Pet Poison Prevention Week: Spring Flowers, Cleaning, and Other Toxic Items For Cats and Dogs

Pet Poison Prevention Week is approaching, running from March 20th - 26th. This week focuses on educating pet parents on some of the common things poisonous to pets. Pet poison prevention week ties into National Poison Prevention Week and the many dangers that spring, although a lovely season, brings with it. As veterinarians, we are grateful to have this opportunity to remind everyone about the hazards found in spring, such as cleaners, plants, fertilizer, pesticides, and so much more. The ASPCA lists many plants, household items, and food that can be lethal to pets. Those include chocolate, grapes, mushrooms, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter drugs. We've rounded up some of the culprits that can be potentially toxic to pets and shared them and the signs of their toxicities below. Familiarize yourself with these items in order to prevent a heartbreaking situation for your dog or cat.

Plants

There are a plethora of plants that can be harmful to pets; some are well known to many pet owners, and others may not be so obvious.

Aloe Vera

This plant has seen a rise in popularity but may not be the best to keep around curious pets. Aloe Vera plants contain anthraquinone glycosides, which are purgatives (medications that encourage bowel movements). When ingested, these glycosides are metabolized by intestinal bacteria, forming compounds that increase mucus production and water in the colon.

Some signs of an anthraquinone overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea

chrysanthemums toxic to pets

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums - also known as Mums - contain a few different toxic elements. Mums are a widely used plant, so make sure you keep them out of reach of your pets or keep them in certain areas of your yard your pets can't access.

If your cat or dog eats chrysanthemums, you can expect some:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hypersalivation
  • Incoordination
  • Dermatitis

Daffodils

Daffodils are a widespread Easter plant - along with lilies - and can be just as toxic to both cats and dogs.

Daffodils can cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Salivation
  • Diarrhea
  • Large ingestions cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias

Also, be mindful that the bulbs are the most poisonous part of the daffodil plant.

hydrangeas toxic to pets

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are a common yard plant that helps to brighten up any landscaping, but did you know that they can cause nasty illnesses in your pets?

Although hydrangea toxins typically cause more of a gastrointestinal disturbance, they can also cause:

  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea due to cyanide intoxication, although cyanide intoxication is rare

Lilies

Lilies are very toxic to cats and can even cause kidney failure in extreme cases compared to dogs where you only typically see a slight stomach irritation. It is critical that if you suspect your cat has eaten any part of a lily, bring them to the vet or emergency hospital immediately. Permanent damage to the kidneys can more often than not be reversed if the cat is treated within 18 hours of exposure.

tulips toxic to pets

Tulips

Tulips are a common sign spring has sprung, but it's probably best for pet owners to keep them where dogs and cats can't reach them or out of your house or garden altogether.

Tulips contain toxins that can cause:

  • Intense gastrointestinal irritation
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression of the central nervous system
  • Convulsions
  • Cardiac abnormalities

household cleaners toxic to pets

Household Cleaners

Bleach

While properly cleaning with a diluted bleach solution is a great way to keep your pet's cage and other items clean, make sure you fully air out and dry any products you use it on. Just as with people, straight bleach can irritate the skin, and if ingested, it can cause heavy drooling (especially in cats), redness, and irritation on the skin and around the mouth. While household bleach is more of an irritant than a corrosive agent, the symptoms can be worrisome for most pet owners. In cases of ultra-concentrated bleach, it will cause chemical burns and lesions both internally and externally. If your pet has gotten into any amount of ultra-concentrated bleach, treat this as an emergency and contact your local vet, e-vet, or animal hospital for instructions.

Essential Oils

Contrary to what some people think, essential oils can cause many issues, especially in cats.

If ingested, essential oils can cause:

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Liver damage if ingested in significant quantities
  • If inhaled, they can cause respiratory issues and aspiration pneumonia

Human Pharmaceuticals

Aspirin

Unlike humans, aspirin should not be given over the counter to pets to help ease any pain. While it can help pets, the risk of an overdose is very high and can lead to liver failure. We strongly recommend consulting with your vet if you believe your pet to be in pain.

Ibuprofen

Any NSAID painkillers are not metabolized the same way in humans as they are in pets. Because of the difference in elimination, even small amounts can cause significant medical problems in dogs, including gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure. Please consult your veterinarian before giving any over-the-counter medications for pain.

Pepto-Bismol

These products contain salicylates, which are similar to aspirin. Depending on the circumstances of exposure, large enough doses of bismuth salicylate could cause effects similar to aspirin poisoning.

Symptoms of this bismuth salicylate poisoning include:

  • Gastric irritation or ulceration
  • Bleeding problems
  • Seizures
  • Liver damage

Pseudoephedrine

Pseudoephedrine can be found in many over-the-counter decongestants.

Clinical signs of pseudoephedrine poisoning include:

  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Other behavioral changes
  • Panting
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure

Pet Poisoning FAQs

What items are toxic to dogs?

  • Chocolate/Grapes
  • Xylitol
  • Ethylene glycol: A chemical commonly found in antifreeze—pets have been known to drink antifreeze due to its sweet taste
  • Rat bait
  • Prescription & over-the-counter human medications that are dropped including Tylenol, ibuprofen & several others

What items are toxic to cats?

  • Ethylene glycol: A chemical commonly found in antifreeze—pets have been known to drink antifreeze due to its sweet taste
  • Rat bait
  • Lillies
  • Prescription & over-the-counter human medications that are dropped including Tylenol, ibuprofen & several others

Is chocolate as deadly for dogs as we are led to believe?

Yes! Dark chocolate and baker's chocolate both contain high levels of caffeine and theobromine. Theobromine is a chemical we humans can digest quickly, whereas dogs cannot. The slower digestion period allows the chemical to build up and reach toxic levels faster.

How do I know if my pet has gotten into something poisonous?

If your pet has gotten into something potentially poisonous, you'll likely see:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures

go to vet for emergency pet poisonings

What do I do if I suspect my pet has ingested something poisonous?

Bring your pet into a veterinary hospital immediately and/or call poison control for immediate advice.

Is there anything I can do for my pet at home before taking them to the emergency vet?

Call poison control. Bring a sample of toxin ingested for veterinary evaluation.

Is marijuana toxic to pets?

Yes! If pets eat the actual buds of the marijuana plant, it can result in:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing problems
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rates
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of bladder control

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control (APCC) is one of the best resources for any animal poison-related emergency, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, along with Pet Poison Help Line. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call 888-426-4435. A consultation fee may apply.

As your pet's doctor, we do not judge you or how your pet got into a toxin! We are more concerned about your pet's safety and well-being. 

 

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