Basically, for your pets, you should keep potentially dangerous products locked up or out of reach, just as you would with a child.
Also, remember that pets are so much smaller than people; something that is OK for people is often dangerous to a dog or cat, just as an adult can take certain drugs that children can't because children are so much smaller.
Finally, animals' bodies are different than humans. They don't digest things the way we do. Thus, things that are safe for humans aren't necessarily safe for pets.
- Chocolate: People love to eat it, and dogs do, too. But too much chocolate can make dogs violently ill or even kill them. (A toxic dose is half an ounce of baking chocolate per pound of body weight.) This happens most often at holiday seasons: Easter, Christmas, and Halloween. So be careful. Don't leave a pan of brownies sitting out or don't give a dog a candy bar as a treat. It could kill him.
- Pennies: Just as kids swallow pennies, animals do, too. According to the ASPCA's National Animal Poison control center, pennies minted after 1982 are composed of copper around a zinc core. If an animal swallows a penny and digests part of the outer copper core, or the if the zinc is already exposed, the zinc can be poisonous, affecting the blood, kidneys and liver.
- Anti-Freeze is one of the most common ways small animals are poisoned. Each year, when do-it-yourself motorists winterize their vehicles, dogs lap up this very sweet and bright color liquid. It only takes about half a teaspoon per pound of dog to get a toxic dose - and less for cats. It can also kill small children. There is a new form of anti-freeze called Sierra which is supposed to be less toxic to animals.
- Garbage is also a killer, mostly for pets who are allowed to roam freely around a farm or neighborhood. If a dog eats decaying food like left-over hamburger (or road kill) the bacteria can poison dogs and make them violently ill or kill them. Make sure the garbage is in a place your dog can't get it. Make sure garbage cans are covered.
- Teflon. When cooking with Teflon, keep birds away. If you forget the pan on the stove and it becomes white hot, the release of toxic particles in the air can cause severe damage to a bird's lungs. As a matter of fact, it might be a good idea to keep your pet birds away from the kitchen entirely.
- Drugs. Vets widely prescrbe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for animals but the dosages are much lower than they are for humans. Sometimes people give their pets aspirins, Aleve, and Advil in an effort to help relieve animal arthritis, but instead of soothing them, they end up killing their pets with an overdose.
To regular-strength aspirin can poison a small dog, and it takes even less to kill a cat. They can also cause stomach ulcers and severe kidney problems. Debbye Turner says elderly people who self-medicate to save money are inclined to choose medications for their pets rather than going to the vet.
Tylenol should never be given to pets, because they don't have an enzyme to detoxify the drug the way humans do. One tablet can result in clinical signs of poisoning for cats, while two tablets can kill cats or dogs.
- Cleaning products are designed to kill germs but if pets drink them, they kill them, too. Since many pets use the toilet bowl as a water bowl, make sure you keep lids down in the event that toilet bowl cleaners like Ajax or Drano aren't completely washed out. Dish washing detergents and pine oils are also very toxic.
- Flea products: Each year, hundreds of animals are poisoned by products designed to rid pets and the house of fleas. If a dog has a particularly bad infestation of fleas, people sometimes decide to put on more flea product than is prescribed. Or they decide to use it twice a week instead of once. Or they decide if it works on the dog, it can work on the cat, too. All of these decisions can result in poisoning, causing pets to vomit, drool, or have diarrhea.
Unlike other poisons, when your pet is reacting to flea dips or sprays, you can treat your pet BEFORE you call a poison control center. Simply wash the animal to remove the flea bath.
Flea baths that are made for dogs should NEVER be used on cats.
Also, if you are spraying the house to remove fleas, don't use them near pets and never spray them directly on your animal.
- Plants. Many plants can be poisonous to pets. Here is a partial list:
- lily of the valley
- Japanese yew
- wax begonia
- night shade
You should keep a phone number for the animal poison control center on your phone. When you call, it is important that you have the product ingested so they can tell you which antidote to give the animal. After calling a poison control center, rush the animal to an animal emergency clinic or to their vet immediately.
For more animal stories, visit the YOUR PET section.
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