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Preventing Pet Poisoning

Before I delve into individual toxins and poisons, I’d like to kick us off with some tips on preventing accidental pet poisoning.   Many exposures in the home can be prevented with a little preparation and awareness to keep dangerous substances out of harm’s way.

1. Be aware of potential toxins in your home

We are all mostly familiar with the common toxins for our pets.  Poisoning doesn’t commonly happen on purpose.  It usually happens when a pet “discovers” something that seems delicious. For example, here’s a small list of toxic things your pet might commonly encounter in your home:

Preventing pet poisoning
Bafflingly delicious
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar-free candy
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Onions/garlic/chives
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Raw yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocadoes
  • Salt
  • Human medications
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Batteries
  • Pest control products (insecticides and rodenticides)
  • Any number of plants

Messy Room
Does your house look like this? Mine too.

2. Keep toxic foods out of reach

This one seems simple, but when things get busy or the holidays roll around, it’s difficult to always remember that the bag full of candy your child just brought home is full of stuff that could harm your pet.  As is important for human health, it is also important to keep food high up in cabinets, sealed in the fridge, or sealed in a container.

Keep in mind that even a strong Tupperware container will not keep out a determined dog, so anything from the above list should not only be stored, but stored high up. Restricting access to dangerous chemicals and medications is an important part of preventing pet poisoning.

Poisoning your drain
Human medication is not toxic to drains.

3. Always, always, always take your medications over the sink

I cannot overstate this.  The most frequent way a pet can become exposed to human medication is when someone accidentally drops a pill on the floor.  Dogs and cats especially like to chase things that make noise and skitter across the floor, so dropped pills are a prime target, even if they don’t like to take the pills they are supposed to take.

Never assume that just because your pet doesn’t like his antibiotics that he won’t eat your Adderall if given the chance.  When taking your pills over the sink, if you drop one, it goes into the drain instead of into your pet and can go a long way towards preventing pet poisoning.

4. Always store your pills in the medicine cabinet

Pill bottles are just as exciting to pets as single pills.  When you knock them around the floor, they hit the bottle and make a very pleasing sound.  Many an assassination attempt has been made by a cat knocking a bottle from a counter and putting it within reach of the dog.

All pill bottles should be behind closed doors and off tables, counters, shelves, or anywhere else curious claws and teeth might find them.

cat knocking things over
P.S. I want the dog dead.

5. Keep pesticides, cleaning supplies, and other chemicals in the garage

This one also seems relatively simple.  Most people are familiar with keeping their pets out of the garage due to the risks of anti-freeze exposure.  But it deserves a mention.  It also leads to our next rule…

6. To completely prevent accidental rodent poisoning, don’t use rat or mouse poison

This one is less familiar to most people.  I often hear the argument that rat and mouse poison comes in specially-made containers to prevent pets from getting into them.  However, dogs CAN and DO get into these non-destructible containers.

Along the same lines, rodents hoard their food!  This means that a rat does not just go into a trap, eat his fill, and then leave.  They go into the traps and carry the poison out to store it elsewhere. One rodent can move enough rat poison around your property to kill your pet.  You may have originally put the bait in one spot, but you’ll end up with many small deposits all over your property, which your animals will find and eat.

If you have a problem with rodents and you happen to have a pet in your household, choose to use snap traps or humane traps instead to eliminate the risk of poisoning.

7. Finally, research any plant you bring into your home

There are a plethora of house plants that can be used to beautify your home.  A staggering number of them are toxic to your critters.  Some of them, like the sago palm, are extremely deadly and are easily purchased online or through a home improvement store.

Thoroughly research the toxicity of any plant you want to bring into your home before you put it in range of your pets.  There is a handy tool to look up hundreds of plants and their relative toxicity here.  If you can’t find your target plant here, call one of the poison control centers or a veterinarian to check.  These types of prevention questions are usually free and could save the life of your pet.

Prevent poisoning
Is this one of those toxic lilies?

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