PROTECT YOUR PETS FROM COMMON
TO RETURN TO MEDICAL ALERTS LIST]
Cats, dogs and other companion
animals can be poisoned by most of the same substances
that can harm humans, as well as materials that don't
affect humans. And, because of their relatively small
bodies, household pets can be harmed by very small amounts
of a toxic substance.
A recent caller to UNH Cooperative Extension
Family, Home and Garden Education Center Info Line wanted
to know if cocoa shell mulch was toxic to dogs. She'd
recently mulched her flower garden with cocoa shells,
and found her two dogs eagerly gobbling it up.
Because she knew chocolate could poison
dogs, she was concerned, and had been keeping the animals
cooped up indoors, since they made a beeline for the mulch
whenever they were let out.
We called the national Animal Poison Control
Center in search of more information, not only about cocoa
mulch, but about preventing pet poisoning in general,
and talked with Dr. Michael Knight, the Center's medical
Knight said all parts of the cocoa plant
contain a compound called theobromine, a central nervous
system and cardiovascular stimulant. "There are no
hard numbers on just how much of the substance might be
in a given batch of cocoa shell mulch, but the caller's
dog was exhibiting symptoms consistent with theobromine
poisoning - restlessness, panting, pacing, anxious behavior."
Knight talked about steps pet owners can
take to prevent their animals from being poisoned in their
own homes and back yards, also referring people to the
Here is some information gleaned from
the website and from Dr. Knight's comments.
"We need to look at our homes through
the eyes of our pets, seeking out ‘toys' and ‘entertainments'
that may be harmful for them," he said.
Be prepared. You should keep telephone
numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary
service, and the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control
Center (1-888-4 ANI-HELP) in a convenient location. If
you suspect your pet has ingested something poisonous,
seek medical attention immediately.
Don't use garden or lawn care chemicals
in the presence of your pet.
For your own and your animal's safety, read and follow
label directions carefully.
Keep pets off a lawn or away from other plants treated
with an insecticide or a weed killer at least until the
plants are completely dry.
Keep your pets out of an area where snail or slug bait
has been applied. Always store such products in areas
inaccessible to your companion animals. Contact the manufacturer
for information concerning product usage around your pets.
Dr. Knight noted the Center receives many calls from dog
owners whose dogs have been poisoned by systemic insecticides
in granular form, incorporated into the soil at the base
of perennial plants along with organic fertilizing materials
such as bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, feather meal
or manure. All of these organic materials are very attractive
to dogs, who see them as a food source.
If you're a dog-owner who hires a professional
landscaping service to care for your shrubs and other
plants, be sure to get the names of all insecticides and
fertilizers the landscaper has used around your plants.
Knight says a common cause of dog poisonings is an insecticide
called Disulfoton, a product restricted for sale and use
by licensed pesticide applicators only.
When you treat a house to kill fleas or
other insects, read the product label and follow all directions
carefully. This is particularly important if a flea control
product is to be applied directly to the pet. Before buying
a flea product, consult your veterinarian, especially
when treating sick, debilitated or pregnant pets.
The insecticide permethrin, a common ingredient
in flea controls for dogs, can be fatal to cats. Read
flea control product labels carefully; never apply a product
formulated for one species of animal to another.
If you put out ant, roach, mouse or rat
baits, make sure they're in a spot inaccessible to your
pet. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of
them properly when they are no longer needed. Record on
a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name
of the bait used. You'll need this if your dog eats an
entire bait container, or if there was no label on the
container and you need to tell the Center veterinarian
what your pet ingested.
For animal emergencies, call The Animal
Poison Control Center, a service of the American Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at 1-888-426-4435.
Headquartered in Urbana, Illinois, the Center opened its
phone lines in 1978. Today, the phones are staffed 24
hours a day, every day, by veterinary toxicologists.
