March is poison prevention awareness month for pets

March 28, 2017

I like to write about important topics for our pets, particularly pointing out the various months of the year which we recognize and discuss specific health and wellness issues for our pets. While doing some research about poison prevention for pets, I saw many articles identifying different foods, household and outdoor plants as well as chemicals that can be extremely harmful to pets. I saw articles written by veterinarians, pet lovers and organizations that all had useful information. I saw specific plants listed however that can all depend on the region of the country in which you live. Certain pets may also be affected by things that do not affect other breeds of animals, i.e. cat vs. dog.

Sometimes articles can offer too much, incorrect or not enough information. What I did see was some alarming and negative feedback by online readers to include everything from their horrible stories of pet poisoning to rude rebuttals from know it all’s that attacked the authors who were simply trying to help make people aware. I am NOT a poison control expert and I will never know all of the things that may negatively affect my dogs. I can share, however, several stories in which I have experienced pets ingesting toxic or dangerous items and my due diligence, knowledge of the signs and symptoms, and the simple fact that I really keep a close eye out for these things most likely saved these pet’s lives.

From my early dog studies, I learned that the most dangerous things for puppies and young dogs were electrical cords, and ingesting things as simple as a paperclip or hair-tie could kill them. In my puppy lessons, I explain the importance of ALWAYS keeping your pup in sight in your home and when they are loose, make sure that they are in puppy proof areas. If you are playing with toys, there are toys that the pups can chew on safely (I call them non-supervised toys) and then there are plush toys that pups love to chew up and eat. All it takes is for them to gobble pieces of their toys; they can choke or these pieces get lodged in their stomach or intestines and, by the time you notice there is a problem, it could be fatal. In reality, we cannot truthfully monitor our pups that closely 24/7 to be sure that they do not quickly swallow or put something into their mouths. I have been on my way to a puppy lesson only to have the griefstricken family call me to say their pup just bit a lamp cord and was killed in front of the family. There is not a month that goes by at our kennel where a client’s dog does not throw up or poop out a foreign object that we KNOW they did not get from us: kids’ underoos, a golf glove, toys, socks, nylons, and the list goes on! Just LAST week one of my own GSP pups, at 18 months old, must have swiped one of my scrunchie hair-ties without my knowledge. I pick up my dogs’ poop daily and make a point to check out their droppings, and when I saw something white in the poop I thought it might have been their bedding. I was pretty horrified to further examine to see that it was my own hair tie. (While I love photo essays, I will spare you the proof of this story!) What a silly thing for these pups to do… and I am glad to have found it as now I know better that they are still immature and silly enough to do this! The lesson here: Dogs will be dogs, they WILL eat things and it is up to us to not only learn about our individual pets, but to make sure we learn their habits and what they are capable of. Certain pups are just really naughty about this!

Another specific issue that I have encountered is catching my dogs actually eating something possibly poisonous, or learning about it just afterwards, i.e. ant bait, chocolate or medications. Sometimes if a dog ingests certain poisons it can be even more harmful to induce vomiting. I call my veterinarian right away for advice, and there are several pet poison control hotlines that you can call. They will first ask for your credit card payment as this consult is typically about $50. Here is how they work when I Googled a well-known one: “We are a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance with treating a potentially-poisoned pet. We have the ability to help every poisoned pet, with all types of poisonings, 24 hours a day. Our knowledge and expertise of pet poisons will put your mind at ease when dealing with a potential emergency. In order to provide this critical service, please be advised that there is a $49 (USD) per-incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case. While this list is not exhaustive or complete, some common signs of poisoning generally include:
Gastrointestinal signs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling/hypersalivating
  • Inappetance
  • Nausea

Internal bleeding

  • Coughing of blood
  • Vomiting blood
  • Pale gums
  • A racing heart rate
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Collapse

Kidney failure

  • Halitosis (“uremic” breath)
  • Inappetance
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Absence or decreased urination

Liver failure

  • Jaundice/icterus/yellow discoloration to the gums
  • Weakness or collapse secondary to a low blood sugar
  • Dull mentation, acting abnormally
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black-tarry stool (melena)

It is a good idea to know about these services as they could happen to you at any time, and it is important to learn about these services before an emergency!

Once your pet might be showing some of these symptoms, you have to act fast. A call to a poison control hotline may just save their life.

My advice for this March Poison Awareness Month is to be prepared and take a moment to look up toxic plants in your area, think about what chemicals you may just have lying around that are deadly (anti-freeze, rodent bait, and lawn products) as well as take the time to make sure that your dog cannot get into cabinets to sneak medications or food items. In my entire dog career, even with my extreme due diligence, I can recall too many times that my own beloved pets grabbed a hidden ant trap, tore open a newly delivered box only to devour 96 out of 100 brewer’s yeast tablets, ate a glove, ate the freshly baked Christmas cookies, or even engorged themselves on a yummy deer carcass. Thankfully, in all of these instances I was quick to realize the accident and I was completely proactive to address the situation and my critical actions most likely spared my dogs from severe stomach upset, but it also saved their lives!