Our pets are so much a part of our lives that it can be difficult to remember that things we commonly have in our homes can be dangerous. Common chemicals that we use can be toxic or even deadly to our pets. Even some things labeled for use with animals can have hidden dangers.
Pesticides can be particularly dangerous. Products meant to poison mammalian pests (such as voles, mice, rats, and squirrels) are especially dangerous to cats and dogs. Even if poisons meant for rodents are placed out of reach of a pet, they may be carried into pet-occupied areas and they’re meant to be attractive to eat. There is also a danger of secondary poisoning if a pet eats the body of something killed with poison. For this reason, it pays to know what your neighbors are using for pest control.
Insecticides tend to be safer but they can also come with dangers. Pyrethroids and organophosphates are two classes of chemicals commonly used in insect repellents and insecticides that are very dangerous to cats and dogs. Both are commonly sprayed as insecticides and can be absorbed through the skin. It is a good idea to keep your pets off recently treated lawns and gardens. Permethrin is one of the most common pyrethroids used in every day life. It is used in insect repellent clothing and is a common garden pesticide. It is also used to treat scabies and can be found in some flea and tick medication for dogs. Permethrin is also very toxic to cats and can cause neurological symptoms, seizures, and death if they are exposed.
Gardens and lawns are also a source of possible toxins. You should always be sure to keep your pet off freshly treated areas as both pesticides and fertilizers can be either licked off paws or absorbed through the skin. You should also be aware that certain plants are not pet safe. The Humane Society of the United States has a comprehensive list of common plants that can cause problems if ingested. Cat owners in particular should be aware of what plants they are bringing into the home. Any lily plant is potentially toxic to cats, especially those belonging to the Lilium or Hemerocallis genera. These are often included in bouquets and even the pollen is toxic enough to cause death if cats lick it off their fur.
Another household risk is medications–they can be toxic for both humans and animals if not taken as directed. Many products for pets are also often flavored to be attractive and palatable to pets though many animals will also eat candy-coated, or gel capsule products. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil (ibuprofen) are particularly dangerous as signs of poisoning can be delayed until it is too late to induce vomiting.
If you think your pet has been exposed to one of these toxins, call Poison Control at 1(888) 426-4435. Once discussed with animal poison control, please contact Dulles South Animal Emergency & Referral Hospital and provide as much information as you can about the product your pet was exposed to along with the poison control case number.