By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats.
We all know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and there are many other human food items that can cause serious illness and death in our canine and feline companions. However, some of the most dangerous toxicities to pets are actually not food related. Be sure to watch out for these dangerous toxins in our everyday environment to keep your pets safe.
1. Ethylene Glycol (Antifreeze)
Antifreeze has long been known as a very dangerous toxin. Dogs and cats that live outside or have access to the garage are particularly susceptible to coming in contact with ethylene glycol. In addition, certain brands have a sweet taste that animals find irresistible. Antifreeze affects the kidneys by forming deadly crystals inside the renal tubules and destroying the kidneys. Signs soon after ingestion include weakness, vomiting and animals acting “drunk” or intoxicated. Pets usually develop severe kidney failure in 1-2 days. If you notice that your pet has ingested ANY amount of anti-freeze, you should take them to your veterinarian immediately. Without treatment, almost all animals will die. Treatment includes large volumes of intravenous (IV) fluids for several days as well as medication to help the kidneys excrete the toxin as quickly as possible.
2. Sago Palm
This plant is a common ornamental that is popular in the southwest and tropical areas. The entire plant is highly toxic to dogs and cats, and the seeds are considered to be the most toxic part of the plant. After ingestion, pets can experience vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite and jaundice due to the toxin causing liver failure. Neurologic signs and liver failure can appear a few days after ingestion. If left untreated, many pets will die from liver failure. Treatment includes inducing vomiting if the pet has ingested the plant within the last few hours, administration of activated charcoal, large volumes of IV fluids and liver protectant medications.
3. Rat Poison
Rat poison, also known as rodenticide, has a long history of causing accidental deaths in dogs and cats. The toxic compound causes a decrease in clotting ability of the blood, which means that pets who have ingested rodenticide have problems with internal bleeding. Typically, it takes 3-7 days until pets experience clotting problems. However, pets can experience vomiting and lethargy on the day of ingestion. There are two different types of rodenticide: short acting and long acting. The type of rodenticide your pet has ingested will dictate how long he needs treatment. Signs of toxicity include bruising, pale gums, lethargy and decreased appetite. Treatment includes administration of Vitamin K. Severe cases may need whole blood or plasma transfusions.
4. Aleve, Advil, Aspirin, etc.
Naproxen (Aleve), Ibuprofen (Advil), and Aspirin can be toxic to dogs. Anti-inflammatories used in people are often too harsh on the stomach and intestines of dogs. Administering a “people medication” to your dog or cat could cause more harm than good! These medications can cause vomiting and stomach ulcers as well as kidney damage. In some cases, stomach ulcers can bleed for days causing dark, tarry stools and severe, life-threatening blood loss and anemia. If your dog has eaten an anti-inflammatory medication, he should be seen immediately by your veterinarian. Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administration of activated charcoal, large volumes of IV fluids to protect the kidneys and administration of medications to protect the lining of the stomach and intestines against ulcers.
5. Cocoa Mulch
This popular mulch is used in gardens and landscaping around many homes and businesses. While it has many benefits for your plants, it can cause severe toxicity and illness in dogs and cats. The mulch is derived from the cocoa plant, the same plant that gives us cocoa powder and chocolate. The mulch contains caffeine and theobromine, which are the toxic compounds in chocolate. The danger lies in the fact that many dogs will eat this type of mulch and can potentially ingest very large amounts. This makes cocoa mulch potentially more dangerous than milk chocolate itself. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, shaking or trembling, weakness, seizures or coma. Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administration of activated charcoal to bind the toxin, IV fluids to help the kidneys excrete the toxin quickly and anti-convulsant medications such as Valium if your pet is having seizures.
If you notice that your pet has eaten any of these items, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. These toxins are often life threatening, and swift action by a veterinarian could save your dog or cat’s life! If you’re a Pets Best customer with a BestBenefit or Accident Only plan, coverage for any of the above issues is included in your plan.
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