Pets explore their environment and learn about their world with their nose and mouth, which can put them at risk of finding and ingesting toxic items. Most pet owners are astonished to learn how many toxic products they keep in their homes and yards. So, South Shores Pet Clinic wants to help you identify potential pet poisons in your home, and let you rest easier at night, knowing your home is pet-safe.

Pet poisoning basics

Illness caused when your pet ingests a poisonous product can range in severity from mild to extremely serious, and can put their long-term health, and perhaps their life, in danger. 

Bleach or rat poison come to mind most often when you think of household toxins—and you’re correct—but most homes hold many other, less obvious, items that are safe for humans but hazardous to pets. The third week of March is recognized annually as Pet Poison Prevention Week, making this a good time to review your house and yard for hazardous items. 

Common household pet toxins

Keep these common household items out of your pet’s reach. 

  • Human medications — Many common human medications are extremely toxic to pets, including NSAIDs, acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol), antidepressants, ADD/ADHD medications, sleep aids, and thyroid medications, and must be stored well out of pets’ reach. Also, ensure cosmetics and lotions are not left on accessible surfaces, such as bedside tables.
  • Pet medications — The same flavorings that make pet medications palatable can also make them irresistible, and eating too many can be dangerous for pets. Store all pet medications safely, read the directions carefully so your pet gets no more than is prescribed, and never share medications among pets. Remember, too, that a child-proof container is not necessarily pet-proof.
  • Human foods — Chocolate, alcohol, bread dough, fatty table scraps, and the sugar substitute xylitol top the list of human foods that can cause severe problems for pets. Resist those begging eyes and never share your food with your pet. 
  • Household cleaners Many cleaning supplies can mildly irritate your pet’s mouth and nose, or be deadly, depending on the amount ingested. Keep curious pets away from “helping” you on cleaning day, ensure cleaning areas are well-ventilated, and store all products well out of your pet’s reach.
  • Plants and flowers — Hundreds of common houseplants and flowers can be toxic to pets if eaten. Tulips, lilies, azaleas, sago palms, and poinsettias top the list of plants that are toxic to pets in varying degrees. Lilies are especially dangerous for cats. 

Pet toxins in your yard

Knowing the items in your yard and garage that pose problems for your pet is equally important. Store the following items carefully, and out of reach:

  • Antifreeze
  • Fertilizers and herbicides
  • Pesticides, such as snail and slug bait
  • Citronella
  • Cocoa bean mulch
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Pool and spa supplies
  • Products containing bone or blood meal 

Antifreeze is especially tempting to pets, and any spills should be cleaned up immediately. Also,

if mushrooms grow in your yard during the spring, remove them immediately, because they can cause liver damage and sometimes death in pets. 

Signs of pet poisoning

Your pet may show poisoning signs immediately, or their signs may be so subtle that you don’t notice them for several days. If you see your pet eating anything you believe may be poisonous, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Call the Pet Poison Helpline or South Shores Pet Clinic right away with your questions or concerns, or go to the nearest emergency pet hospital, taking the poison package, if possible. Common pet-poisoning signs include:

  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Excessive thirst
  • Inappetence
  • Changes in gum or tongue color
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Panting for more than 30 minutes

If you notice any of these signs, your pet should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Preventing a pet poisoning

As you can see, preventing pet poisoning is important. At least once a year, walk around your house and yard to evaluate your pet’s safety, and ensure all potentially toxic products are appropriately stored. Also, consider the following:

  • Installing child-proof latches to prevent paws from opening cabinets
  • Placing cleaning supplies, medications, chemicals, and laundry supplies on high shelves
  • Keeping trash in cans with locked lids, or in latched cabinets
  • Instituting an “off the floor” policy in your family, because purses, backpacks, and coat pockets are prime places for pets to investigate and find a potentially toxic substance, such as a pack of sugar-free gum containing xylitol. 

If you have any questions or concerns about products poisonous to pets or suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, do not hesitate to give South Shores Pet Clinic a call. Pet Poison Prevention Week—March 21 to 27 this year—is the perfect time to make your home and yard pet-safe.