The start of March brings with it a change in seasons for many of us in North America. Spring is starting (sorry Eastern Canada), and we are getting the itch to clean, prepare and plan the coming warm months. March is also Poison Prevention Month and it’s a good time to remind everyone that there are many items in our day-to-day lives that are capable of putting our canines at a serious health risk if ingested.
With that in mind, I want to list a few things that are regularly found inside our homes, as well as items found outside our homes, that could affect our dogs. The first step is being aware that poisonous items, which we need and use daily, exist in our environment. The second step is to set our canines up for success by ensuring their environment is a safe space, with said items being cleaned up and secured away from interested and snooping noses. Here is the most recent list of top pet toxins provided by the ASPCA.
To protect your pet, simply follow the same processes you would as if you were taking precautions for a child.
Pet-toxic items inside your house:
- Human medication
Generally dosed for much larger bodies, even a small amount of medication can be dangerous. Keep all containers, tubes, ointments, vitamins and cold medicines away in a secure location so that pets cannot access or chew them. Don’t forget to also include veterinary products and medications. Flea and tick medication is highly toxic, as is joint and pain medication and supplements if they are taken in the wrong dosages.
- Household plants
This includes lilies, mistletoe, holly, azaleas, etc. There is unfortunately quite a long list, as we tend to like plants with bright colours and cool designs, which in Nature usually indicate a level of toxicity as a warning to others. You can see that list courtesy of the ASPCA, here. For some. the leaves and plant can toxic, for others it is the fruit; and for others agai,n it can be the seeds, or a combo of all three. Be careful what plants you bring into your house and, if you do bring plants into your canine’s safe space, you MUST ensure they are safe!
- Toys with movable parts or stuffing
Easy examples include plastic eyes on a doll or squeakers in plushy toys, both of which can become lodged in a throat or intestine necessitating an expensive trip to the vet. Take the same precautions you would with a small child. Don’t leave them unintended and remember that no toy is truly indestructible!
- String, yarn, rubber bands, dental floss all can cause ugly intestinal blockages.
- Food Items
Some food products are straight-up toxic, while others can cause mechanical damage if eaten (cooked bones splinter and get caught in throat and intestine, for example). Gum has xylitol in it, which is very poisonous for dogs (a small dog can be in a lot of trouble just ingesting 1 or 2 pieces), chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can be deadly to dogs. The list is fairly extensive here as well. Think that is it? Well avocado, bread dough, ethanol (alcohol), grapes, hops, macadamia nuts, moldy foods, onions and garlic also make the list. Take a look at this link here again provided by the ASPCA for toxic foods commonly found around the house.
Pet-toxic items outside your house:
- Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)
It tastes sweet if ingested, making it very appealing for pets to sniff out and lap up. Unfortunately, this common product is used in the radiators of our vehicles to keep them cool, to keep plumbing from freezing over winter, and also used in our home’s air conditioner. It is possible to purchase antifreeze without ethylene glycol, and if this product simply became the norm in the industry, we wouldn’t have to contend with so many poisonings related to this product.
Used to keep plants growing, grass green, and to keep all those bugs at bay, any such products are fatal if accessed by pets.
- Traps and poisons
Used for rodent control, ant control, etc., these products can cause injury and can most certainly kill, as that is their intended purpose. Never leave poison baits in your canine’s environment.
- Cocoa Mulch
You can buy this mulch at garden stores, and because of the cocoa component, it has an appealing sweetness to it that can lure pets. It does, however, have the same active (read: toxic) ingredients as chocolate and can be just as dangerous if ingested.
Being a canine caregiver means ensuring that our canines lead happy, healthy and safe lives. Just as is the case for our human children, there are a lot of products in our environment that are toxic when not used for their intended purpose. It is critical that we are first made aware of what these products are, and secondly, take action to ensure that our canines are kept safe from them.
Accidents do happen. If you think your canine has ingested something they should not have, don’t wait or delay, take them immediately to a veterinarian and explain what you think they have gotten into. If you are able to bring the product with you, do so – as it will help the veterinarian understand what active ingredients are present and what course of action must be taken to address the problem.
Not sure if your canine has been poisoned? Some signs that can be seen after ingestion:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mild to severe depression
- Wobbly, uncoordinated (drunken-appearing) gait or movement
- Twitching muscles
- Short, rapid movements of the eyeball
- Head tremors/ seizures
- Lack of appetite
- Salivation and drooling
- Swollen glands
- Decreased righting (standing up) ability
- Increased urination and increased thirst