Cats are not the only species full of curiosity—our canine companions also often get into mischief by following their noses into danger. But, while dogs are more likely to explore potentially hazardous substances with their mouths, cats can also succumb to poisoning. Many people believe that cats are too smart to fall victim to poisons, thanks to their more discerning eating habits, but cats are frequently exposed when they groom toxins from their fur.

Because a pet’s inquisitive nature can easily lead to poisonous items, March is designated National Pet Poison Awareness Month to help educate pet owners about the dangerous toxins lurking inside their homes. Each year, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center receives thousands of phone calls about potential poisonings, with 213,773 concerned pet owners calling in 2018. Let’s lower that number in 2020. Here is everything you need to know about common household items that can poison your pet.

Common poisoning signs in pets

Poisoning in pets is not always instantly apparent, as some signs can take days or weeks to develop. If you think your pet may have been exposed to a toxic substance, act immediately, because prompt treatment can prevent significant illness or permanent damage. 

While each toxin causes its own set of signs, general poisoning signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sluggishness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Stumbling or staggering
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Some toxins can lead to hyperactivity, while others can cause kidney failure, indicated by excessive thirst and urination. Despite the wide variety of signs, any potential toxin exposure merits an emergency phone call to ensure your pet’s safety.

Top household poisons affecting pets

Your home, garden, and garage all likely hold many toxic items that could harm your pet. Keep in mind that not only can the item itself be poisonous, but also that the container or wrapper can pose a choking or obstruction hazard. To prevent your furry pal from getting into mischief, place these items well out of paws’ reach:

  • In the garden

    • Fertilizers — These are often irresistible to pets, because many products contain bone meal or other “tasty” ingredients. For example, dogs are attracted to the cocoa in cocoa bean mulch, which can lead to theobromine toxicity, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and hyperactivity.
    • Herbicides — These products may kill your crabgrass or dandelion infestation, but they can also harm your pet. Before spraying your lawn with any chemical, check the instructions concerning safe use around pets.
    • Plants — Many garden and house plants pose a threat to your pet, through ingestion or contact. For example, lilies are highly toxic to cats, and contact with the pollen can lead to kidney failure. Check out the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants before planning your flower garden.
  • In the garage
    • Chemicals — Many chemicals, such as antifreeze and auto wiper fluid, that fill your garage shelves or are stored in your yard can be hazardous for pets.
    • Rodenticides and insecticides — Poisons used to eliminate pests outside the home and prevent them from entering the home, such as rat, wasp, ant, and insect killers, can also harm your pet.
  • In the home

    • Food — Some human foods make healthy, tasty snacks for pets, but many are extremely toxic, including chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, yeast, onions, garlic, and xylitol. Dogs, who tend to have less discerning palates and will eat almost anything, are more likely to suffer from food toxicity than cats.
    • Medications — The most common pet toxicity, medications, including over-the-counter products, human prescriptions, and veterinary-prescribed drugs, can cause life-threatening situations in your pet. Animals, especially cats, cannot metabolize drugs like people, and administration of over-the-counter or human medications can kill them. Many veterinary products taste appealing to pets, but they can cause a possible overdose if your unsupervised pet eats too much of her medication.
    • Household cleaners — Cleaning solutions are dangerous for pets, so never leave open containers that your pet could spill. Glue, paint, and craft supplies can also harm your furry pal, so keep such items well out of her reach.

Do you suspect your pet has been exposed to a toxin?

Many people believe they should immediately try to make their pet vomit if she has ingested a toxin, but vomiting can sometimes cause more harm than good, so always check first with a veterinary professional. Call Belmont Animal Hospital during business hours for advice about your next step, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 on nights and weekends. 

When calling for emergency assistance, have the following information handy:

  • Your pet’s signalment, including species, breed, age, and weight
  • Your pet’s current medications
  • The suspected toxin’s identifying characteristics, such as its active ingredient, and the amount eaten
  • The timeframe of your pet’s exposure

Are you concerned that your pet may have eaten something poisonous? Keep our contact info close by in case of an emergency, and call us at 508-528-1135 with any questions about a potentially toxic substance.