise get hurt. According to pet health insurance companies, claims increase around Christmas, Halloween and Easter, with claims linked to ingestion of chocolate, candy or raisins by dogs far more likely Dec. 21-31 than the rest of the year, according to Petplan Pet Insurance. Dogs are of particular concern. “Dogs will eat almost anything,” said veterinarian Jules Benson, Petplan’s vice president of veterinary service. “Cats tend to be much more discriminating.” The Hartford Courant (Conn.)/Insurance Capital blog

JoAnne Lipsy came home one day in April 2011 to find that her 5-year-old golden retriever-pitbull mix, “Sascha,” had scarfed down a dark-chocolate bar that Lipsy’s mother set on the couch.

“I came home, found a wrapper on the floor, and realized it was dark chocolate, which is more lethal than other chocolate,” said Lipsy, who lives in Bloomfield. “I knew, once I saw the wrapper, it was an emergency situation. I knew that she would die if I didn’t do something.”

Lipsy rushed Sascha to an emergency veterinary hospital in Avon.

“I didn’t wait for her to vomit, and she vomited in my car — chocolate everywhere, in between the seats. It was horrible,” Lipsy said.

Chocolate and other types of candy are toxic to dogs. Every Christmas — and other holidays when candy abounds — pet owners dash to veterinary emergency-care rooms after their dogs scrounge around and gobble chocolate, baked goods with raisins or other things that are toxic to them. In high doses and left untreated, candy can cause serious damage to a dog’s kidney, pancreas or liver.

Insurance companies that sell pet insurance see a rise in claims during Christmas, as well as Halloween and Easter. Philadelphia-based Petplan Pet Insurance, for example, analyzed claims and found that those related to dogs eating chocolate, raisins or candy are 284 percent more likely between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31 than the average of other days in the year.

For Lipsy, her visit to the veterinarian resulted in a $769 claim with her pet insurer, Petplan. The average claim cost to pay for a veterinary visit was $487 during the holiday season, said Jules Benson, a veterinarian and vice president of Veterinary Service at Petplan.

“Dogs will eat almost anything,” Benson said. “Cats tend to be much more discriminating.”

The average claim for Seattle-based Trupanion Pet Insurance is about $430 and can be more than $1,500 according to Trupanion’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Kerri Marshall.

“In our experience, Christmastime has been the biggest time for chocolate ingestion, with Halloween coming in as number two in chocolate-related claims, followed closely by Easter,” Marshall said.

“Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine which are poisonous to dogs and cats,” Marshall said. “Darker chocolates are more dangerous because they contain more of these stimulants and smaller dogs and cats often show more severe signs than bigger dogs. When a pet consumes chocolate, it may show signs of vomiting, diarrhea and increased heart rate.”

‘It’s Not Just Chocolate’

The holidays come with all sorts of food people eat that can be toxic to dogs and cats.

“It’s not just chocolate,” Elisa Mazzaferro, a doctor of veterinary medicine, and Ph.D, who specializes in emergency and critical care at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists on Canal Street in Stamford.

Pets also shouldn’t have table scraps, including turkey drippings or bones, veterinarians say. Even seemingly innocuous things like sugar-free candy can be dangerous.

“Sugarless gum products contain something called Xylitol,” Mazzaferro said. “That can cause a massive release of insulin from the pancreas in dogs and cause their blood sugar to drop to the point of having seizures. Some dogs can get liver failure from it.”

Xylitol also can be found in other sugarless products, like candy for diabetics, said Benson, the veterinarian at Petplan Pet Insurance.

Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs while macadamia nuts can cause temporary paralysis, Mazzaferro said.

In March, Ann Dowd of West Haven stepped out of her kitchen for a few minutes, and her 5-month-old New Foundland, Bruno, leaped up and started gobbling two batches of bread dough that were on the kitchen counter. One batch had yeast and another batch, of Irish soda bread, had raisins.

Ordinarily, Bruno would be kept in a crate if Ann was out of the room, but she stepped away only briefly.

“He destroyed everything,” Dowd said.

“We were so scared,” Dowd said of herself and her husband, Tim. “I read somewhere about raisins. I couldn’t recall.”

