President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in early 1962 that National Poison Prevention Week should be observed in the third week of every March. The goal was to raise awareness about poison prevention nationwide. Currently, American poison control centers report more than two million cases annually. Not only is this week a time to focus on safety for adults and children but also our beloved pets, who encounter potentially dangerous situations every day. According to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, the number of poison-related cases involving pets reported in 2012 reached over 180,000.
Animals investigate the world around them through their mouths. They taste, chew and often consume the interesting things they find in their environment. Sometimes these substances are poisonous and often deadly when ingested and untreated. Debbie Kendrick, Vice President of Animal Behavior College, says, “Unfortunately dogs do not have the ability to differentiate between what is safe and what is dangerous for them to eat. Thus, thousands of dogs each year unknowingly ingest toxic substances and subsequently poison themselves. In addition, loving dog owners unknowingly provide their pets with poisonous food as treats (i.e. chocolate) because they lack poison awareness knowledge.”
Here are some steps that pet owners can take to prevent their animals from ingesting poisonous substances:
- Become aware of harmful foods, medicines, plants, pesticides, etc.
- Store those substances where pets can’t reach them
- Educate family members about potentially harmful toxins
- Properly train the pet
Some danger zones to be aware of:
Food: The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center advises pet owners to avoid feeding animals avocado, coffee, fatty foods, alcoholic beverages, chocolate, onions and onion powder, mushrooms, raisins, grapes, garlic, moldy or spoiled foods, and products containing the artificial sweetener xylitol. Raw or under-cooked poultry can contain Salmonella and that can be toxic to humans as well as animals. The ingestion of many fruit pits such as those from cherries, peaches, plums and apricots could cause intestinal blockage if ingested.
Household & garden products: Products that can be toxic to canines include automobile antifreeze (which can be sweet to the taste), snail bait, moth repellent, mulch made from cocoa bean hulls, paint and paint solvents, dish washing detergent, drain cleaner, cleanser, furniture polish, hair dye and perfume. Pencils, ink and crayons can also be toxic to animals and should be kept out of the reach of animals.
Medications: Many people are concerned for the comfort of their pets and may try to help by giving them the same over-the-counter pain medications they take themselves, such as Tylenol or acetaminophen. This product in particular (acetaminophen) damages the red blood cells of dogs and cats, causing irreversible anemia and possible death. Always consult your veterinarian before administering any type of medication to your pets.
Keeping food, toxic items, and medications out of the reach of animals is imperative to keep them safe. If pet owners are unable to stop their pet from “counter surfing” or digging through trashcans, they may want to consider consulting with a professional trainer. Steven Appelbaum, president of Animal Behavior College, has been a dog trainer for over 30 years. “Trainers can help families teach their pets to listen to obedience commands, which can help prevent them from ingesting poisonous substances. Getting the whole family involved will help save the lives of their beloved pets,” says Appelbaum.
For emergency assistance (consultation fees may apply):
24/7 Pet Poison Hotline
24/7 ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center