Editorial: Pet dangers

Common household items can be deadly to our beloved dogs and cats
Mar. 12, 2013 @ 11:26 PM

There are dangers lurking inside and outside the house for those beloved family pets. We know how risky street traffic can be, but there are other things that can be deadly for our dogs and cats.

For more than 50 years, the third week in March has been designated as National Poison Prevention Week. Veterinarians and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline encourage people to remember the four-legged members of the family. They can be the most vulnerable.

“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, we receive calls from distressed pet owners across the country,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “In addition to dealing with the stress of an emergency situation, they are often forced to cope with feelings of regret in light of a mishap that, in most cases, could have been avoided. It takes only a few minutes to educate yourself on how to pet-proof appropriately and avoid the inevitable heartache that so often happens when a beloved pet is accidentally poisoned.”

Nine out of 10 calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2012 involved dogs. Of those, nearly half were for animals that ingested human medications. However, there are many other household substances toxic to dogs. The five most common toxins that poisoned dogs in 2012:

1. Human Medications - 43 percent of calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2012 were for dogs that ate over-the-counter or prescription medications. The majority of them involved antidepressants and common OTC drugs containing acetaminophen (like Tylenol) and NSAIDs (like Advil), which can cause serious harm to dogs when ingested.

2. Human foods - 16 percent of calls were for dogs that are foods that are poisonous for them. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous since it contains high amounts of theobromine – a relative of caffeine that can be deadly. Xylitol, a sweetener in sugarless gums and candies, is also very dangerous. Raisins and grapes are potentially dangerous and can cause kidney failure. Other human foods toxic to dogs include macadamia nuts, garlic, onions, yeast-based dough and table salt.

3. Insecticides - Sprays, granules, insect bait stations and more.

4. Rodenticides - 6.5 percent of calls for dogs were for dogs that got into mouse and rat poisons, which contain various active ingredients that are poisonous to dogs. Only one type of mouse poison (anticoagulant or blood thinner) has an antidote to counteract the effects of the poison. The rest, unfortunately, have no antidote and are more difficult to treat.

5. Dietary supplements and vitamins - While many items in this category such as Vitamins C, K, and E are fairly safe, others such as iron, Vitamin D and alpha-lipoic acid can be highly toxic in overdose situations.

If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. The Pet Poison Helpline is at 800-213-6680. It's $39 per call. “Pet Poison Help” app is available on iTunes for $1.99.