At Urgent Pet Care, we see a lot of emergency visits related to pet toxin exposure. Although we are always here for you when your furry friend gets into something dangerous, we don’t want to see any animal suffer the effects of toxicity. There are many household items and foods that are perfectly safe for people, yet dangerous if your pet gets ahold of them.
Chocolate is a tempting treat for both humans and animals, but this sweet indulgence is toxic to pets. The toxic chemicals—theobromine and caffeine—are more concentrated in darker types of chocolate. We tend to see more cases of toxicity around the holidays—especially Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas—when chocolate is often left sitting out. If your pet ingests a toxic dose of chocolate, she may experience:
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Muscle tremors
- Cardiac arrhythmias
If your pet ingests chocolate, seek immediate veterinary care.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is added to many sugar-free foods, like chewing gum, candy, and peanut butter. Although xylitol’s sugary taste may tempt your pet into sneaking a piece of candy or gum, its effects on her body’s sugar levels are anything but sweet. Ingesting a toxic dose can cause blood sugar levels to plummet, leaving your pet feeling horrible. Beyond the immediate hypoglycemia, it can also cause liver failure. Signs of xylitol toxicity include:
- Muscle tremors
- Jaundice (yellow coloring)
If you find your pet chewing on candy or gum that might contain xylitol, don’t delay—signs of toxicity can arise within 15 minutes of ingestion.
Grapes and raisins
Grapes and raisins are healthy snacks for all family members, especially kids. But, if your toddler decides to share with his furry friend or accidentally drops his snack onto the floor, there could be serious consequences for your pet. Other sources of grapes—grape juice, raisin bread, cereal bars, cookies, trail mix—are equally dangerous. Ingestion of even a few grapes or raisins can cause life-threatening acute kidney failure. Symptoms to watch for:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased water consumption
- Changes in urine volume or frequency
Garlic and onions
Both members of the Allium family, garlic and onions are popular additions to savory home-cooked dishes. Your pet’s nose may lead her to your side when you’re cooking with these fragrant ingredients, but don’t share any meals containing them. Although both are poisonous to pets, garlic is about five times as toxic as an equal amount of onions. Both, however, can cause significant gastrointestinal upset and destruction of red blood cells, leading to life-threatening anemia. Signs of garlic and onion toxicity include:
- Abdominal pain
- Pale gums
All medications should be considered potential poisons, since high doses of almost any will cause problems. If your pet gets into any medication—prescription or over-the-counter, human or veterinary—she should be assessed immediately for possible toxicity. Along with your pet, bring the bottle of medication so we know exactly what and how much she consumed. Never attempt to treat your pet’s ailments at home with medications. Those that may seem perfectly safe, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen, can cause life-threatening toxicity to your pet.
Rodent baits—used to purposely poison rats, mice, moles, and other pesky critters—are designed to entice rodents into eating them. Unfortunately, they can also attract dogs and cats who may think they are a tasty treat. Secondary ingestion can also occur if your pet eats a rodent—dead or alive—that has consumed a rodenticide. There are many types of rodent baits, each containing different active ingredients. The four basic types are:
- Anticoagulants — These rodent baits contain ingredients designed to cause uncontrollable bleeding and death.
- Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) — The most dangerous type to pets, rodenticides containing this ingredient cause rapid kidney failure that is fatal if not treated quickly.
- Bromethalin — Also extremely toxic, bromethalin ingestion causes brain swelling, seizures, paralysis, and death.
- Zinc and aluminum phosphides — Often found in mole and gopher baits, these ingredients emit toxic gases from the stomach after ingestion. If your pet vomits after eating them, you can be exposed to harmful gases as well.
The important thing to remember is that rodent baits are made to kill. If you suspect your pet has eaten rodent bait, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. If you have the packaging from the product, bring it with you so we know exactly what toxic ingredient she has eaten.
A number of household and outdoor plants are toxic to pets. Cats, in particular, like to gnaw on leaves and stems, which can cause problems if they get ahold of a type that is poisonous. According to Pet Poison Helpline, the top 10 most poisonous plants to pets are:
- Autumn crocus
- Lilies (all types)
- Sago palm
- Tulips and hyacinths
If you see your pet eat any plant, bring a sample of the plant (leaves, stems, and flowers if available) and her in for treatment right away. It’s much easier to remove the potential toxin from your pet’s stomach than to treat a potentially life-threatening toxin once it has been absorbed into her body.
Think your pet may have gotten into something toxic? Contact us immediately!