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Pet owners unintentionally harm thousands of pets each year

By Gary Bogue
Monday, March 24th, 2008 at 6:46 am in Cats, dogs, Pesticide, Poison, Poisonous plants, Toxic.

In the average household, many pets are only one bite away from disaster.

I found this information in my morning mail. It’s definitely worth a read:
Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, California, recently analyzed its medical claims data to determine the most commonly ingested household toxins and poisons. VPI ranked the toxic substances by the number of claims received in 2007 for each type.

Shockingly, the most dangerous poisons by far appear to be human medications intentionally given to pets by their owners!

Here is the list of top household toxins, with 2007 claim counts and prevention pointers for each.

1. Drug Reactions (3,455 claims) — VPI received more claims for drug reactions than all other poisoning claims combined in 2007. Many of these claims involved pets given drugs intended for human consumption, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. Pet owners often give pets over-the-counter or prescription drugs for their ailments, unaware that even given in small amounts, many of these drugs cannot be metabolized by pets fast enough to prevent an overdose. Never give pets medications without consulting a veterinarian.

2. Rodenticide (870 claims) — Even if these poisons, most often sold in pellet form, are placed away from pets, rodents can carry them to pet-occupied areas. The taste and smell of rodenticides is designed to appeal to small mammals. Pet owners should consider other options for eliminating rodents.

3. Methylxanthine (755 claims) — The methylxanthine class of chemical compounds includes theobromine and caffeine, both of which are common ingredients in chocolate. Toxic amounts of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperactivity, abnormal rhythms of the heart, or even seizures in pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.

4. Plant Poisoning (466 claims) — Many household plants can be toxic to pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias, azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis. Other plant products including onions, grapes and raisins are also categorized under the company’s plant toxicity code. Pet owners should exercise extra caution when pets are near these plants and abstain from giving grapes and raisins as treats.

5. Household Chemicals (313 claims) — Pets will get into just about anything with bright colors and strong odors. Ingestion of cleaning supplies such as bleach, liquid potpourri, even deodorant or toiletries can result in an ill pet. Keep these items secured.

6. Metaldehyde (88 claims) — This deadly component of snail bait can also attract pets. Signs usually occur quickly and include vomiting and whole body tremors. Pet owners should consider alternative methods for getting rid of snails and slugs.

7. Organophosphate (60 claims) — This group of insecticides works to inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to nerve function in insects and pets. Ingestion can occur through skin absorption or oral intake. The chemicals degrade quickly after being sprayed outside, but pets should not be exposed to any area that has recently been sprayed.

8. Toad Poisoning (58 claims) — Some species of toad, particularly along the Gulf Coast, secrete a toxic substance when threatened — or licked by curious dogs. Toxic effects are immediate and can be life-threatening. Make sure to regularly monitor pets when outdoors to reduce exposure to hazardous creatures.

9. Heavy metals (48 claims) — Mercury, lead or excessive amounts of zinc, iron, cobalt and copper can cause serious illness in pets, especially if allowed to accumulate in a pet’s body. Pets may be exposed to heavy metals through lead-based paint, ingestion of pennies coined after 1982, vitamins, soil contamination, or water pollutants.

10. Antifreeze (36 claims) — The sweet taste of antifreeze appeals to pets. While most people are aware of the poisonous potential of antifreeze, they may not notice a pool collecting from a leak beneath a car. Regularly give a glance beneath the car and clean any spills immediately.

Please make sure the above information doesn’t apply to you.

Are you using poisons in your house or yard? Don’t. Are you giving human drugs to your pets WITHOUT the recommendation of your veterinarian? Don’t. Do you have any poisonous plants in your house? Get rid of them. Is there any spilled antifreeze on your garage floor? Clean it up.

And PLEASE make sure you know the phone number and location of the nearest Veterinary Emergency Clinic to your house … just in case. The life you save may be that of your beloved pet. /Gary

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No Responses to “Pet owners unintentionally harm thousands of pets each year”

  1. Pat in Antioch Says:

    I’m so paranoid about my guys Gary, that I even gave up ALL of my inside plants. Max (a cat of many years ago) always thought of plants as his own personal salad bar. Keeping them wasn’t worth the risk even though I’m sure most of them were safe. They weren’t the cause of his demise, by the way, he lived a good, long (plant free :-) life. Thanks for the info….can never have too many reminders….better safe than sorry.

    Pat in Antioch

    PS Hope Tut is doing ok.

  2. Gary Says:

    Pat: If we can learn one new thing each day that will help us be better guardian to our animal companions, then it has been a good day.
    Tut is doing as well as can be expected. He’s also getting very old. Thanks for asking. /Gary

  3. Laila Says:

    Thanks for the info. Your column is fantastic and makes us all aware of things. I had to get rid of all my houseplants because my dogs and cats liked to chew on them. I also stopped using things like Neosporin on my dog’s rashes (even if it worked great) because of the zinc content. Also, xylitol in chewing gum and some toothpastes can kill a pet and ibuprofen is extremely toxic and can be fatal.

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  5. Paulette Kenyon Says:

    My friend’s daughter has a few acres of property around her house in Moraga. Her mom’s dog and her new puppy both ingested poisonousness mushrooms that were growing on her property within a two week period. Both dogs died. The mushroom expert she contacted said that properties with oak trees can support a deadly mushroom; so, those who have oak trees and have dogs should probably check under around the tree areas during the week after a rain. Strangely, her old dog previous to this new puppy that she had for many years never had a problem and died of old age.
    I’d say the whole Lafayette and Moraga area are fairly ideal for mushrooms; so, I’d be extra special careful if I lived in those areas.

  6. Bob Reading Says:

    Gary, the fix for the mockingbirds, is to go up the tree as far as you can and tie a rope to a branch. When the bird starts his loud song, go out and pull hard on the rope, it will shake the tree and after about 10 times doing this, the bird will go away. When I did this he went to our neighbors yard, and keped him awake an we enjoyed a peaceful sleep.

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