If your pet ever experienced poisoning of any kind, you know how badly they suffer. Watching our little Schnauzer struggling to catch a breath, looking at us and crying, my heart broke for him. We are careful to choose safe cleaning products and to keep potential hazards out of reach of our pets but late one night my husband, determined to catch tree rats (also called roof rats) that climbed our lanai screen, terrorized our dogs and continually tried to eat their way through the roof of the lanai, put out a package of rat poison. Each morning before the dogs went outside for their first run, the bait was removed for the safety of our animals and any other wildlife.  But one day, my husband forgot to pick up the poison and distracted by a phone call, he didn’t see little Jack slip into that corner of the yard to nibble on what he thought was a treat.

The dogs came inside and soon, Jack exhibited signs of illness:  excessive drooling, panting, whimpering.  Remembering the rodenticide he had left unattended in the yard, Jim rushed outside and removed it, and we hurried to our vet’s office with our dog. Jack was lucky! He had only ingested a small amount and recovered quickly after having his stomach emptied and several hours of treatment, but our carelessness could easily have taken our pup’s life.  Lesson learned!

March is Pet Poison Prevention month and an excellent time to address  potential hazards to our pets.

Poison-Free Lawns

With the advent of spring, comes lawn care…fertilizing, treating with insecticides and/or herbicides. But those products are often major hazards to our pets. Before you sign a contract with a lawn care company, get something in writing stating that their products are pet-safe and non-toxic. A study at Tufts University Veterinary School showed that pesticides applied by professional lawn care companies raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma (CML) by as much as 70%. Chemical insect killers for outside use were the worst offenders.

Consider treating your lawn yourself with natural products and keep your dog safe. You can find pet-safe lawn products online. Just know that many of the major brands sold are poisonous to pets. If you have no choice and must use hazardous chemicals on your yard, keep your pets inside and walk dogs on a leash to avoid any contact with the grass or shrubs for at least 2 days after the lawn has been treated and watered at least once.

Another problem comes from your neighbors’ lawns that are sprayed with chemicals. The overspray created by wind permeates your property, and your pets risk contamination by walking on your own grass. If your dog plays in parks that are chemically-treated, be sure to bathe him as soon as you get home, paying particular attention to paws.

Many shrubs and plants are poisonous to dogs and cats. Common plants to avoid include azaleas, all kinds of lilies, yew, sago palm, daffodils, asparagus fern, aloe, bay laurel, geranium, hyacinth, corn plant, and even the philodendron. Click here for a full list of plants your pet should avoid.

Remove any standing water that a pet could reach to avoid contamination with mosquitos, parasites and bacteria. Leptospirosis bacteria grow in standing water, even small puddles and many dogs today do not receive the preventative vaccine.

Another outdoor problem is mulch, specifically, cocoa mulch. The aroma it puts out is inviting, it looks good and is a magnet for playful dogs. But this particular mulch is toxic to pets. The active ingredient, theobromine, is the same as in chocolate.

Go through your garage or storage area to be certain any containers of poisonous materials are tightly closed. Clean around the lids to remove residue. Store them on higher shelves if possible and clean up spills quickly.

Even Your Kitchen Could Prove Hazardous to Pets!

Petplan Pet Insurance conducted a survey involving 5,700 pet owners that showed food and food additives are the worst poisonous offenders for dogs and cats. Perhaps that’s because we tend to spoil our pets with human food treats, when many human foods are not good for them. Too much rich food can cause pancreatitis, a major health problem for pets. While chocolate may be the best-known offender, especially dark chocolate, pet owners should also be aware of a few other potential hazards. Onions and garlic in certain amounts create gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage.  Grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage.

Nuts are problematic for dogs. Ingestion of macadamia nuts can lead to vomiting, weakness, tremors and hyperthermia, lasting 24-48 hours. Almonds, pecans and walnuts contain a high amount of oils and fats contributing to pancreatitis.

Should a pet ingest uncooked yeast dough, know that it can continuing rising in the stomach, leading to bloat and twist. Yeast also produces alcohol in animals.

A substance we often read about today is xylitol, a sweetener found in gum, candy, some kinds of peanut butter and even toothpaste. Xylitol causes an insulin release, leading to liver damage and even death.  Ladies, keep your handbags closed and out of reach of nosy pets. Xylitol causes an insulin release in the body leading to liver failure or vomit-inducing seizures.

