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Are Your Pets Safe at Home?

For National Poison Prevention Week, follow our checklist for making sure the family dog or cat is protected from common household hazards.

Pet Peeves wants to alert you that this is National Poison Prevention Week. Here are some tips on keeping your pets safe at home.

Some of these tips were forwarded by friends, some were suggested by veterinarians and some are from Brad Kriser, founder and CEO of Kriser’s all-natural pet stores—with a branch store in Studio City that opened last summer.

  • Use non-toxic cleaning products around your home. Green Works by Clorox and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day offer safer options for household cleaning.
  • Bear in mind that all household cleaners can be dangerous in their own way, and they should all be stored out of reach.
  • Baby-proof your cabinets and doors where harmful products or medicines are stored to keep your curious pets from accidentally getting into them.
  • Be aware of human food that may be toxic to your pet. Chocolate and macadamia nuts are at the top of this list and should be kept away from pets. Using a pedal-operated trash bin is safer than an open one.
  • Keep indoor plants that may be toxic out of reach of pets that like to nibble.

If you are welcoming a puppy or new dog to your home, temporarily remove throw rugs or small carpets that may be too tempting as a chewable.

Common Household Poisons

Alkaline cleaners: These are commonly stepped in by accident. Watch for inflamed skin. Do not induce vomiting. 

Paint stripper (or solvents): These are mistakenly used to clean a dog's coat. Watch for vomiting, diarrhea, ulcers on dog's tongue, or possible convulsions. Immediately wash dog's skin and coat with soap and water. Get immediate veterinary help.

Antifreeze: Dogs like the taste and are attracted to the smell. Watch for wobbling, as if drunk, collapsing, convulsions, or eventual coma. Induce vomiting using baking soda (a lump or tablespoon or two). Get immediate vet attention. This can lead to kidney failure if not treated properly, or death.

Aspirin: Dogs scrounge aspirins dropped carelessly, and they are sometimes given aspirin by an owner. Watch for appetite loss, depression, possibly bloodstained) vomiting, convulsions. Immediately induce vomiting. Get veterinary attention. Very toxic if eaten in large quantities.

Anti-depressants, tranquilizers, or other sedatives: Dogs find them lying around or they are given by an owner. Watch for depression, staggering like dog is drunk, uncoordinated movements, eventually coma. Induce vomiting if just taken, and get immediate vet help.

Cannabis (marijuana): When I was in college, there was a pothead dog owner who kept giving his dog pot, and this lovely, sweet dog died after leaping out a third-story window to chase a ball that ricocheted off the wall. Marijuana intoxication was found to be the contributing judgement-impairing factor. Watch for uncoordinated gait, fear, unwarranted biting, agitation, dilated pupils, random barking or growling. Try to avoid stimulation and calm the dog. Administering a sedative is advised if recommended by your veterinarian.

Carbon monoxide: Exercise caution when using indoor barbecues, because carbon monoxide poisoning is one risk. Dogs also get overexposed to car exhaust and malfunctioning gas heating. Watch for staggering, cherry red gums, eventual unconsciousness. Get the animal to immediate fresh air, administer artificial respiration, if necessary.

Chlorine: Animals can be poisoned by scrounging in the bathroom, near the pool (water properly chlorinated is safe), or near water sterilizers. Watch for red eyes and red mouth. Wash eyes with saline solution or water. Flush the mouth with water or milk.

Liquid detergents: People frequently leave cleaning solvents around, often with lids off. They spill or are left in open containers. Watch for foaming of the mouth or frothing. Immediately wash out the mouth with clean water.

Flea spray, powder or dip: Some of these, in small amounts, cause no visible harm, but when over-administered or accidentally applied or ingested, they can be fatal. These are chlorinated hydrocarbons or rinses that sometimes contain malathion or in the case of older products may contain lindane, gammexane, chlordane, or toxophene. Watch for agitation, twitching, restlessness, salivation, convulsions, eventual coma. These can be fatal.

Remove solvents right away from your dog's coat with soap or water. It is usually best to use lukewarm—rather than cold—water, both for effectiveness as well as comfort.

Flea shampoos, collars, "spot-ons" and old-fashioned wormers: (These are the ones with organo-phosphates.) Watch for muscle tremors, drooling, increases in urination or defecation, trouble breathing. Wash off substance thoroughly. Get your pet to a vet immediately.

Lead: This is a problem for puppies and young, curious dogs. Lead is found in old paint, old pipes, batteries, curtain weights, lead fishing weights, solder, putty, old linoleum, in some lubricants. Watch for vomiting, diarreha, abdominal pain, which then appears as nervousness or paranoia, whining, oversensitivity to light, staggering, and eventual paralysis or coma. Induce vomiting if the lead was ingested recently. Get immediate attention from your vet.

Wood preservatives, fungacides, disinfectants, and any other products that contain Phenol: Watch for staggering, twitching, depression, eventual coma. Do not induce vomiting. Administer milk and vegetable oil. Follow it with a good, safe dog laxitive or purgative.

Strychnine: Dogs get into bait left for rats or illegally set coyote bait. Watch for apprehensive gaze, nervousness, jittery movement, eventual stiffness caused initially by severe tension and anxiety and later by toxicity, leads to seizures, convulsions, eventual death. (It's meant to kill coyotes! And rats.) Induce vomiting. Get immediate attention. If you find a sample of the poison, bring it to the vet with you.

DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING (DO NOT HELP YOUR DOG TO VOMIT) IN CASE OF:

Chlorine Bleach, Dishwasher Detergent, Drain Cleaner, Kerosene, Detergent tablets or concentrated powder, Lye, Oven Cleaner, Paint Stripper, Paint Remover, Paint Thinner, Gasoline, Furniture Polish, Floor Polish, Shoe Polish, Toilet Cleaner, Wood Preservative.

In these cases, vomiting can cause even more hazard if your dog or puppy swallowed an acid, alkali, or petroleum-based product. Do not induce vomiting if your dog or pup swallowed any of the above-listed items.

Remember you can always call the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 if you need assistance or are unsure if you pet may have been poisoned.

Dog-proofing your home, inside and out, is really simple. Look around your apartment, home, or yard and imagine all the mischief your new dog might get up to, all the things a curious animal might do, bounding with energy, intrigued by smell, taste, texture and having internal drives including teething and a need to run and jump and chew.

Heidi Birker March 29, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Don't forget grapes and raisins are bad for dogs, too!
Don Helverson March 30, 2011 at 08:48 PM
Absolutely true! Good addition, Heidi, thanks so much.
Heidi Birker March 31, 2011 at 12:41 AM
You might want to double check the aspirin ban. I remember a vet telling me that giving my dog a baby aspirin was ok, but that Advil and related pain relievers were very dangerous.
Don Helverson April 01, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Buffered aspirin given deliberately is different from this caveat (from several vets) to keep after aspirins spilled and keep medicines of all stripe up and secure from scrounging beasts.
Heidi Birker April 01, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Yep, I've had dogs go after the craziest things. I had cocker spaniels that would go after my purse for the lipstick, and they loved my kids' crayons. Very colorful poop the next day!

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