Moment of Paws: It's National Poison Prevention Week

Dogs like Tsunami, a Pit Bull Terrier, need help to protect them from common household items that can be toxic or fatal if consumed. Photo courtesy ARL Boston

As we celebrate spring, a number of activities usually define this time of year – cleaning, gardening, and social events that involve friends, family and food. It’s also National Animal Poison Prevention Week, a perfect time to inform pet owners and raise awareness to common household items that can be toxic or even fatal for our furry friends.

Cleaning – The ingredients to avoid in household cleaners are phenols – a parent compound used as a disinfectant. If the label says “disinfectant”, “antibacterial”, or “sanitizer”, chances are it contains phenolic compounds, which can be toxic to dogs and cats. Keeping our pets safe means reading labels to find pet-friendly products, diluting solutions, keeping pets out of rooms until surfaces are dry to the touch, and cleaning with care!

Gardening – Spring means flowers, and lilies are a spring staple for many households. However, lilies of any variety can be extremely toxic for our pets, especially for cats. Daffodils, tulips, chrysanthemums, and hyacinths are also dangerous flowers for pets and should be avoided.

If you’re looking to jump start your outdoor garden or yard for the coming season, keep in mind that there are a number of pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals that are pet-friendly and should be utilized if your pets will be using the yard to frolic when the weather turns warmer.

Food – Not feeding our pets from the table promotes good manners, but also promotes good health, as many of the foods we eat are toxic to our pets. When it comes to food, it’s important to keep the following foods away from our pets:

- Citrus. If ingested in significant amounts, it can cause stomach upset or even nervous system depression

- Grapes and Raisins. Although it’s unknown what the toxic substance is, the fruit can cause kidney failure

- Nuts. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts contain high amounts of fat and can cause pancreatitis in pets

- Onions and Garlic. These can cause gastrointestinal issues or even red blood cell damage

- Salt and Salty Snacks. These foods produce excessive thirst and can lead to tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures, even death

Additionally, we all know that chocolate is a no-no, but there are plenty of other foods that are off the menu for pets. Along with chocolate, many foods contain the sweetener xylitol and if ingested, could lead to liver failure. Remember, more often than not, if it’s on our menu, it shouldn’t be on theirs.

Poison Control – Fortunately, pet poison control hotlines are available and are ready to help. This is a service that is offered by a number of microchip companies, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also has a poison control hotline, which can be reached at (888) 426-4435.

When you call a pet poison control hotline, the operator will gather information from you and depending on what they’ve ingested and symptoms they’re displaying, you can either treat at home, or bring your animal to a veterinarian for emergency treatment.

If it’s the latter, poison control will contact your veterinary office, relay the information, and a plan of treatment will be ready to go once you arrive.
Despite the safeguards we take, our pets are curious and, sadly, thousands of pets are impacted by ingesting something poisonous every year. Remember, should you suspect your pet has gotten into something they shouldn’t have, take immediate action; every second counts!

Dr. Edward Schettino is the president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and has a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pet questions? Email ARL at press@arlboston.org.