As National Poison Prevention Week—March 21 to 27—approaches, we want to highlight the importance of knowing which home substances can poison your pet, and what to do if your pet has been poisoned. Pets are inquisitive by nature, and have a tough time trying to resist pawing at, sniffing, licking, or chewing on unknown items. Without constant supervision, your furry pal may encounter a hazardous substance that can lead to toxicity or poisoning. To help keep your four-legged friend safe from harm, we’re celebrating National Poison Prevention Week, but hoping pet owners are mindful of potential pet poisoning all 52 weeks of the year. Read on to find out how to protect your pet.

What can cause poisoning in pets?

While cats are usually less likely to be poisoned than dogs because of their more discerning and suspicious nature, both species can succumb to a variety of toxic substances. Whether these items have been given to your pet, such as applying canine flea preventive to a cat, or discovered on their own, like your dog sniffing out a secret chocolate stash, it helps to know what can cause poisoning in pets and what items to keep well out of reach. 

Keep your furry pal safe by storing these potentially poisonous substances out of paws’ reach:

  • Human medications — OTC and prescription medications are often given to pets to help alleviate illness or pain, or they may drop on the floor to be consumed by an unsuspecting pet, but most human medications are dangerous for pets.
  • Veterinary products — Chewable veterinary products are designed to be highly palatable to ensure your pet eats them. However, they may become too delicious to resist, and your pet may search out and eat an entire box of heartworm preventives or other flavored medication.
  • Household cleaners — Bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, rust remover, and all sorts of other household cleaners are loaded with hazardous chemicals for your pet. Lock these items away and clean up spills immediately.
  • Lawn and garden products — Fertilizers and herbicides can be dangerous for your pet if they go on your lawn before the products have been absorbed. Avoid using fertilizers with bone and blood meal ingredients, which are tempting for pets.
  • Foods — Many human foods, such as chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, and xylitol, are toxic for pets.
  • Plants — Roots, leaves, and pollen from certain plants can create a toxic effect in your pet, so check the toxicity potential before bringing a plant indoors.
  • Home improvement products — Paint, spackle, and adhesives are poisonous for pets, but can tempt them with their unusual textures.
  • Insecticides — Wasp, bee, and ant killers are common insecticides that have ingredients harmful for pets.

If you’re unsure about an item’s potential toxicity, search the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control section of their website. For example, they include lists of safe and unsafe plants to have around your pet, and also highlight toxic foods.

What are common poisoning signs in pets?

The signs your pet displays after being poisoned vary based on the substance. Potential warning indicators your pet may have been poisoned include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Inability to urinate
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Seizures

Keep in mind that not all toxicity signs set in immediately. Some can take hours or days to appear, such as bleeding issues seen with certain rodenticide toxicities. 

What should I do if I think my pet has been poisoned?

If you suspect your pet has come in contact with a toxic substance, do not panic, so you can best help your pet. Next, follow these steps to ensure your furry pal receives prompt, correct treatment:

  1. Keep the package of the questionable item, so you have the brand name and active ingredient handy.
  2. Call an animal poison control helpline, such as the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline.
  3. Follow the helpline’s directions for your pet’s care.
  4. Contact Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center to let us know your pet has been poisoned and that you’re on your way. The helpline should provide you with a case number, so give that number to our team to allow us plenty of time to prepare for your pet’s case by speaking with the veterinary toxicologist.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, don’t delay, because every second counts. Immediately call an animal poison control helpline, like the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, or call our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team for help. We’ll ensure your pet receives the correct treatment for the best possible outcome.