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The Top Ten Toxins of 2013

My tail is between my legs. I am late with this blog post. It was meant to time out in conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week.  Here is some belated, but hopefully interesting and useful information gleaned from the call logs of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Here is their list of the top ten pet toxins in 2013. They are ranked below based on call volume.

1. Prescription human medications: The Animal Poison Control Center received a whopping 27,673 calls regarding exposure to human medications in 2013. The three categories of drugs most commonly implicated included heart medications (including blood pressure pills), antidepressants, and pain medications (opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Honestly, I’m surprised that medicinal marijuana wasn’t a front-runner on this list!

2. Insecticides: More than half of the calls pertaining to insecticides involved cats. I certainly know from experience, that many people unwittingly apply “canine only” insecticides to their kitties, thinking that one size fits all. The important lesson here is to always carefully and thoroughly read the product label before applying an insecticide to any living creature.

3. Over-the-counter human medications: This group of drugs included acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and some herbal and nutraceutical products such as fish oil and joint supplements. I can’t even begin to count the number of dogs I’ve treated over the years for gastrointestinal upset and/or kidney failure caused by ibuprofen. Remember, just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean it’s good for our pets.

4. Household products: The toxins reported ranged from fire logs to cleaning products. Some of the chemicals are corrosive to the gastrointestinal tract. Other products are capable of causing an obstruction if swallowed.

5. People food: The biggees here are onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and the sugar substitute, xylitol. These food products have the potential to cause kidney failure (grapes and raisins), gastrointestinal upset and damage to red blood cells (onions and garlic), and dangerously low blood sugar levels (xylitol).

6. Veterinary products and medications: These products are often flavored in order to make for a more palatable pilling process. The more delectable the medication, the more likely the animal is to eat as many tablets as possible when inadvertently allowed access to the entire bottle. The containers may be childproof, but they’re certainly not resistant to the gnashing and mashing of canine jowls.

7. Chocolate: I’m not sure why this was not included as a “people food”. It’s certainly one of my favorites! Methylxanthine is the substance in chocolate that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremoring, elevation in heart rate, and even seizures. The darker/purer the chocolate is, the greater the potential for toxicity. The lesson here- always be selfish with your chocolate!

8. Rodenticides: These are poisons intended to kill mice and rats. In many cases of accidental pet exposure, the people involved either had no idea how their pet could have been exposed, or they felt certain that there was no way their pet could have accessed the product where it was placed. Pets are pretty darned clever at getting to such tasty stuff. Depending on the type of poison, rodenticide toxicity can present as internal bleeding, seizures, or kidney failure. Here’s the bottom line. If you share your home with a pet, do not use a rodenticide anywhere on your premise. Let your kitties and your terriers do the mousing.

9. Plants: Lilies are the major culprits here. When ingested, they are capable of causing an abrupt onset of kidney failure. The outcome can be favorable, but only with really aggressive therapy that sometimes includes dialysis. Spare yourself this heartache- get rid of any lilies in your yard, and don’t bring any lily containing bouquets or plants into the house. Kitties just love to nibble on them.

10. Lawn and Garden Products: What dog doesn’t love what fertilizers contain- bone meal, manure from all kinds of critters, and, sometimes, even some dried blood. Dogs that eat enough of the stuff will develop some rip roaring gastrointestinal symptoms, and potentially even an obstruction.

Have you ever had to deal with a pet-related toxicity? What happened and how did everything turn out?

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Spot’s Blog: http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog
Email: dr.kay@speakingforspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/speakingforspot

Written by

Dr. Nancy Kay wanted to become a veterinarian for just about as long as she can remember. Her veterinary degree is from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, and she completed her residency training in small animal internal medicine at the University of California-Davis Veterinary School. Dr. Kay is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and published in several professional journals and textbooks. She lectures professionally to regional and national audiences, and one of her favorite lecture topics is communication between veterinarians and their clients. Since the release of her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Kay has lectured extensively and written numerous magazine articles on the topic of medical advocacy and veterinarian/client communication. She was a featured guest on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dr. Kay's newest book is called, Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Her award winning blog, "Spot Speaks" is posted weekly (www.speakingforspot.com/blog). Dr. Kay was selected by the American Animal Hospital Association to receive the 2009 Hill’s Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award. This award is given annually to a veterinarian or nonveterinarian who has advanced animal welfare through extraordinary service or by furthering humane principles, education, and understanding. Dr. Kay was selected as the 2011 Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year, an award presented every year by the American Veterinary Medical Association to a veterinarian whose work exemplifies and promotes the human animal bond. Dr. Kay has received several awards from the Dog Writer’s Association of America. Dr. Kay's personal life revolves around her husband (also a veterinarian), her three children (none of whom aspire to be veterinarians) and their menagerie of four-legged family members. When she's not writing, she spends her spare moments in the garden or riding atop her favorite horse. Dr. Kay and her husband reside in Hendersonville, North Carolina.