Here are the five most common pet-poisoning emergencies, according to the Center for Animal Referral and Emergency Services (CARES) in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Luckily, awareness and some common sense can go a long way towards prevention.
1. Flea and tick treatments - Flea and tick products are not one-size-fits all for dogs and cats. Products for dogs are very concentrated and can be toxic to cats. "Unsuspecting pet owners will often grab something off the shelf and put it on their cat, not realizing the product is actually for dogs," says veterinarian Dr. Jon Rappaport, Co-Director of CARES. He advises pet owners to always check labels carefully. Preventative oral treatments and more natural, environmentally friendly options are also available.
2. Ibuprofen - Not surprisingly, human medications are number one on the ASPCA's list of common hazards for pets. The ASPCA managed more than 45,000 calls in 2009 involving prescription and over the counter drugs. Pets will often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications that wind up on the floor. Just one, standard 200mg tablet size can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy and potential kidney and liver damage. To avoid an accidental dosing of your animals, keep all medications out of reach of pets and never give your pet any kind of medication unless directed by a veterinarian.
3. Chocolate - For dogs suffering from chocolate toxicity, symptoms can include tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, vomiting and diarrhea. "Sometimes their heart rate skyrockets," adds Dr. Rappaport. Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate because of the higher percentage of theobromine it contains. A 35-pound dog would likely become ill after ingesting 34 ounces of milk chocolate, but may suffer the same adverse effects after snacking on as little as 3.8 ounces of dark or unsweetened chocolate.
4. Acetaminophen - Ingesting just one pill can be fatal for cats warns Dr. Rappaport because it causes changes in the red blood cells that affect the way they deliver oxygen throughout the cat's body. Acetaminophen can also have detrimental effects on the livers of both cats and dogs.
5. Rodenticide - This is pretty much a no brainer, but all substances used to kill rodents are also toxic for your pets -- especially those containing bromethalin and strichnine. "Many people apply rodenticides around their homes and then forget about it," says Dr. Melissa Java, head of Emergency and Critical Care at CARES. This can also be a problem when people who move into a pre-owned home where rodenticide has been applied. She recommends only putting it in areas that are off limits to your pets, and knowing exactly what kind you are using, so that your pet can be treated properly in the case that they accidentally ingest the poison.