Downeast Dog News

Guide to Poison Prevention in Dogs

By Dr. Gail Mason, DVM, MA, DACVIM | Mar 01, 2021

The month of March is recognized as Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Understanding what potential harmful poisons exist in your home and yard is the first step in keeping your pet safe. Our beloved canines explore the world with their mouths, which can sometimes lead to trouble. Each year thousands of cases of pet poisoning occur, and last year, one of the largest pet insurance companies paid out 2.1 million dollars toward toxicity claims. Some hazards may be obvious, but others might not. Some toxicities result in only minor symptoms, but some can be life-threatening. Here are some of the most frequently reported pet toxins.

In the kitchen: chocolate, xylitol (found in gum, sugar free products and some peanut butters), grapes, raisins, alcohol, yeast dough, caffeine, onions, garlic, chives, fatty scraps, table salt, macadamia nuts, and coconut (including coconut oil and water in large amounts).

In the medicine cabinet: sanitizers, acetaminophen (Tylenol®), pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®), albuterol found in inhalers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil®, Aleve®, ibuprofen, naproxen, Celebrex®, and aspirin), THC in marijuana, antidepressant drugs, caffeine pills, Adderall®, cigarettes, cardiac medications, nicotine patches, insect repellants (especially those containing DEET), and topical creams such as baclofen, flurbiprofen, diclofenac, ketamine, lidocaine, dibucaine, 5- fluorouracil, and calcipotriene).

Around the house/yard: dishwashing detergent, bleach, household cleaners, rodent poison or traps, slug bait, fertilizer, lawn and garden chemicals, antifreeze products and deicing salts.

Plants/shrubs: While the ingestion of some plants may just result in minor symptoms such as transient gastroenteritis, the ingestion of others can cause serious toxicity and organ damage. The most common indoor plants associated with illness include philodendrons, aloe vera plants, cyclamen, Sago palm, Mistletoe, African violets, and dieffenbachia. The top outdoor “offenders” include Lilly of The Valley, Japanese yews, autumn crocus, rhododendrons, tulips, foxglove plants, irises, yarrow, English ivy, Clematis, begonias, hydrangeas, Sweet pea plants, wisteria, gladiolas, Amaryllis, American Holly, Cala lilies, Day lilies, elephant ears and azaleas. Additionally, do not forget the “delicacy” of Cocoa bean mulch, plus garden pesticides and slug baits.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will come clean and let you know that as I wrote this article, I realized that I have at least eight potentially toxic plants in my own backyard, which I so proudly planted last year. I also have two Jack Russell terriers! Luckily, we have had no health- related incidents, but it certainly is a “wakeup call” that I should choose plants according to their safety rather than the color of their blooms. See, even “old dogs” CAN learn!

To prepare: Familiarize yourself with potential pet poisons and hazards around your home and keep them out of reach. Take special precautions with pets that counter-surf, check the rubbish, or inspect your purse. Medications of all types should be securely put away and not left on your night table or counter where they are “easy prey.” Keep the ASPCA Poison Control Center phone number handy in your phone contacts: (888)-426-4435, which provides service to clients and veterinarians 24/7, 365 days of the year. You should also have the phone numbers and addresses for your nearest veterinary emergency hospital locations.

What if I suspect/know my dog ingested a potential toxin? Because toxins have a variable onset in time of symptoms, you should act immediately. Do not waste time trying to induce vomiting, as it may be counterproductive or potentially dangerous. Call your nearest veterinary emergency facility immediately. They may direct you to call poison control, or they may wish to facilitate that for you. If you have any labels or containers of the ingested product, bring them with you, or screen shot them. Taking a photo of the "scene of the crime" can offer the veterinarian valuable information to estimate the degree of ingestion/toxicity. Stay safe out there and GO FETCH!


Dr. Gail Mason, DVM, MA, DACVIM

Staff Internist, Portland Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Care

Co-owner Bath-Brunswick Veterinary Hospital