You can celebrate the ASPCA National Poison Prevention Week, March 17 to 23, by taking a day off work to poison-proof your home. Of course, convincing your boss this practice is worth of a day off is another matter.
Veterinary toxicologist Dr. Steve Hansen is the director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), Urbana, IL. He says, “Our homes are filled with hidden hazards that kill pets everyday.”
For example, even some experienced bird owners are surprised at how easily their feathered friend is susceptible to awful cooking. Burn some eggs on Teflon or Supra cookware, and your bird can die. When Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) cookware is heated above 530 degrees it undergoes a breakdown and emits caustic fumes, which causes instant respiratory distress in birds.
Even for dogs and cats, Hansen says the kitchen is potentially dangerous. Most people keep their cleaning solutions under the sink, and Hansen says this is a disaster waiting to happen. If a dog or cat licks drain cleaner, the harsh chemicals will burn the esophagus and potentially perforate the stomach, which may be fatal. If a cat is wise enough to show no interest whatsoever in lapping up the drain cleaner, he may scamper across spilled drain cleaner. Later, he’ll ingest the product when he grooms himself.
Electric dishwasher detergent is also caustic, and can quickly create sores in a pet’s mouth. Any disinfectant cleaner may also cause sores, and make a pet ill.
“The safest thing to do is to keep these product in cabinets which are above the reach of even the craftiest pets,” Hansen says.
When it comes to being crafty, ferrets are at the top of the list. They are moving mischief machines, and their insatiable curiosity can get the best of them. Ferrets have been know to open “baby locks” on kitchen doors, and then swallow dangerous cleaning products. They can chew on electric wires, also get stuck behind refrigerators or ovens, or even inside dryers. Ferrets should never be allowed to explore without adult supervision.
Hansen says some ferrets are kleptomaniacs. For some reason, they’re attracted to women’s purses, and manage to open little pill boxes. Because of their small body size, it doesn’t take too many aspirin products, ant-depressants or birth control pills to kill a ferret. Cats are especially susceptible to Acetaminophen (Tylenol and associated products).
While the kitchen poses many dangers, your average garage is an even riskier place. “As long as there’s a car in the garage, there’s the potential for dripping anti-freeze,” Hansen says. With some products, pets are just curious – but anti-freeze is somehow attractive to taste buds of dogs and cats, and this green molasses is deadly. One tablespoon of anti-freeze can kill a cat, and a cup of anti-freeze can do in a 50 lb. dog.
If you must keep your pet in the garage for any period of time, at least opt for the so-called pet safe anti-freezes (brand names include Sierra and Sta-Clean), which contain propylene glycol. However, don’t let the terminology ‘pet safe’ fool you. Pets can get really sick if they ingest enough pet safe anti-freeze, they’re just not as likely to succumb.
Other hazards in the garage include windshield wiper fluid, turpentine, paint thinner and paint. Ingesting any of these products can give even a big dog a big tummy ache.
Of all the hazards in your home, Hansen is most worried about Easter lilies. One taste and a cat can instantly plunge into renal failure. “I’m not sure why cats are so attracted,” says Hansen. “It may be the aroma of the flowers, or it may just be that it’s something new in the house – but the results are instantaneous.”
Similarly, in the south and southwest cycad (or sago) palms are a popular ornamental plant. They periodically drop softball-sized nuts. Dogs may play with these, and in the process bite into one, and chomp on the contents – at this point only emergency care can save the dog.
If your pet is poisoned by eating a plant it shouldn’t, or swallowed a household chemical, or even rodenticide – see your vet. But also call the ASPCA APCC. For example, treatment for rodenticide poisoning depends on the exact rodent poison that is swallowed, and the APCC veterinary toxicologist knows this information. The cost $45 is per case, but there is no charge for follow up phone calls.
Available for your own reference a two booklets from the ASPCA APCC: “Household Plant Reference for Dogs and Cats,” $15; and “Natural Poisons in Horses, $22.
To order these or for more information, or you can reach the ASPCA APCC at apcc.aspca.org, or 888-426-4435.
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