A Look at the Top Pet Poisons of 2008

Could Your Pet be Poisoned? (H. Berends Photo)
Could Your Pet be Poisoned? (H. Berends Photo)

The ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center has released its list of the Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008 in an effort to educate pet owners about the most common toxic hazards that exist in and around the home.

Could your dog, cat or other pet be in danger? We think of the home as a safe haven, but thousands of pets are poisoned each year by substances in and around the home.

Pet Poison #1 – Human Medications

Pets poisoned with human medications accounted for 50,000 calls in 2008. In most cases, a package of medication or an individual pills falls off a table or out of a purse and onto the floor, where it’s ingested by the pet. Think of what a great toy a bottle of pills sounds like to a cat! It’s easy to understand how a bottle of pills could be knocked onto the floor by a playful pet. And once the medication is on the floor, it’s fair game. So avoid this pet poisoning hazard by keeping all medications in a medicine cabinet.

Pet Poison #2 – Insecticides

The poison control center received more than 31,000 calls involving insecticides. Ant baits, bug sprays and even flea and tick medications are included in this category. Pet owners should avoid using poisons in the home at all cost, particularly baits, which a dog or cat could easily ingest. And when using flea and tick medications, it’s important to use products that are designed for your pet. Many of these pet poisoning cases involved cats that ingested a flea and tick product designed for dogs when they groomed.

Pet Poison #3 – People Food

In 2008, 13,5000 pet owners called the poison control hotline when their dogs and cats ate dangerous people foods. Many of these cases involved dogs who ate chocolate. But in addition to chocolate, there’s a host of other foods that can poison a cat or dog, including (but not limited to!) citrus fruits, rhubarb, onions, avocado, raisins, grapes, chewing gum and sugarless candies containing xylitol, caffeine, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and mushrooms. So before feeding a food to your dog, cat or bird, double check your list of toxic foods to ensure that the food won’t pose a danger to your beloved pet.

Pet Poison #4 – Rodenticides

Rat and mouse poisons containing toxins like warfarin accounted for about 8,000 pet poisoning calls. Pet owners should never use baits in or around the house, and it’s also important to communicate with neighbors who may be using these products. Pet owners must remember that secondary warfarin toxicity is fairly common – a rat is poisoned, and the dying animal encounters your pet, who then hunts and eats the dying animal. The toxin is transferred to your pet’s body, and in some cases, this can lead to death. So it’s important to communicate with neighbors about the use of rodenticides, but also supervise your pets at all times when they’re outdoors. Havahart traps offer a humane and non-toxic alternative to rodent pests.

Pet Poison #5 – Veterinary Medications

Veterinary medications accounted for 8,000 of the pet poisoning cases that were called in to the poison control hotline in 2008. These pet poisoning incidents can occur when a pet starts chewing or playing with a pill bottle or medication package. But a pet could also be poisoned if a pet owner mistakenly gives an incorrect dose of medicine to their pet. Pet owners who have more than one pet who takes medication should also double check that they’re giving the proper medication to the proper pet each and every time.

Pet Poison #6 – Chemical Hazards

About 7,500 chemical-related pet poisoning incidents were reported to the pet poison control center in 2008. This method of poisoning is said to be on the rise, according to the ASPCA. Some of the most common chemicals involved in pet poisoning incidents include antifreeze (ethylene glycol), paint thinner, drain cleaner and pool/spa chemicals.

Pet Poison #7 – Plants

The ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center helped a total of 6,500 pets who were poisoned by plants in 2008. Whether you own a cat, a dog, a bird, a ferret or any other pet, it’s vital that you verify that each houseplant in your home is non-toxic. And remember, a plant that’s safe for dogs could be toxic to cats or vice versa. So if you’re bringing a houseplant through the door, check your lists of toxic plants for each type of pet you own. You should also be sure that all plants in your yard are non-toxic. This is a completely preventable type of pet poisoning – it just takes a bit of homework and care.

Pet Poison #8 – Household Cleaners

Many pet owners will take precautions when using cleaners around children, but some people forget about their pets! Bleaches, detergents and disinfectants accounted for most of the 4,000 pet poisoning cases reported to the pet poison control hotline in 2008. So when using household cleaners, opt for the green non-toxic type or take special precautions to limit your pet’s access to the area during and after cleaning.

Pet Poison #9 – Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like mercury and lead accounted for 3,000 of the pet poison control hotline’s cases in 2008. Do you have a mercury thermometer laying around? What happens if your dog turns it into a chew toy? Pet owners should also be aware of exposing pets to lead paint chips or lead paint dust.

Pet Poison #10 – Fertilizer

Fertilizer toxicity accounted for 2,000 pet poisoning cases in 2008. A dog could ingest fertilizer when retrieving his favorite ball from the lawn. Or a cat may ingest fertilizer while grooming his fur, after an afternoon spent lounging on the grass. You need to be aware when allowing pets to access your own yard and the yards of neighbors as well. It takes a fairly small amount of fertilizer to cause some serious, serious problems for a cat or dog.

In the end, it really comes down to common sense: if you wouldn’t let yourself or your child eat or come in contact with a substance, it’s not okay for your pet to ingest it either. Part of pet poisoning prevention is education – so many pet owners put their animals in a dangerous situation without even realizing it. So take the time to learn what household items are toxic or potentially dangerous, and keep a list of toxic plants and toxic foods for quick reference. You never know – it could ultimately save your best friend’s life.

Do you know how to handle a pet health crisis? Check out my tips for handling a pet emergency!

About the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline

Did your pet ingest a poison or potentially toxic substance? The ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with veterinarians and certified toxicologists available to help pet owners in need. A $50 consultation fee is charged in some cases, but pet owners can rest assured their money is going toward a non-profit organization that helps thousands of animals every year.

The ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Center number should be on every pet owner’s refrigerator – you never know when it may save your furry or feathered friend’s life! Call the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center Hotline at 888-426-4435.

(Photo Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/574986)

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.