Most Common Pet Toxins

Pet Owners Unintentionally Harming Thousands of Pets Each Year

Prescription bottle with pills

In the average household, many pets are only one bite away from disaster. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently analyzed its medical claims data to determine the most commonly ingested household toxins and poisons.

The insurance data reveals well-intended pet owners unknowingly poison their pets.

VPI ranked the toxic substances by the number of claims received in 2008 for each type. Shockingly, the most dangerous poisons by far are human medications intentionally given to pets by their owners. Following is the list of top household toxins, with 2008 claim counts and prevention pointers for each.

Drug Reactions

VPI received more claims for drug reactions than all other poisoning claims combined in 2008. Many of these claims involved pets given drugs intended for human consumption, such as over-the-counter pain relievers.

Pet owners often give pets over-the-counter or prescription drugs for their ailments, unaware that even given in small amounts, many of these drugs cannot be metabolized by pets fast enough to prevent an overdose. Never give pets medications without consulting a veterinarian.

Rodenticide

Rat

Even if these poisons, most often sold in pellet form, are placed away from pets, rodents can carry them to pet-occupied areas. The taste and smell of rodenticides is designed to appeal to small mammals. Pet owners should consider other options for eliminating rodents.

Methylxanthine

Chocolate

The methylxanthine class of chemical compounds includes theobromine and caffeine, both of which are common ingredients in chocolate. Toxic amounts of theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperactivity, abnormal rhythms of the heart, or even seizures in pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.

Plant Poisoning

Tulips

Many household plants can be toxic to pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias, azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis. Other plant products including onionsgrapes and raisins are also categorized under the company’s plant toxicity code.

Pet owners should exercise extra caution when pets are near these plants and abstain from giving grapes and raisins as treats.

Household cleaners

Household Chemicals

Pets will get into just about anything with bright colors and strong odors. Ingestion of cleaning supplies such as bleach, liquid potpourri, even deodorant or toiletries can result in an ill pet.

Keep these items secured.

Snail

Metaldyhyde

This deadly component of snail bait can also attract pets. Signs usually occur quickly and include vomiting and whole body tremors.

Pet owners should consider alternative methods for getting rid of snails and slugs.

Organophosphate

Chemical sign

This group of insecticides works to inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to nerve function in insects and pets. Ingestion can occur through skin absorption or oral intake.

The chemicals degrade quickly after being sprayed outside, but pets should not be exposed to any area that has recently been sprayed. 

Toad Poisoning

Toad

Some species of toad, particularly along the Gulf Coast, secrete a toxic substance when threatened – or licked by curious dogs. Toxic effects are immediate and can be life-threatening.

Make sure to regularly monitor pets when outdoors to reduce exposure to hazardous creatures.

Heavy Metals

Penny

Mercury, lead or excessive amounts of zinc, iron, cobalt and copper can cause serious illness in pets, especially if allowed to accumulate in a pet’s body.

Pets may be exposed to heavy metals through lead-based paint, ingestion of pennies coined after 1982, vitamins, soil contamination, or water pollutants.

Antifreeze

Antifreeze

The sweet taste of antifreeze appeals to pets. While most people are aware of the poisonous potential of antifreeze, they may not notice a pool collecting from a leak beneath a car. Regularly give a glance beneath the car and clean any spills immediately.

A Pet Emergency Crisis

“Pet owners should be aware of the symptoms of poisoning — vomiting, drooling, seizures — and be familiar with the location of an animal emergency clinic,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.

“Treatment for poisoning can cost hundreds of dollars and an effective way to ensure preparation and peace of mind for emergency expenses is to safeguard your pet with a pet health insurance policy.”

Ken and Judy Liberti of Union City, Calif., discovered how VPI Pet Insurance prevented a medical emergency from becoming a financial crisis when their beagle, Molly, decided snail bait made a tasty snack.

Molly

The couple caught Molly sniffing around the flower beds with snail bait in her mouth and rushed her to the veterinarian. Molly’s doctor induced vomiting to get the rest of the snail bait out of her stomach. Aside from the discomfort of vomiting, Molly was unharmed. VPI reimbursed $275 of the $355.55 bill for Molly’s treatment, making the price for her recovery more manageable.

“We’ve decided to take our chances with snails in the flower beds rather than use snail bait ever again,” said Judy Liberti. “The cost to treat Molly’s poisoning could have paid for a whole new garden. That’s why we have pet insurance. No matter what problems we’ve had with Molly’s health, VPI has always paid more of her veterinary bills than we have.”

For more information on common pet toxins and poisons, visit the Pet HealthZone toxins and poisons center.

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