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Halloween Hazards and Household Toxins

With Halloween around the corner, and everyone stocking up on their chocolate candy for trick-or-treaters, a blog post about common household toxins for pets seems in order. This will not be all inclusive, but hopefully I can cover the major toxic items inside and outside the home.

Let’s start with foods. The most well known is of course, CHOCOLATE. With chocolate, the dark, baking chocolate is the most toxic. Also, white chocolate is in fact not toxic at all to your pup (but please do not give it to your dog). Other common food items that are toxic include avocado, onions and garlic, grapes and raisins, any beverages with caffeine or alcohol, macadamia nuts and any chewing gum containing xylitol.

Another major source of toxins for pets is household plants. This list is very long and new plants are constantly added to it. The ones that immediately pop into my head are LILIES (all kinds – especially in your feline friends), oleander, foxgloves, daffodils, philodendrons and sago palms (a huge problem in Louisiana and Florida). Other plants on the list include: English ivy, poision ivy and poison oak, rhododendron, poinsettias and holly (Christmas!), yews, dumb cane, elephant ears, hibiscus and aloe vera.

Outside you can find other toxins as well. Garden mulch and mushrooms can be toxic to dogs and cats. Also, many fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides, especially organophosphates, are not safe for pets. Please keep your pets away from these products when they must be used. The worst toxin I can think of is ANTI-FREEZE. This always becomes a problem with cooler weather coming. This chemical is very potent and just the smallest drop can cause a severe problem for cats and small dogs. Please be extremely careful with the product. It is naturally sweet tasting, so pets can often be attracted to the smell. Always clean up anti-freeze spills when they occur.

Another major toxin is RAT POISON. This can cause internal bleeding if ingested. These rodenticide and other baits in the home can cause serious problems if your pet happens to get into them. Also, household cleaners, especially bleach, should be kept in a safe place out of your pet’s reach.

The most common toxin exposure we see at CSAH is human medications given to pets inappropriately. We recommend calling us before giving your pet ANY household medication. If you don’t know already, TYLENOL is extremely toxic, especially to cats. Also, please do not give your pet ibuprofen (Motrin) as overdoses are very common. Decongestant medications containing pseudoephedrine can cause hyper-excitability and liver damage.

Another common toxin we see is topical flea and tick medication labeled only for dogs being used on cats. If this happens, the first thing you should do is bathe the cat with dawn (or another gentle soap) to get the product off the fur.

Signs of toxin exposure can be very variable. The most common signs include vomiting (GI toxins), lethargy and weakness, or seizures (CNS toxins). You may also see labored or shallow breathing, drooling, stumbling, staggering or tremors. Some toxins cause increased heart rate, hyperactivity, increased thirst and dilated pupils.

If you think your pet has ingested a toxin, please give us or any emergency center a call immediately. If you need to bring your pet into the hospital, always remember to bring the packaging that the toxin came in. This can provide very valuable information when handling toxin exposure cases.

Hopefully this blog post opened your eyes to some of the pet toxins found around your home and in the yard. Please comment if you have any questions about this information.

ASPCA Toxin Hotline: (888) 426-4435


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