March is Pet Poison Prevention Month: 4 Ways to Protect Your Dog From Household Toxins

lab puppy sits near potentially poisonous plant

Protecting your pet from harm is always a priority for you. But how do you protect your dog from things that aren’t obvious? To help bring attention to the toxic dangers that pose a threat to your dog, March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), their Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) provided lifesaving information and safety guides to over 370,500 pet parents in 2020. To reduce the number of life-threatening incidents among our furry friends, the APCC lists the top 10 dog toxins:

  1. Over-the-counter medications
  2. Rx medications
  3. Human foods
  4. Chocolate
  5. Plants and flowers
  6. Household cleaners
  7. Rodenticide
  8. Veterinary products
  9. Insecticide
  10. Garden products

You can use each week this month to address a particular danger in and around your home, starting with your medicine cabinet.

Week 1: Secure OTC and Rx Medications

Prescription and over-the-counter medications top the list of pet poisons. You know the warning: Keep all medications away from children. The same holds for pets. Do an inventory and designate one area away from heat and light to store your medications and the like. Place all over-the-counter meds, Rx medications, vitamins, supplements, etc., on high shelves out of the sight and reach of small children and pets. Also, be sure that all lids are closed properly and locked.

Week 2: Hide Common Household Toxins

You most likely have everyday household products that can be toxic to cats and dogs. Like medications, these products need to be safely stored away from your pets. What do we mean by household toxins? Antifreeze, ammonia, drain cleaners, bleach, carpet or upholstery cleaners, even air fresheners often contain carcinogenic substances like formaldehyde. Other items in your house that can prove lethal include:

  • Mothballs are made from naphthalene, which studies have shown can destroy red blood cells in animals.
  • Oven cleaners often contain corrosive alkalis that can harm the respiratory system or gastrointestinal tract if inhaled or ingested.
  • Flea and tick products used correctly are safe and effective. However, used incorrectly, they can risk toxicity in animals. You should also be careful with any chewable medications, like calming chews. If your pet finds these tasty, they may try to eat the whole container. Speak with your vet regarding the appropriate flea and tick treatment for your dog’s weight, age, and any existing health issues.
  • Rodenticides, often referred to as rat poison, kill rodents, such as mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, and porcupines. This toxin can lead to internal bleeding, organ failure, and death if eaten by your dog.
  • Garden products include pesticides and herbicides. Fertilizers made from organic compounds can be hazardous to dogs.

Week 3: Check Your Plants and Flowers

While shrubs, plants and flowers in your landscaping can add value to your home, you need to be aware that some common floras are poisonous to our canine companions. Indoor plants may also be toxic to your pet. Before bringing any new plants into your home or garden, learn about what plants to avoid indoors and out.

Week 4: Clean Out the ‘Fridge & Pantry

Unfortunately, certain foods humans consume with no problem can threaten our pets. Know what harmful foods you have in your home, so you can store them out of your pets’ reach and scent. If any of these dangerous foods get discarded, be sure the trash can has a lid your pet cannot work open. Never leave poisonous foods on the counter or add them to any dish you offer your pet. The ASPCA also maintains a dog food poison list.

Pet Poisoning Resources & Helplines

Quick action and expert advice are crucial in the event of poisoning or toxin exposure. If you find yourself and your pet in this situation, the first thing to do is try not to panic. Instead, focus on getting your pet the help they need. Have your vet’s office number in your contact list on your phone, so you can quickly call. Note veterinary hospitals in your area and put those numbers in your phone as well.

Staffed by veterinarians, veterinary toxicologists, and veterinarian technicians, you may find these national resources helpful in answering your questions.

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435. You can get help 24/7, 365 days a year. They charge $75 for the service, as they’re a non-profit with no outside funding.
  • The National Pesticide Information Center is available from 8:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST Mon.-Fri.  Call (800) 858-7378 with any pesticide-related topic.

Although Pet Poison Prevention Month is a great opportunity to learn about common pet toxins you have in and around your home, it’s practicing safety year-round that will help keep your pet safe and happy.

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