Prevent pet poisonings with 10 easy tips

First Posted: 4/15/2015

Emma and Beans are delightful Boston Terriers. At nine years old, one would assume they are living the quiet life in their senior period. Not so. These two “terrier terrorists” still get into trouble, especially Emma, who likes to test her “stomach of steel.”

As in the movie “Home Alone,” when pets are unattended, the games begin. Such was the case for Emma and Beans. While they were home alone, they discovered a healthy human snack in the form of chocolate yogurt-flavored raisins. Unfortunately, this nutritious people treat can be deadly for pets.

Upon returning home, the dogs’ owner, Jo, made an unsettling discovery about her raisins and called for veterinary advice. Her observation of a bloated, uncomfortable Emma told her she was the most likely culprit, while Beans probably cheered her on. Jo was instructed to make Emma vomit by administering hydrogen peroxide orally.

Always diligent, Jo followed through as directed, then scooped Emma up for a trip to the emergency clinic for further stomach evacuation, followed by a night of intravenous fluids. Emma, too, is very diligent at her chosen profession of eating things she should not, so her stomach emptying revealed an abundance of chocolaty fluid, plastic pieces, and hair/carpet fibers. Oh yeah, did I mention that Emma also likes to enjoy snacks from Jo’s pond, including blue-green algae?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center fields 150,000 calls a year for animal-related toxicities like Emma’s. With this in mind, I thought I would share these tips from veterinary emergency and critical care specialist, Dr. Justine A. Lee.

1. Crate train your dog. In your absence, dogs often become lonely, anxious or bored. What dogs do to soothe or entertain themselves while you’re away is often detrimental to their health. Keep them and your possessions safe! Dogs were den animals in the wild; close enclosures are their “home” and they provide security for them when you’re gone.

2. Hang up your purse/briefcase/backpack. Consider the following contents that may be found in these hand bags: prescription drugs, NSAIDs (e.g. Tylenol), sugar-free gum (xylitol), coins, cell phone batteries, snack-sized raisin boxes. All of the above can be intriguing, yet deadly to snoopy pets.

3. Store human medications away from pet medications. All veterinarians receive phone calls from panicked pet owners who accidentally give their pet their own human medication (e.g. heart and blood pressure medications, anti-depressants and NSAIDs). This accidental pet poisoning comes with both distress and guilt, but is readily avoided by storing human and pet medications in totally different areas.

4. Store weekly pill holders in elevated, secured cabinets. Bear in mind that the noise these plastic pill containers make mimics that of a pet chew toy that rattles. This “fun” discovery by a curious pet often results in intoxication with an array of vitamins and medications, multiplying the severity of the pet poisoning exponentially.

5. Stop storing pills in plastic bags. These temporary storage containers when tossed without thinking into open suitcases are “easy game” for pets because of their hugely magnified sense of smell.

6. Keep chewable pet medications out of reach. The trend in veterinary medicine has been to make pet medications as palatable as possible, especially NSAIDs, heart and heartworm preventive medications and joint supplements that pets take regularly. When pets smell a tasty, familiar aroma, consuming the entire bottle is a “no-brainer.”

7. Supervise pets when in garages and outdoors. These areas harbor multiple pet poisons, including rodenticides, fertilizers, gasoline, motor oil, kerosene, antifreeze, compost and poisonous plants. Secure these items up high in cabinets and closely supervise pets when they are outside. Better yet, keep pets out of garages entirely.

8. Put your veterinarian’s and the ASPCA APCC’s phone numbers on your speed dial. This will give you ready access to emergency advice 24/7. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number is 888-426-4435. Time is of the essence when it comes to pet poisonings!

9. Download the FREE ASPCA APCC app. This is a simple process that gives you fast, easy access to common pet toxicities in a user friendly app for your cell phone. With the press of a widget, you are seconds away from searching by species and the name of the intoxicant that your pet ingested.

As for Emma and Beans, fondly dubbed The Raisinettes, both are being carefully observed, repeatedly monitored, and are currently doing well due to Jo’s quick thinking and actions.

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