By Dr. Becker
According to the North American Pet Health Associationi , over 100,000 cases of pet poisoning were reported in the U.S. in 2011.
And according to Embrace Pet Insurance'sii claims database, the following were the top 20 pet poisons last year.
Top 20 Pet Poisons in 2011
- Xylitol (sweetener)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Corn Cobs
It's the Same Poisons Every Year
The same items seem to pop up on pet poisoning lists year in and year out, and chocolate always lands near the top.
A closer look at a few items on the 2011 list:
- Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both classified as methylxanthines; these can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, and potentially death (the more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it is for pets).
- Raisins and grapes, even in small amounts, can cause kidney failure.
- Mushrooms are a special problem because unless you're a mushroom expert, it's hard to tell the difference between toxic and non-toxic varieties. For this reason, if you suspect your pet has eaten a mushroom, especially outdoors, it's best to presume it's poisonous.
- Vitamin poisoning in pets often involves vitamin D. Some pet owners give their dog or cat a vitamin D supplement, mistakenly assuming dogs and cats are as deficient as many people are in this important nutrient. However, most commercial pet foods have high levels of vitamin D added, so additional supplementation can create toxicity.
- Macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs and cause weakness, depression, vomiting, loss of coordination, tremors and hyperthermia.
- Rawhide chews, especially those manufactured outside the U.S., which are often advertised as 'all natural,' are usually anything but. And they can pose a number of health problems for dogs, including choking, vomiting, diarrhea, exposure to chemical residues, salmonella poisoning and stomach torsion.
- You may be wondering how meat can be toxic for pets. Actually, it's spoiled, rancid meat that is most often the culprit. If you feed your pet real meat, whether from the local butcher or contained in a commercial raw pet food, you should know the rules for handling it. For example, fresh raw meat should be frozen for at least three days before serving it to your pet. This will kill any bacteria or parasites that may be present.
If you prepare a homemade raw diet for your dog or cat, don't include guts. Do not feed the stomach and small and large intestines. Those are the parts of the prey we get rid of, because those are the parts that harbor parasites. You also can't allow frozen meat in any form to thaw and then re-freeze it. Once it's thawed, it must be eaten immediately or thrown away.
Cooked leftover meat that sits around too long can also turn rancid and potentially toxic, so practicing proper food waste disposal is the key to keeping your pets from being poisoned by spoiled food.
- Avocados contain a substance called persin which in large quantities may be toxic to dogs and cats. However, there is much debate on this subject and no definitive answer. A definite problem with avocados is that dogs are known to swallow the pits and develop dangerous blockages in the GI tract.
- Salmon can cause poisoning in two ways. Old or leftover rancid fish can be found by your pet in a dumpster or garbage can, or the raw meat can cause "salmon poisoning."
Raw salmon (and other fish that swim upstream to spawn) can harbor a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. The parasite can harbor a rickettsial organism, Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which causes "salmon poisoning." Freezing fish meat can inactivate both, but depends on several factors including temperature, the length of time needed to freeze the fish tissue, length of time the fish is held frozen, and the fat content of the fish.
Freezing and storing at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days, freezing and storing at -31°F (-35°C) for 15 hours, or freezing at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours is sufficient to kill the parasites. In a nutshell, if you feed raw salmon, freeze it for at least a week to be sure your pet won't suffer from "salmon poisoning."iii
If You Think Your Pet Has Been Poisoned
Try not to panic. Keeping your cool will help you help your poisoned pet.
If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested a poison and you have questions or need guidance, you can call the ASPCA's Poison Control Center hotline at 1-888-426-4435. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you're sure your dog, cat or other pet has been exposed to a toxin, get her to your veterinarian or an animal emergency clinic right away. If you know or suspect the substance your animal got into, bring it along.
If you caught your pet in the act of ingesting a toxin or you know for a fact it happened less than two hours earlier, depending on what your pet got into and his symptoms, you may want to induce vomiting.