Because the center receives no government
or private funding, there's a $45 charge per case, though,
at no extra charge, the Center will do as many follow-up
calls as necessary in critical cases, and at the owner's
request will contact their veterinarian directly. The
Center also provides, by fax, specific treatment protocols
and current literature citations when needed.
This time of year is its peak season,
and Center Medical Director Dr. Knight says they're averaging
about 275 calls each day, including "quite a few
from New Hampshire. The Center also has a well-designed,
easy-to-navigate website (http://www.napcc.aspca.org/),
which includes tips on preparing an emergency first aid
kit for animals, and a page of tips for veterinarians.
Our homes can contain a wide variety of potentially harmful
compounds. For instance, here are some common food products
that can be toxic, even lethal, to pets: avocados (toxic
to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats),
alcoholic beverages, chocolate (baker's, semi-sweet, milk,
dark), coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate-covered espresso
beans), hops (used in home beer brewing), macadamia nuts,
moldy foods, onions, onion powder, salt, tea (caffeine)
and yeast dough.
Pet owners' medications are the most common
cause of animal poisonings, according to Dr. Knight. Cats,
in particular, are susceptible because they have a body
chemistry quite different from ours in several important
Don't give any of your medications to
a pet. That includes over-the-counter medications such
as aspirin, ibuprofen, cough or cold medicines and decongestants.
Don't give your dog's medicine to your cat or ferret.
Be careful where you take your own medications.
Make sure a pill doesn't drop within reach of a playful
paw or quick, slurping tongue. Don't put your medications
out on a table or counter to take.
Store medications for all family members
and pets in high cabinets, out of reach. With their curiosity
and strong teeth, dogs can crack open a pill bottle and
swallow the entire contents in a very short time. Even
if it's a medicine prescribed for your pet, too large
a dose could cause problems.
Medications that come in tubes may also
pose a large risk. Most pets have sharp teeth and can
chew into a tube within seconds. Creams and ointments
that may be quite safe when applied to the skin can cause
serious problems when eaten.
Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer
drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills are all
examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals,
even in small doses.
House & Garden Plants
Ingesting parts of ornamental plants, such as azalea,
oleander, castor bean, lilies or yews can be fatal to
your family pet. Lilies of all types are especially toxic
In the vegetable garden, rhubarb leaves,
potato leaves, stems and sprouts, and tomato foliage are
poisonous to animals.
Chewing on some plants may result in severe
irritation to the mouth and throat. Others, while not
quite so deadly, may cause a severe intestinal upset.
Know the names of all the plants in your
home and landscape, and keep any potentially toxic plants
out of areas accessible to your animal companions.
Most cleaning materials can cause stomach upset and vomiting
if a pet eats them. Dishwasher detergent can produce burns
in the mouth.
When using household chemicals, take special
care to make sure your pets can't get into them. This
may mean keeping your pet out of the room where you are
using such materials.
Common household items that can be lethal
to an animal are mothballs, potpourri oils, coffee grounds,
homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing
detergent, batteries, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages.
Automobile Care Supplies
Like indoor cleaners, car-cleaning compounds can cause
stomach upset and vomiting. Some car-cleaning agents are
stronger than those used indoors.
Car-cleaning products should be kept away
from your pet, who will be safer if he or she is not allowed
to "help" you clean your automobile.
Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid
can be harmful to your pet. Your pet shouldn't be allowed
to drink water from a car radiator. As little as one teaspoon
of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon
can be deadly to a 10-pound dog. Safer antifreeze products
are now available and should be used.
Excerpt From an article entitled "Protect
Your Pet From Common Household Poisons" By: Peg Boyles,
Extension Program Associate, Agricultural Resources and
Margaret Hagen, Extension Educator, Agricultural Resources
UNH Cooperative Extension. Used with permission.
We Would Like to thank Faye E. Cragin
for generously allowing us to use this informative article
on our website.
Faye E. Cragin UNHCE WWW and Media Specialist
59 College Rd., Room 111 Taylor Hall
Durham, NH 03824