She called the New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine on State Street, and the staff told her to bring Bruno in because of the raisins and yeast. Bruno stayed several days overnight in a veterinary bill that resulted in a $1,188 insurance claim, not including hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

Often when dogs eat something toxic, they are admitted for surveillance and veterinarians use a carbon-based substance to filter out toxins in the animal’s body, said Mazzaferro, the Stamford veterinarian affiliated with Cornell.

Christmas can be an unusual spectacle to pets, festooned with glittery things to chew or bat around.

Cats may not be likely to eat chocolate, but they often are attracted to tinsel or ribbons. For example, the pet insurer Trupanion paid a claim for a 5-month-old cat that ingested some ribbon and needed $2,800 of veterinary care to have it surgically removed.

“A large tree suddenly showing up in the living room will seem odd to pets,” said Marshall, Trupanion’s chief veterinary officer. “Expect them to want to climb it, chew on it, knock it over, potentially on top of them or breaking ornaments leaving glass shards to step on, or urinate on it — trees are commonly used for scent marking.”

Trupanion recommends pet owners think of ways to ensure the safety of their animals, such as putting a Christmas tree behind pet gates or up on a tabletop, if the tree is small enough.

Probably the best known caveat to pet owners is about poinsettias toxicity to cats and dogs. The bright red flowers often used to decorate around Christmas can be irritating to a pet’s stomach and mouth, sometimes causing vomiting, but the toxicity is “generally over-rated,” according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Lilies are more dangerous than poinsettias.

“Lilies can cause kidney failure if animals eat the leaves, stems or any part of the flower,” said Mazzaferro, the emergency and critical care veterinarian at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford. “Mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and collapse … English holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea and tremors.”

Cyclamen is sometimes used as a decorative Christmas flower, and it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, salivation and potentially death if an animal ingests a large amount, Mazzaferro said. Another popular holiday flower, Amaryllis, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, salivation and tremors.

Pet owners and veterinarians have different strategies and suggestions about keeping animals from toxic treats. For Lipsy, whose dog ate chocolate, she doesn’t leave anything tempting anywhere near “nose level.”

“We have a strict rule now that there is no chocolate out in the house, on a counter, or anywhere, if she can get within reach of it,” Lipsy said.

The skinny on chocolate: Is it actually harmful for dogs?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It’s the theobromine in chocolate that is toxic for dogs, writes veterinarian Julianne Miller, and theobromine levels vary depending on the type of chocolate. Even if an animal doesn’t ingest a toxic dose, Dr. Miller says chocolate can cause diarrhea, vomiting and pancreatitis, so any ingestion should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Also in this article, Dr. Miller explains the importance of vaccinating indoor cats. The Arizona Daily Sun (Flagstaff)

Q: I have heard that chocolate is toxic for dogs, but my dog has gotten into chocolate before and has not had any problems. So I am curious to know if chocolate is actually harmful or not?

A: The simple answer to your question is yes, chocolate is toxic; however, it is the ingredient theobromine that is contained in chocolate that is toxic to dogs. The toxicity is based on the amount of theobromine that the animal ingests when compared to the animal’s weight. It also matters what type of chocolate is ingested because the amount of theobromine in chocolate varies.

Any dose of theobromine over 45 mg/kg is potentially toxic and possibly lethal for dogs and should be treated aggressively by your veterinarian.

As an example, milk chocolate contains 44-64 mg theobromine per ounce of chocolate — so an average sized 80-pound Lab would need to ingest approximately 30-50 ounces of milk chocolate for a toxic dose. That is almost 3 pounds of milk chocolate! However, unsweetened baking chocolate contains 450 mg theobromine per ounce of chocolate. That means that same 80-pound Lab would be at a toxic dose after only 3.5 ounces!

So, you can see that the weight of the animal and the type of chocolate determine the toxic dose. Even if your dog eats chocolate and does not ingest a toxic dose there are other serious consequences to eating the chocolate such as severe stomach and intestinal upset, pancreatitis, diarrhea, vomiting and more. Any ingestion of chocolate is bad for a dog; whether it eats a toxic dose, your dog could suffer some serious adverse reactions. Since even a small dose of theobromine is potentially toxic and possibly lethal for dogs, it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian immediately for advice.