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Keep pets safe from poisons
FLOWOOD, Miss. -- March is National Poison Prevention Month, and March 15-21 is National Animal Poison Prevention Week.
The Animal Emergency and Referral Center, an affiliate service of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, is reminding pet owners to take extra precautions to protect their pets.
Most owners take precautions to keep their pets safe. Leashes, fences, microchips and vaccinations are all routine purchases for responsible pet owners. But for many pets, the average home hides many dangers that sometimes are not obvious.
Dr. Christine Eaves, an emergency clinician at the center, said poisonings are among the top reasons pets visit emergency rooms each year. Pet owners are unaware that the most poisonous foods, chemicals, plants and medications for animals are among the most common items found in a household.
“There’s some general familiarity with the better known poisons, such as chocolate, rat bait and antifreeze,” Eaves said. “But there are many poisonous substances people don’t think of, and pets can surprise you on what they can find, even when you think you’ve taken precautions.”
Eaves said most of the poisoning cases she sees at the emergency center involve dogs.
“Dogs are a little like toddlers, while cats are more discriminatory on what they ingest,” she said.
Cats have a tendency to nibble on house plants that can, in some cases, be toxic to their kidneys or cause gastrointestinal irritation. For cats, even one Tylenol is deadly.
Eaves advised pet parents to “pet-proof” their homes for the most common toxins, just as one would do with a child in the house.
- Chocolate: Remember that dogs may eat through packaging to get to chocolate. Keep it out of reach.
- Medications: Vitamins, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications are very dangerous.
- Pest poisons (rodenticide/slug and snail bait): The same thing that makes the poison attractive to rodents makes it seem tasty to dogs, and people often forget or do not know about the out-of-sight locations of the bait.
- Antifreeze: The sweet taste makes it particularly attractive to dogs. This is a common intentional poisoning agent.
- Xylitol: Sugar-free gum and candy are the chief sources of poisoning from this artificial sweetener.
Eaves said in addition to watching out for hazards around the home, it also pays to be aware of what is going on in the neighborhood. Are neighbors putting out any slug/snail bait? Do the small children next door have a tendency to feed your pet? Does your dog have access to garbage cans/bags that might contain potential toxins?
Eaves said even when owners are incredibly careful, accidental poisoning can still happen.
“If you even think your pet has been exposed to something harmful, please have it seen by a veterinarian,” she said.
Eaves also recommended pet owners keep handy the number for the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661), a 24/7 poison control service. A $49 fee applies per incident, which covers the evaluation and case management by a licensed toxicologist. The Pet Poison Helpline also has a wealth of online resources for pet owners at http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com, including an exhaustive listing of possible toxins to look out for.
For more information about the Animal Emergency and Referral Center and emergency/specialty services provided, see http://cvm.msstate.edu/aerc or call 601-939-8999.
Writer: Brandi Van Ormer
Contact: Karen Templeton, (662) 325-1100