Preventing Accidental Pet Poisoning

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Tuesday, October 5, 2021

I will never forget the time I saw a dog ingest a whole bag of chocolate and almost succumb to its effects.  We were on a trip with my church and one of the kids left a bag of candy open on the ground.  The dog helped herself to the treats and the next thing we knew, she was lethargic, and her breathing was labored.  We were really afraid she would lay down, go to sleep and never wake up.

When it comes to poisoning and your pets, prevention is key.  So, what can you do to prevent accidental poisoning?  Here are five tips:

  1. Never leave chocolate unattended.  Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines (specifically caffeine and theobromine).  Dogs cannot break down and excrete methylxanthines.  Different types of chocolate contain varying amounts of methylxanthines.  See this post for a chart detailing exact amounts of theobromine and caffeine in common household items.
  2. Know your plants.  You probably already know that azaleas are poisonous to dogs, but did you know that certain types of lilies are also toxic?  See this Poisonous Plant Guide for a complete list.
  3. Store cleaning agents, pesticides, and medications out of reach of your pet.  Some cleaners can cause severe burns of the mouth and stomach if ingested. 
  4. Never give your pet OTC medicines.  According to the PetMD article, NSAID Toxicity in Cats, NSAID poisoning can damage the gastrointestinal system and kidneys of dogs and cats.  In her PetMD blog post, What Can I Give My Dog For Pain Relief, Dr. Jennifer Coates states that even though it may be tempting to try to relieve your pet’s pain with an over-the-counter fix, human medications can be very dangerous, even fatal, when used improperly in dogs. Regarding cats, she warns, “Cats are so sensitive to the adverse effects of acetaminophen that just one, regular strength tablet can result in death.”
  5. Know what foods are toxic to pets.  Did you know cinnamon and almonds are toxic to dogs?  Or that a bowl of milk really isn’t good for your cat?  Keep up to date on what human foods are safe for your pets.  See the AKC article, Human Food Dogs Can and Can’t Eat , Diamond Pup's post Can Dogs Eat...?, and PetMD’s post, Human Foods Dangerous to Cats for a more complete list.

What if my pet has consumed a potential poison?

We knew we had to do something when the dog’s breathing became rapid and she started shaking.  Sensing the situation was urgent, we did what we could to induce vomiting, and the dog threw up the chocolate.  We let her owners know she needed to be seen by a vet.  If you suspect poisoning, the best course of action is to call your veterinarian and/or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 immediately.  If your pet has consumed chocolate, you can see PetMD’s Dog Chocolate Toxicity Meter to enter your dog’s weight, type of chocolate, and amount of chocolate consumed to determine how much theobromine and caffeine your dog has consumed. But don’t delay.  The sooner your pet is seen by a professional, the less likely permanent damage will be done. 

How can I be prepared for an emergency?

Prepare for veterinary emergencies by enrolling your pet in pet insurance. Pet insurance allows you to choose the best veterinary care for your pet without worrying over the cost!

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