Awareness is the key to preventing accidental poisoning emergencies involving pets, according to the Pet Poison Helpline staff.
“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, we receive calls from distressed pet owners across the country,” said Ahna Brutlag, veterinarian and assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “In addition to dealing with the stress of an emergency situation, they are often forced to cope with feelings of regret in light of a mishap that, in most cases, could have been avoided."
Awareness is the key to preventing poisoning emergencies, Brutlag said. Almost 91 percent of calls to Pet Poison Helpline in 2012 involved dogs -- a testament to dogs’ curious nature and indifference to eating just about anything. Of these calls, nearly half were for dogs that ingested human medications.
According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the five most common toxins poisoning dogs in 2012 were:
* Human medications -- 43 percent of calls to the helpline were for dogs that ate over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. The majority of them involved antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and Effexor, and common OTC drugs containing acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) and NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and Motrin), which can cause serious harm to dogs.
* Human foods -- 16 percent of calls were for dogs that helped themselves to foods that are safe for humans, but poisonous for dogs. The most prevalent cases were for dogs that ate chocolate. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous since it contains high amounts of theobromine – a relative of caffeine that can be deadly. Xylitol, a sweetener in sugarless gums and candies, is also very dangerous and can be life-threatening even when ingested in small amounts. Raisins and grapes are often overlooked by dog owners as potentially dangerous, but they are extremely toxic and can cause kidney failure. Other human foods toxic to dogs include macadamia nuts, garlic, onions, yeast-based dough and table salt.
* Insecticides -- 7.5 percent of calls for dogs were because they ate insecticides in the form of sprays, granules, insect bait stations and more. While many household insecticides are well tolerated by dogs, certain potent types such as organophosphates (often found in rose-care products), can be life-threatening even when ingested in small amounts.
* Rodenticides -- 6.5 percent of calls for dogs were for dogs that got into mouse and rat poisons, which contain various active ingredients that are poisonous to dogs. Depending on the type ingested, poisoning can result in moderate to severe symptoms -- anywhere from uncontrolled bleeding, swelling of the brain, kidney failure and seizures. Only one type of mouse poison (anticoagulant or blood thinner) has an antidote to counteract the effects of the poison. The rest have no antidote and are difficult to treat. There is also potential for relay toxicity, meaning that pets and wildlife can be poisoned by eating dead rodents that were poisoned by rodenticides.
* Dietary supplements and vitamins -- 5.5 percent of calls were concerning dogs that ingested dietary supplements and vitamins. While many items in this category such as Vitamins C, K, and E are fairly safe, others such as iron, Vitamin D and alpha-lipoic acid can be highly toxic in overdose situations. Additionally, Pet Poison Helpline has managed several cases involving xylitol poisoning from sugar free multivitamins.
If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, immediately contact a veterinarian or contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 or www.petpoisonhelpline.com. Cost to the helpline is $39 per call and includes unlimited follow-up consultations.