Keep Your Pet Healthy in 2020 Keep Your Pet Healthy in 2020


Common Ways Your Pet Can Be Poisoned

According to the VPI Pet Insurance company, poisonings cost dog and cat owner policy holders almost $7 million over a four-year period between 2005 and 2009.

The number one cause of poisoning was accidental ingestion of medications, human and pet. The average cost to treat this type of poisoning during the four-year period was nearly $800.

The most expensive type of poisoning was from heavy metals and cost pet owners almost $1,000 per visit to the veterinarian.



Type of Poison Number of Claims
2005 - 2009
Drug reactions/accidental ingestion 5,131
Rodenticide (chemicals used to kill rodents) 4,028
Methylxanthine (stimulants like caffeine) 3,661
Plant poisoning 2,808
Household chemicals 1,669
Metaldehyde (pesticide used to kill slugs and snails) 369
Insecticide/organophosphate 323
Heavy metal toxicity 288
Toad poisoning 270
Antifreeze 213
Walnuts 100
Alcohol 75
Strychnine 28
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Dr. Becker's Comments:

A poisoning can mean a life-or-death emergency for your pet, a traumatic experience for family members, and a significant hit to your credit card or bank account.

All for a situation that is entirely preventable.

Medicine Belongs in the Medicine Cabinet

According to the ASPCA, household pets are most commonly poisoned by the following ten human medications:

  2. Antidepressants
  3. Acetaminophen
  4. Methylphenidate (for ADHD)
  5. Fluorouracil (for Cancer)
  1. Isoniazid (for Tuberculosis)
  2. Pseudoephedrine
  3. Antidiabetics
  4. Vitamin D derivatives
  5. Baclofen (muscle relaxant)

Not only should you store all your medications, and your pet’s, out of reach of your dog or cat, you must also be careful not to leave loose pills on a countertop or table within reach of a curious animal.

Also take care to retrieve any slippery pills that drop on the floor, and clean up liquid spills right away.

Learn Which People Foods and Drinks are Hazardous to Your Pet

Chocolate, coffee and other products containing caffeine are at the top of the list. These food and drink items contain methylxanthines, stimulants that are toxic to your dog or cat.

Any alcoholic drink or food containing alcohol can make your pet very ill and can even be fatal.

Intentional vitamin D administration to pets has also caused toxicity. People have wrongly assumed their pets are as deficient as many people. Most commercial pet foods have very high levels of vitamin D added, so additional supplementation has caused vet visits for many pets.

Walnut fruit (the nut encased raw fruit that falls from trees) and macadamia nuts are toxic for dogs. Peanut allergies are as dangerous in canines as they are in people, so it’s a good idea to keep peanuts out of reach of your pup as well.

Other foods toxic to pets include:

  • Avocado pits, which are especially dangerous for birds and rodents
  • Grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure
  • Onions and chives, which causes hemolytic anemia

Products Designed to Kill Pests Can Also Kill Pets

Any chemical capable of eliminating pests in your home, garage, garden, yard or elsewhere on your property – or your neighbor’s – also has the potential to be fatal for your pet.

Keep your companion animals well away from all products intended to kill living things, even weeds.

This includes insecticides, pesticides and herbicides – any chemical ending in -cide – as well as fertilizers and similar chemical-laden products designed to enhance growth.

Strychnine, which is found in products purchased to eliminate rats and other rodents, is also extremely toxic to pets. Make sure your dog stays clear of rodent bait traps. Pups have also become ill from eating rodents and birds poisoned with strychnine.

Poisonous Plants

There are a surprising number of flowers and greenery that are toxic for your pet, including:

  • Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Azaleas and rhododendrons
  • Oleander
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus

For a comprehensive list, including photos, of which plants are poisonous for dogs and cats, visit

Toxic Toads

Strange as it sounds, there are a few very deadly species of toads out there. More precisely, it’s a toxin secreted through the toad’s skin that is poisonous to dogs and cats.

Most cases of toad poisoning are seen in dogs, because you pup is more likely to be outdoors and mouthing toads. However, if your kitty happens to pick up a toxic toad in her mouth, she can also become very ill and die.

Dogs have also been known to ingest the toxin from a water bowl on which a toad has rested long enough to deposit its poison along the rim or other surface of the bowl.

Oral exposure to a deadly toad toxin can cause death in your pet in just 15 to 30 minutes.

The Colorado River toad and the giant or marine toad are the two most common deadly toads in the U.S.

The Colorado River toad is found in southwestern states, from Arizona to southern California. This toad’s skin is a brown/green color and is typically covered with warts. These toads are usually from three to seven inches long.

The giant toad, also called the marine toad or Bufo marinus, is less common and is found in south Texas and Florida.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

This type of poisoning in pets is relatively rare and is more often seen in dogs than cats, since canines are more apt to chew or ingest non-food objects than cats are.

Most cases of heavy metal toxicity in pets are caused by lead, and exposure usually occurs over an extended period of time.

Potential sources of exposure include:

  • Lead-based paints (this is the most common source)
  • Car batteries
  • Building supplies
  • Linoleum
  • Grease
  • Poorly glazed ceramic water or food bowls

Symptoms of metal toxicity in a dog or cat vary widely and can include GI upsets, convulsions, seizures, uncoordinated movements, weakness and hyperactivity.

Pet birds are also highly susceptible to toxins in their environment, most commonly lead, zinc and iron. Symptoms of avian metal toxicity can include constant thirst, regurgitation of water, depression, tremors and loss of coordination.

The easiest way to prevent metal toxicity in a pet bird is to eliminate all sources of consumable heavy metals from its environment. In most cases this will be the cage,, food and water bowls, and fencing. Replace with cages and fencing made from non-toxic materials like stainless steel and welded wires.

Other Sources of Pet Toxins

Poisoning by household chemicals is unfortunately very common in companion animals.

Household cleaners, detergents and disinfectants are the usual culprits when a dog or cat is poisoned in the home. And keep in mind your pet doesn’t have to drink the stuff to become ill.

Your dog or cat can be exposed to these toxins in a variety of ways, including absorption through the skin, licking a chemical off paws, or breathing noxious vapors hanging in the air.

Antifreeze is another common poisoning agent.

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which has a sweet taste to dogs and cats. A small puddle or even a few drops spilled on the driveway or garage floor can attract a pet drawn to the sweet odor.

Just a teaspoon of antifreeze can kill a seven-pound kitty.

Some antifreeze products contain propylene glycol instead, which is not as dangerous if ingested in small amounts.

If You Think Your Pet Has Been Poisoned

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.

+ Sources and References