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Pet Poison Prevention Month

Slowly but steadily, we can finally see some signs of spring pop up here and there. The last of our dreary, slushy snow has begun to melt, the temperatures have started easing closer and closer to 50 degrees, and the gray winter clouds are even starting to give way to bright spring sunshine. Finally, March is here, and with it, National Pet Poison Prevention Month. With the reemergence of houseplants, with garden bulbs finally starting to think about emerging, and with Easter right around the corner, there are plenty of new sights, smells, and tastes around, but unfortunately, many of these can cause harm to our pets. With Spring so close at hand, we’d like to honor Pet Poison Prevention Month and offer you some information about those springtime toxins that are sure to be headed our way in the next month. Well go over several common springtime toxins, how to recognize signs of toxicity in your pets, and what to do if you think your pet has been poisoned by one of these toxins.We hope you’ll never have to follow these instructions, but as Month is Pet Poison Prevention Month, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you how important a little vigilance and an ounce of preparation really is.

Pet Toxins Commonly Found in the Spring

Springtime is when most of us begin to think about gardening again and when many colorful plants start to appear outside. Several species of plants, many types of fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides, as well as Easter treats and decorations can all pose threats to dogs and cats. We’ll list and describe several below, but keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list! Please visit the Pet Poison Helpline for a comprehensive list of poisons and toxins.

Amaryllis, as with all species of lily, are popular around Easter and pose a great threat, mostly to pets’ digestive systems. It’s important to note that all lilies are dangerous, but true lilies (tiger lilies, day lilies, Easter lilies, and Asiatic lilies) pose the greatest toxic threat to our pets.

Amaryllis

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Crocus plants are one of my favorite, most welcome signs of spring. However, the species of crocus that blooms in the springtime can pose a hazard to pets. Crocus plants are dangerous when ingested and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Autumn crocuses are actually much more dangerous, causing symptoms as severe as liver failure.

Crocus

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Daffodils are often one of our first glimpses of color in March, and a sure sign that spring is on its way. However, make sure that your pets steer clear of these as ingestion of the plant, the bulb, and the flower can cause severe abdominal symptoms and in some cases, even cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression.

Daffodils

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Tulips are another unlikely poison, but in this case, the toxins in tulips are primarily concentrated in the bulbs, rather than in the leaves or flowers. These mostly pose a threat to dogs who like to dig around flowers and gardens. As with all of these flowers, the toxins are usually ingested and can result in mouth and esophageal irritation. If a dog consumes a large mount, more severe digestive upsets can occur.

Tulips

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Fertilizers, especially those that contain disulfoton or other orgaophosphates (read your labels carefully!) are incredibly dangerous to pets. In fact, according to Bark Williams, just 1 teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can be fatal to a 55lb dog! If you do need to use fertilizers, be sure to check with your vet to find safe alternative solutions that you can use with peace of mind and be sure that your pets aren’t escaping into neighbors’ yards if you aren’t sure what their fertilizers are made of.

Pesticides and insecticidesare common in household gardens, but it’s no surprise that these can cause problems for our pets. Luckily, the most common pesticides and insecticides that come in a spray can are pretty basic irritants and rarely cause serious damage unless a pet finds a way to puncture the spray can. Large quantities of these chemicals will indeed create a poisonous reaction, though, so be careful and be sure to speak with your vet if you have any questions.

Easter is only a month away and as we get closer to the date, Easter treats and decorations will become a popular sight. However, many of these common Easter treats pose toxic hazards to pets. Decorative grasses that typically line Easter baskets, Easter lilies (as we mentioned above), chocolate treats like bunnies and chicks and eggs, as well as xylitol, a common sweetener in candies can all pose hazards to pets. As you begin to prepare for Easter, take a look at our Easter post from last year, highlighting not only the Eastertime hazards, but fun homemade alternative treats to help tempt your pets!

How to Recognized Signs of Toxicity in your Pet

No two pets will respond to poison in the same way and no two poisons will have the same symptoms. Instead, your pet’s symptoms will depend on which body systems have been impacted by the toxin and how his or her body responds to the amount and rate of ingestion. You know your pets better than anyone. A general rule of thumb is that if you notice something “off” about your pet, something is likely wrong. Some “typical” signs and symptoms of toxicity that you may be able to see at home are: lethargy, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, diarrhea and/or vomiting, excessive drooling, nausea, excessive thirst, decreased or absence of urination, abnormal body temperature, and general weakness or unsteadiness.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Pet is Having a Toxic Reaction

If you notice any one or more of the symptoms above or if you have reason to believe that your pet has gotten into a poisonous or toxic substance, there are several steps to take to help your pet get help quickly.

  1. Stay calm. Your calm voice and body language will help your pet stay calm in this scary moment.
  2. Identify the toxin. If possible, do a quick check around the house and the yard to identify the toxin your pet has gotten into. Get as much information as you can about the toxin, including a label or bottle, a quick cell phone photo of a plant, etc.
  3. Call a Poison Control Line (1-855-213-6680). Once you’ve identified the toxin and gotten as much information as possible, immediately call the Pet Poison Helpline at the number above. They will be able to tell you if the exposure is indeed toxic and what treatments are necessary. For example, they can instruct you to induce vomiting, to bathe your pet with a mild dish soap, or to contact your vet or pet hospital immediately.
  4. Follow instructionsfrom the Pet Poison Helpline, not your own instincts. Following home remedies like giving your pet milk or aspirin can actually be more detrimental and should be avoided.

Sources: Idaho Vet Hospital; Pet Poison Helpline; Bark Williams; 1800petmeds; PetMD; ASPCA; Dr. Sarah Skinner

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