It should go without saying that dogs should never receive any form of alcohol! Some people believe it’s funny to watch a tipsy dog stumbling around but in reality, alcohol depresses the animal’s nervous system, causes breathing difficulties and could even lead to coma and death.

These are just a few of many people foods that could harm dogs. For a more inclusive list, check out this link.

More Home Pet Hazards.

Along with human foods, common household cleaners and objects we use to enhance our homes could wreak havoc on our pets’ health.

Nothing makes a home feel cleaner than bleach. However, if it is not handled properly, bleach could do more harm than good. When you clean a surface with a bleach solution, be sure to rinse it well to remove any residue. Dogs walk on those freshly bleached floors and then lick their paws. Take care in storing your mop and cleaning rags so a nosy pup can’t reach them. When using bleach, always air the room when you finish cleaning to avoid poisonous fumes. The chemicals in dishwashing detergents are often poisonous, containing chlorine.

Many dog owners swear by carpet freshener powders you sprinkle on the rugs to remove the “doggie” odor. Some of them do help, but the freshly applied powder could irritate canine skin and nasal passages. Keep your pets out of the room until you vacuum up the powder. The liquid air fresheners smell great but could poison your dog if spilled. Many contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and phenol, which burns the skin.

Those magical fabric softener sheets that make our laundry smell good and help us avoid the chore of ironing contain cationic detergent. Even the used ones! Chewing on one of those fabric softener sheets can cause drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers and fever. Obviously, if a dog should chew and swallow a sheet, an intestinal blockage could occur.

Prescription and over-the-counter meds could poison a pet. Never leave them in reach of a curious animal. Estrogen patches needs to be emphasized. It comes in gels, creams, sprays and patches and women usually wear the product on their arms or torsos. If an animal should lick the area and ingest the estrogen, serious problems could arise. Female dogs develop signs of being in heat, even if spayed. Males develop swollen mammary glands, as well as other symptoms. Hair loss can occur in both.

Breath fresheners in either liquid or mint form could contain menthol which can irritate the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Some of these products contain Xylitol which can create liver damage.

If ingested, cigarettes and nicotine patches can cause severe vomiting, depression, seizures and even death.

Essential oils are used in many homes and many dogs and cats are sensitive to the fragrances in the oils. Always supervise pets around the oils.  Most soap contain detergents, which are harmful to pets, and some contain essential oils. Keep them out of reach.

Many mosquito repellants contain a chemical commonly called DEET. Never use this on your pets as it can cause neurological problems. Look for pet-safe repellants at your local pet retailer.

Flea and Tick Preventatives.

Since these are intended for pets, one would assume they are safe. But that isn’t necessarily so. Many flea collars, flea dips, shampoos and Spot-On treatments contain hazardous chemicals. Our dogs were given a popular “Spot-On” preventative for several years with no problems at all. One night, I applied the usual does to my Weimaraner.  Within 20 minutes, Gator was staggering, bumping into walls. His eyes appeared glazed and he was drooling. We quickly gave him 2 Benadryl capsules suitable for his size and he soon returned to normal. It was clear that his reaction could have proved deadly, had we not acted quickly.  From that time on, we researched natural methods of prevention and tried many of them. Many people swear by some of those methods which you can easily find on the Internet, but we weren’t as successful. Our ultimate decision was to use a natural spray repellant containing herbs and oils, along with diatomaceous earth and frequent wipe-downs with a damp rag to remove any critters the dogs may have picked up outside. We spray our home each month with flea repellant and kept the animals away from home after spraying for 2-4 hours until, being conservative, we were certain the product had dried.

These are just some of the ways our pets can be poisoned by common products. Check all areas of your home for hazards.  Remove dangerous products from under your sink where a crafty pet could gain access. Get down on the floor and look at each area from your dog’s eye level to see what might entice him. Try not to feed your pets people food because some things might not be good for him. Make a list of the cleaning products you want to switch out for pet-safe ones and shop for all-natural products. I use Seventh Generation products for my home and trust that they are safe for my pets. Shop for all natural parasite preventatives.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned or if his behavior indicates something is wrong, contact your veterinarian at once for help and proper diagnosis.