PAWS Magazine

Issue 64, Summer 2006

Caution: Dangers Ahead (Part Two)
Help Protect Companion Animals from the Hazards of Everyday Life

Like many of us do now and then, one North Seattle family succumbed to the irresistible begging of their three-year-old dog Tory at suppertime. To Tory's initial delight, the family gave him a handful of five grapes. Little did they know that grapes and raisins can be very toxic to dogs, especially to smaller breeds like Tory, a six-pound Maltese. He became lethargic and grew very ill. Though Tory's family rushed him to an emergency clinic, within hours their beloved dog was gone.

Another tragedy almost struck PAWS intern, Karol Costa when her 10-month-old kitten ate a lily from a bouquet of flowers her husband had brought home. Luckily, Karol caught Palito in the act, stopping him before he ate the whole bunch. After an overnight stay in the emergency clinic, forced vomiting, fluids, blood tests and hundreds of dollars in vet bills, Palito was fine with no lasting side effects.

Whether or not you've had one of these experiences with your companion animal, don't count on the likelihood of pets staying clear of dangers on their own. Here are a few common hazards of which to be aware:

  • Chemicals. This includes cleaning products inside your house as well as automotive chemicals. Store all detergents and cleaners away from curious noses, as if you had a human toddler in your home. Keep your driveway cleaned of oil or antifreeze, which is highly toxic and has a sweet taste animals like. Never use rodent poisons around your home.
  • Plants. Some common plants that pose dangers for pets include Lilies, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Tulip bulbs and Yew—just to mention a few. Animals seem to crave greenery and will likely not know which plants to avoid. Keep all plants out of reach or in a room to which pets don’t have access. If you see that plants have been chewed on, remove them altogether.
  • People food. It's hard to say "no" to those big eyes. However, some people foods can be just as toxic to animals' systems as chemicals. Chocolate, avocado, grapes, raisins, coffee grounds or beans, and onions are just some items potentially harmful to pets. Aside from these dangers, most people foods are simply too fatty and too salty for animals' digestive systems, and lead to weight gain and more serious long-term health problems. To avoid potential poisons, stick to treats made especially for pets.
  • Gardening supplies. Insecticides, like snail bait or products to rid roses of aphids, can do serious damage to an animal's nervous system. Natural products are safer if pets spend time outdoors. However, even cocoa mulch, made from the hulls of cocoa beans, and compost piles containing moldy leftovers, can also be very dangerous to pets, though they're considered natural garden products. Be sure to read all labels and when in doubt, don't use it.
  • Medications. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving your pet any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Just because a medication is safe for you or another pet, it may not be safe for every companion animal. Be sure to use the right product for the right species. For instance, some flea medication used for dogs can be deadly for cats. Lastly, don't leave your own medication and vitamins where your pets can reach them.

As an animal guardian, remember that individual animals' reactions will vary depending on species, size and overall health. The hazards listed above are examples and are not a complete list. Be sure to speak to your veterinarian about potential hazards for animals in your home. You can also call the Washington Poison Center Hotline at 1.800.222.1222, both for general advice and for help in an emergency.

Part One of “Caution: Dangers Ahead” addresses everyday hazards for wildlife.


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