The summer season brings gardeners, beach-combers, hikers, and picnickers outside to play. With that, however, comes summer toxins that are poisonous to your pets! As you prepare for summer to roll in, make sure you have your house, yard, pool, and garden pet-proofed to avoid any potential poisonings! Pet Poison Helpline is inundated with phone calls during this time of the year. Some common toxins seen in the summer include:
- Bone or Blood meal – A lot of gardeners use bone or blood meal as a soil amendment as it’s “organic.” The problem with this is bone or blood meal are often very palatable to dogs – after all, it’s freeze-dried blood or flash-frozen animal bones ground to a powder. That said, it can still be toxic to pets! While it’s a great organic fertilizer, when ingested, blood meal can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while bone meal can become a large cement-like bowling ball foreign body in the stomach – which can cause an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract – resulting in possible surgery to remove it! Some types of blood meal are also fortified with iron, resulting in iron toxicity, so make sure to know what is in your bag of blood!
- Rose and plant fertilizers – Some of these fertilizers (particularly “rose foods”) contain disulfoton or other types of organophosphates (OP). As little as one teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55 lb dog, so be careful! Organophosphates, while less commonly used, can result in severe symptoms [including SLUD signs (which abbreviate for salivation, lacrimation, urination, and defecation), seizures, difficulty breathing, hyperthermia, etc. In some cases, it can be fatal!
- Pesticides/Insecticides – Most pesticides or insecticides (typically those that come in a spray can) are basic irritants to the pet and are usually not a huge concern unless a pet’s symptoms become persistent. Some may contain an organophosphate which can be life- threatening when consumed in large quantities. It is always best to speak to a trained medical professional if there are any questions.
If you live on the coast and are taking your dog to the beach, keep in mind that salt water is poisonous and results in hypernatremia (an elevated sodium level). As dogs don’t realize how dangerous salt-water can be, they often drink freely when playing and splashing around. Pet owners must be their pet’s advocate and make sure to prevent this. Instead, carry a bottle of fresh water and offer it several times during the beach walk. Bringing a beach Frisbee is perfect – it acts as the perfect dog bowl too!
Classic signs of salt poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination (walking drunk), to severe depression and seizures. This is secondary to cerebral edema or brain swelling, which needs to be treated very carefully by your veterinarian.
If you have a pool in your backyard, always make sure to store pool chemicals in a locked, secure area. Never leave your pet outside with any pool chemical containers open, as they can be very toxic when ingested, particularly in the concentrated form! When diluted appropriately, most chlorine shock treatment products and algaecides are safe. However, when ingested in the undiluted form, these chemicals can cause corrosive injury – resulting in severe ulcers in the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestinal tract
Common Picnic Poisons
Lastly, for you picnickers, make sure to keep common household picnic items out of reach when with your pets. Every day Pet Poison Helpline receives many calls about pets getting into people food, some of which can be remarkably harmful.
- Grapes, raisins and currants: When ingested, these can cause acute kidney failure in dogs (and possibly even cats and ferrets!). Keep all forms out of reach, including trail mix, bagels with raisins, and even grape juice!
- BBQ food: While certain popular BBQ foods like corn-on-the cob, peach pits, and fatty meat scraps don’t sound dangerous, they are. They aren’t “poisonous” per se, but can result in a severe foreign body (where the cob or pit gets stuck in the intestines, requiring surgery) or severe inflammation of the pancreas. Make sure you and all your summer guests keep these out of reach of your pets!
- Xylitol: This natural sugar-substitute is low-calorie to you, but is dangerous to dogs, as it causes a severe drop of blood sugar and potentially liver damage. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum, baked goods, nicotine gum, candy, and breath mints, and is often found in purses and picnic tables (in the form of baked goods).
- Alcohol: Most pet owners know that alcoholic drinks are a no-no to pets, but often the source of alcohol that pets get into is what surprises people! Unbaked dough, rum-soaked desserts, etc. are the most commonly incriminated sources in dogs and cats, and can result in a low blood sugar, low body temperature and severe coma or seizures in pets.
When in doubt, stick with these pet-safe people foods!
Pet Poison Helpline recommends feeding the following foods which are both safe for pets and are low-calorie options.
- Canned pumpkin
- Green beans
- Popcorn (minus the butter and salt!)
- Apple slices
- Ice chips
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, it is best to immediately take your pet to your Banfield veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian. In the event that you are unable to do that, you can contact Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for initial information about the potential toxin your pet may have been exposed to. Pet Poison Helpline is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners, veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $59 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. You can also find additional information on poisonings at www.petpoisonhelpline.com.