Is Your Home Pet-Friendly?

Having pets in your home is like having toddlers. They seem to find things that aren't good for them, even when we are careful. Here is a list of items that can be particularly toxic to your pets.

1. Some human foods can be toxic, while others are great additions to the diet. Grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, macadamia nuts, bread dough, and caffeine can all be toxic to pets. Grapes and raisins are common snacks for children, so be sure the kids are instructed not to share. Onions can cause hemolytic anemia and pose a greater risk to cats than dogs, but should be avoided for either species. Chocolate toxicity is particularly problematic around certain holidays - Halloween, Valentines' Day, Easter, and during holiday baking. Dark chocolate contains more of the toxic ingredient theobromine and smaller amounts cause greater toxicity than mild chocolate. Bread dough containing yeast will expand in the stomach and produce alcohol, which leads to alcohol toxicity, seizures, and bloating. Dogs getting into the trash may eat coffee grounds, so hide the trashcans. One of our dogs is particularly adept at opening cans with lids; our trash is in a pull-out cabinet.

2. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can be found in sugar free candy and gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, baked goods, and more recently, is being added to common food products such as peanut butter. Xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver failure. Most cases I have seen involve children sharing with pets or pets getting into a purse containing gum or breath mints.

3. Cooked bones. Many pet owners bring home their steak bones from dining out to give to their dogs. Not only can they get diarrhea and pancreatitis from the high fat content of the cooked prime rib, they also risk ingesting splintered bones that can pierce the bowel. Chicken and turkey bones stolen from the trash are another prime culprit. Take all bones to the outside trash cans and make sure the lids are secured.

4. Prescription Drugs. Animal poison control help lines list prescription drugs near the top of the list for reported exposures. Particularly, antidepressants and medications for ADD and ADHD. Do not leave these medications on bedside tables, even if they are in containers. Put them in a drawer or cabinet out of reach. Prescription pet medications can be just as toxic if eaten accidentally in excess, particularly flavored, chewable medications that taste like treats. Children are sometimes tempted by these pet medications as well.

5. Nonprescription Drugs. Over the counter medications such as acetaminophin (Tylenol), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Alleve) can cause liver failure, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal ulceration. In cats, one tablet of acetaminophen can be a deadly dose. Never give an over-the-counter medication to your pet without asking your veterinarian first. Mixing these medications with prescription drugss can also be deadly.

6. Mouse and rat poison. These baits usually contain grains to attract rodents. Dogs and cats may also be drawn to them. For cats, eating a rodent that has ingested the poison will have the same effect as eating the bait directly. The poisons can cause internal bleeding, bruising, liver and kidney failure, and brain swelling. The poisons can affect the pet for weeks, resulting in prolonged treatment if ingested. Effects may take a few days to become apparent. Have your pet seen immediately if you suspect ingestion.

7. Cleaning chemicals. This includes a very long list of household products including bathroom and kitchen cleansers, bleach, laundry detergent, and even "natural" household cleaners. Scented products like potpourri and plug ins can also be deadly. This can include dryer sheets, air fresheners, and laundry pods.

8. Insecticides. Not only does this include household sprays, baits, and liquids, it also includes many of the chemicals sold by veterinarians or over-the-counter that are meant to be applied on or fed to our pets. Many chemicals are safe for dogs, but not cats, and misapplication results in serious consequences for the kitties. Even though the prescribed chemicals are touted as safe, many pets have succumbed to these products. (Please check out the Facebook pages "Does Bravecto Kill Dogs?" and "Does Nexgard Kill Dogs?") Cats may be sensitive to "natural" essential oils and chrysanthemum based products (pyrethroids). Natural alternatives are readily available.

9. Ethylene glycol. Found in antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, paints, household cleaners, and motor oil. Commonly found where cars have been parked, leaving a puddle of antifreeze behind. This product tastes slightly sweet and animals like the taste. Even a small amount can cause kidney failure. Check for and clean up any spills you find.

10. Small toys, stuffed toys, rawhides, bones. Dogs like to chew. They don't do a good job differentiating their toys from children's toys, so make sure everything gets picked up and put away. Always supervise your pet when giving them a toy to play with or a raw bone to chew. Foreign objects may require surgical removal. For cats, watch particularly when playing with any toys with string, as cats seem to love to eat string. Rawhide treats do not digest when large pieces are swallowed. Most rawhide is treated with formaldehyde or other tanning chemicals that are harmful. I never recommend feeding rawhide.

11. Plants. Some household and ornamental plants can be extremely toxic. Easter lilies are near the top of the list, but sago palm, tulips, hyacinths, azaleas, rhododendron, amaryllis, and poinsettia are also problems.

12. Heavy metals. These may be found in fertilizers, vitamins, lead-based paint, and pennies. Some dog food companies are also being sued for heavy metal toxins in the food.

13. Gasoline, kerosene, and tiki torch oil. Spills are common, but need to be cleaned immediately.

14. Tobacco. Tobacco products will cause vomiting and diarrhea and may cause tremors, seizures, and death. Always empty ashtrays immediately. Do not leave tobacco products in areas pets might find them. Better yet, give up smoking for your the health of you and your pet.

Photo by Hector Bermudez on Unsplash

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