Has your dog ever chomped on chocolate? Does your kitty like to snack on plants? In observance of National Poison Prevention Week (March 15 to March 21), the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) sheds light on the most common dangers pets may encounter, and offers helpful advice for poison-proofing your home.
“National Poison Prevention Week is an opportune time to educate pet owners about the many toxic substances that can harm our pets,” said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. “Our animal companions depend on us to be informed and protect them from danger.”
In 2008, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, Ill. managed more than 140,000 cases. The public utilized the APCC’s 24-hour hotline with emergency and non-emergency inquiries alike.
The top calls of 2008 involved the following common household goods and products:
1. Just Say No to Drugs: For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards, and 2008 was no exception. Last year, the ASPCA managed more than 50,000 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.
2. Bugged out: In our effort to battle home invasions of unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our pets at risk. In 2008, our toxicologists fielded more than 31,000 calls related to insecticides. “One of the most common incidents is the misuse of flea and tick products,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Health Services “Some species of animals can be particularly sensitive to certain types of insecticides, so it is vital that you never use any product not specifically formulated for your pet.” It is also a good idea to consult with your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.
3. No Food for You: People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and certain citrus fruit can seriously harm our furry friends, and accounted for more than 15,000 cases in 2008. One of the worst offenders—chocolate—contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.
4. Don’t Eat the Daisies: In 2008, common household plants such as azalea, lilies, and kalanchoe, were the subject of more than 8,000 calls to the poison center. Other varieties that can be harmful to pets include rhododendron, sago palm, and schefflera. “Just one or two sago palm nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and even liver failure,” said Dr. Hansen. “Also, lilies are highly toxic to cats—even in small amounts they can produce life-threatening kidney failure.”
5. Don’t Take the Bait: Insects are not the only critters that can invade our dwellings—so can mice, rats and other rodents. But before you rush out to buy a chemical bait product, it is important to be aware of the risks they can pose to your pet—last year, the Center handled approximately 8,000 queries about these baits. “Some baits contain inactive ingredients meant to attract rodents, which can be attractive to pets as well,” said Dr. Hansen. “That’s why it’s so important, when using any rodenticide, to place the product in areas that are completely inaccessible to companion animals.”
Established in 1978, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is the only 24-hour, 365-day facility of its kind staffed by 30 veterinarians, 12 of who are board-certified toxicologists/veterinary toxicologists. Located in Urbana, Ill., the specially trained staff provides assistance to pet owners, and specific diagnostic and treatment recommendations to veterinarians pertaining to toxic chemicals and dangerous plants, products or substances. The Center also provides extensive veterinary toxicology consulting on a wide array of subjects, including legal cases, formulation issues, product liability, and regulatory reporting. For more information on potentially dangerous substances in the home or to reach the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, please call (888) 426-4435 or visit www.aspca.org/apcc.
About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has more than one million supporters throughout North America. A 501 [c]  not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited, animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York’s animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org.