Prescription Human Medications
The APCC (Animal Poison Control Center) handled 25,000 cases regarding human prescription medications in 2012. The top three types of medications that animals were exposed to include: heart medications (blood pressure pills), antidepressants and pain medications (opioids and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
The ASPCA reported that many of these exposures were due to people dropping their medication when preparing to take it, and before they knew it, Fido had gobbled the pill off the floor.
Other times 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. More than 18,000 cases that the APCC fielded in 2012 regarded over-the-counter human products. This group contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen as well as herbal and nutraceutical products (fish oil, joint supplements). Many of these products are tasty to pets, and some can be life threatening if ingested.
Insecticides are used in the yard, home and on our animals. While only 11% of all calls to the APCC are about insecticides, over 50% of the calls to the APCC involving cats pertain to felines exposed to insecticides. Always read the label before using any insecticide on your pet, in your home or in your yard.
Organophosphate belongs to a group of insecticides that 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.
Veterinary Products and Medications
Veterinary products made up nearly 6% of the APCC’s case volume for 2012. Both OTC and prescription veterinary products are included in this group. Flavored tablets make it easy to give your pet pain or joint medication, but it also makes it more likely for them to ingest the entire bottle if given the chance.
There were more than 10,000 calls to the APCC about household products in 2012. Household toxins can range from fire logs to cleaning products. Some items can be corrosive, while other can cause obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract requiring surgical intervention.
More than 5% of our cases in 2012 were related to the ingestion of people food. One particularly common food accidentally ingested by pets is xylitol (the sugar substitute). Xylitol can cause seizures and liver failure in dogs.
Chocolate is still the number one people food that pets ingest (we received over 8,500 calls last year). Too much chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate and seizures. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate, causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.
More than 7,000 cases in 2012 were pet parents calling about their animals eating plants. This is one category that cats lead dogs in the number of exposures. Many household plants can be toxic to pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias, azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis. Other plant products including onions, grapes and raisins are also categorized under the company’s plant toxicity code. Lilies can cause kidney failure and death in cats. Please see our list of toxic/non-toxic plants for more information.
When putting out baits to kill mice and rats, never underestimate the resourcefulness of your pet. 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. Nearly 4% of calls to the APCC in 2012 were related to baits. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestion can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure or seizures.
Lawn and Garden Products
Fertilizers, which can be made of dried blood, poultry manure and bone meal, are very attractive to pets, so it is not surprising that we get many calls (almost 3,600 in 2012) on lawn and garden items. Metaldyhyde, the 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.
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.
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.
If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.