Common Hazards

As we enjoy the companion of our beloved pets, it is im portant to remember some potential hazards for them.  The ASPCA's National Animal Control Center lists the most common hazards that it receives calls about ( We will go over the ten most common, and add several that are common to the Northwest.


1. Human Medications. Dogs will chew through prescription vials and swallow pills or capsules, causing an overdose. In addition, some over-the-counter (OTC) human medications are toxic to pets, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) to cats and ibuprofen to dogs and cats. Always be sure medications are out of reach of children and pets, and check with your veterinarian before giving any OTC medication to pets.


2. Insecticides. Used to kill fleas, ticks, and other insects, these products cause a large volume of calls. Some products labeled only for use in dogs are toxic to cats, such as permethrins. Never use a product not specifically labeled for use on animals. Always use caution with any OTC products and follow label instructions specifically. It is always best to consult your veterinarian before using any pesticide.


3. Veterinary Medications. Again dogs will chew through prescription vials, especially if they are flavored chewable medications. Several medications are labeled for certain species only, and giving dog medications to cats or vice-versa can lead to toxicity. Always be sure medications are out of reach.


4. Plants.  There are many toxic plants, including lilies, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. With the holidays be careful of Pointsettas, which cause stomach and oral irritation.


5. Rodenticides. Rat baits today are very powerful delayed anticoagulants that cause rodents to bleed to death several days after ingesting the bait. Thus many dogs won't show signs for 2-3 days. Besides bleeding problems, some also can lead to kidney failure. All rodenticides should only be placed in areas where pets do not have access to them.


6. Household cleaners. Including bleach, detergents and disinfectants can cause intestinal irritation to severe oral burns and respiratory irritation. It is always best to keep these out of pets reach, and use hot water and soap to clean food and water bowls.


7. Chocolate. Especially a hazard this time of year, dogs seem to love the taste as much as we do. Unfortunately, the fat and caffeine derivatives (methylxanthines) commonly cause intestinal problems (vomiting and diarrhea), and can cause panting, hyperactivity, seizures and heart problems leading to death. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic, with baking chocolate being the most dangerous. Another toxic food ingredient that has recently been shown to cause liver failure in dogs is xylitol, a sugar substitute used in some chewing gums and sugar-free baking products.


8. Chemical Hazards. A wide range of products including ethylene glycol antifreeze, which leads to kidney failure, and paint thinner which can cause respiratory damage. Drain cleaners and pool/spa cleaners can lead to chemical burns. Always keep chemicals out of reach of pets and children.


9. Physical Hazards. This group includes items which can be swallowed, leading to choking or intestinal obstruction. In puppies, this can include anything from socks to stuffing inside toys. Kittens can ingest string objects leading to obstruction, such as ribbon, yarn, or rubber bands. Other items can damage teeth including real bones and hard synthetic bones. Puppies and kittens should be observed while playing with any new toy.


10. Home Improvement Products. Paints, solvents, and expanding glues are all potentially dangerous. While water-based paints are relatively safe, they can cause intestinal upset.  Solvents can lead to pneumonia and severe intestinal irritation. Nuts and bolts can contain zinc, which can lead to anemia. Pets should be kept out of areas of home improvement.


Other hazards common in the Northwest are slug bait and mushrooms. Slug baits (metaldehyde) can lead to increased heart rate and anxiety, to muscle spasms and seizures. It can lead to liver failure 2-3 days after exposure or death within 24 hours from respiratory failure. Mushrooms vary in toxicity from stomach and intestinal irritation to liver failure, neurotoxicity, and death.  It is best to keep your yard clean of mushrooms, and if your pet ingests a mushroom, immediately bring a sample of the mushroom with your pet to your veterinarian.


Keep these potential safety hazards in mind and have a great time with your beloved pets.

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