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Accidental Dog poisoning - the main poisons & how to avoid them

pet_poisonsDo you know the top eleven poison groups that affect or kill pets and dogs in particular each year are often easilyfound around the home?

While many people know some of the human foods and plants that cause problems for dogs, this article looks at the top poison groups that regularly affect our dogs each year.

This list is based on the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in America that provided statistics for calls made to them in 2009. In that year they found that over 140,000 cases of pets who had been exposed to toxic substances. Here are the leading dog poison groups:

1   Human Medications

It is a remarkable finding that people medications made to make the owners better are one of the major causes of dog deaths each year. Out of the 140,000 calls to the centres hotline, 45,816 or over 30% of calls were regarding prescription and over-the-counter medicines that were accidently ingested by dogs.

The top offending medicines were: painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. More specifically: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen cause stomach and intestinal ulsers and kidney failure. Antidepressants, cause vomiting and serotonin syndrome (dangerous temperature increase), elevated heart rate and blood pressure.  Isoniazid, a tuberculosis drug, is difficult for dogs to process. one tablet can kill a small dog by causing seizures and coma.

It was found that pill containers were often grabbed off bedside tables or off the floor. Worse still, many owners accidently gave their own medication to pets?!

To prevent dog medication poisoning, it is best to lock away your tablets when they are not being used and to 'child proof' your house and cupboards etc. The same principles for safety for young children (keeping drugs inaccessable) apply to dogs and cats.

2   Insecticides (Flea and tick products)

In 2009, 29,020 calls or over 20% of all calls were about insecticide poisoning of dogs and cats. And surprisingly it was the "misuse of flea and tick products-such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species".

This can be avoided by buying flea and worm medication specific to you type of pet and weight size, and ONLY using it for them. Mixing and matching medication between species and weight groups without a vet knowledge of how the medication works is fraught with danger.

3 Human Food

Elsewhere on this site I have provided a fairly thorough list of the types of common people food that can harm your pets. Because the list is so extensive it is a good idea to every now and then update your knowledge. Of teh 17,453 cases in 2009 some of the leading causes of problems were from chocolate, grapes raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol (used in chewing gum and a substitute for gluten).

Note that table scraps and pizza's can also contain dog and cat poisons, particularly if you do not know what ingredients are in sauces etc, or other people are feeding your dog.

4 Garden Plants

Many regular garden and house plants are toxic to animals. Of the 7,858 calls to the centre, the leading plants were: azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera.

Did you know that lillies even in small amounts are very poisonous to cats?

Because this is a massive category on its own, and far from the scope of this article, it is best to view specific articles on such plant poisons.

5 Veterinary Medications

This category was already covered slightly under insectides (the number two highest poison). Of the 7,680 cases regarding calls about vet medications, the leading issues were for:  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.

Again, the process should be simple. Buy your medication for a specific pet, and keep these medications in a safe place. Always mark clearly on a calendar when you are to administer these.

6 Rodenticides

From the amount of knowledge out there I would have suspected that this would have been a greater issue than its rank of number 7. However due to the intended poisonous nature of this rodenticide category, for animals often not that much smaller than many pets, the chance of a serious issue from your pet eating the poison is very large.

The most common problems associated with this category are: bleeding, seizures or kidney damage. Be aware that there are now a lot of better products to remove rodents from your house and yard, aimed at keeping your pets safe. You no longer have to put down poisonous pellets or snail bait where your pets can easily lap them up. There are humane traps, large blocks of baits that are not smell attractive to dogs and cats etc.

Household Cleaners

Just like owner medications, household cleaners should be locked away in pet proof cupboards. Of the 4,143 calls taken for household cleaners, the leading issues were to do with: bleaches, detergents and disinfectants.

Just like inhalation by humans, these cleaners typically cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract. Always consult your vet as to the best method of immediately aiding your pet. In some cases you will not encourage vomiting due to the burn that the stomach acid will cause on the trachea etc.

8 Heavy Metals

This is one of the categories that most people would not think about, However there were still 3,304 calls regarding this deadly group. In 2009 the leading offenders were: lead, zinc and mercury. While many newer homes are supposedly build with less toxic substances, heavy metals can be buried in the garden, found on surfaces of fences and inside of older homes.

The main sources of toxic heavy metals was found to be from: "consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded."

9 Garden Products

In 2009the ASPCA took 2,329 calls regarding pet garden product poisoning.

Besides rodent poisoning, and insecticides, this category includes all of the other poisonous products that you should be locking away in your garden shed.

The leading products in this category were fertilizers and snail baits.

The problem with many of these products are they are unintentionally very smelly which can be irresistible for animals to eat or roll in, then  lick off afterwards. The only  to control this is to be more diligent with locking-up all bags of fertilisers and baits, particularly while your pets are in the puppy or kitten stage.

10  Chemical Hazards

in 2009 2,175 cases of pet exposure were caused by chemical hazards.

While you might consider lumping this category in with household chemicals or garden supplies, they are often worse due to their very high concentrations of poison and that they are kept loose in many different places such as garages, laundries etc.

The leading chemicals in this category were: ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals. The likely affect of accidental ingestion of these classes of chemicals is gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.


the best action is prevention, however if your pet is poisoned, the most important thing is a fast response, and a call to a poisons information line.

You should always have the phone number of a 24 hour vet handy just in case of such occasions.

If you child proof your house and yard, you are likely to have made it safe for your pets too.


Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to:


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