Hidden Hazards: What you don’t know could harm your pet

by Stacy Conroy Most pet ownders are aware that chocolate and antifreeze and two common causes of poisoning in pets. However, more dangers may exist in your home than you ever imagined. Items such as tobacco, certain houseplants, dog flea products, cleaning products, soil/lawn fertilizers, potpourri oils, air fresheners, and several common foods can threated the health of our dog or cat. If your pet has ingested a dangerous substance, there is a toll-free hotline you can call to talk with professionals experienced in animal toxicology. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) National Poison Control Center (NAPCC), the first and only animal poison control hotline to be established in North America, is an allied agency of the University Of Illinois College Of Veterinary Medicine. It has a database of over 500,000 cases involving pesticide, drug, plant, food, metal, and other exposures in animals. According to Dr. Steve Hanson, veterinary toxicologist and Director of NAPCC, this time of year is especially hazardous to companion animals and wildlife with the large amounts of pesticides and herbicides used by homeowners and landscape companies. “It’s a matter of following the directions exactly or not using these products at all, if you want to protect animals,” said Hanson. “It’s not as much the fertilizers that we hear about as it is flea and grub control and other bug killers; these are much more toxic.” Hanson said the biggest problem with these products is the partially-used bags and bottles stored in garages and basements where dogs and cats can access them. Pets are often attracted to the odor and the packaging, and they can ingest large and sometimes fatal amounts of poison. This also applies to rodent poisons and cleaning products. Another problem that has developed in recent years is the ingestion of prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals. “A dog can puncture an inhaler or aerosol can and take the entire contents into its lungs,” said Hanson. “That usually ends up causing cardiac problems and even seizures in dogs.” Other common poisonings result from dogs chewing up bottles of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprophen or arthritis medications. Dogs like to chew plastic bottles and unwittingly find the contents, to be a special treat. When asked if pet owners who suspect their pet has ingested a hazardous substance should call the hotline first or go to an emergency vet, Dr. Hanson said many vets recommend people call the hotline first. This helps with minor cases where the cost to treat an animal would far exceed the cost of discussing the situation and treatment with a veterinarian at NAPCC. The services NAPCC provides cost $45, payable by major credit card at the time of the call. These fees, along with donations, are the only funds provided to maintain the hotline. “With serious cases, we will often call the emergency clinic in the caller’s area and let them know a sick animal is on the way, allowing them to be more prepared for the situation when it arrives,” he says. Hanson says while the hotline charges a fee, they do not turn away those without any means to pay. The best way to keep companion animals safe from harm is to make sure they cannot access hazardous items. However, if they do ingest something questionable and are exhibiting symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, poor motor control, excessive panting, or seizures, be sure to contact the hotline or an emergency vet clinic as soon as possible. Early treatment is the best way to insure your animal will not suffer permanent harm. Know your veterinarian’s procedure for dealing with emergencies after business hours. For further information about ASPCA or NAPCC visit their web site at: The NAPCC hotline is:1-888-426-4435 Stacy Conroy and her husband own a small natural pet food business and have lived in Riverwest since 1990. Through her efforts to create a natural pet food company, Stacy has done extensive research on pet nutrition and health issues and is an avid pet lover.
by Stacy Conroy