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‘Treat’ your pets with care

As the American Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals releases its list of the Top 10 Most Common Pet Poisons of 2013, pharmaceuticals are at the top of that list.

Protect your pet from harmful food by reading labels
photo by Lynn Compas Macdougall

That’s right. Not perfume. Not sweet-smelling shampoo. Our medications.

In general, keeping our homes safe for Rover and Kitty can be pretty simple. Usually. We put the chocolate high up in the cupboard and are careful to stash the leftover turkey quickly and securely in Ziploc baggies way in the back of the ’fridge.

When we purchase toxic chemicals to get our whites white and our colors bright, we store the bottles on the highest shelves in the laundry area and even toss the dryer sheets up nearly as high so Fido doesn’t have a chance to take it out on a box of Bounce when he gets in a foul mood.

But the prescription for that strep throat or the respiratory infection? Those bottles we tend to leave out on the counter as reminders; it’s not the multi-vitamin we take with the daily morning OJ so we need something visual to jolt our memory. It’s out of the routine so we have to take extra steps to add it into the routine.

That’s where we get careless, according to the ASPCA:

1) 24,673 calls regarding pet poisoning involved prescription medications. And this time, it wasn’t leaving out medicine on the counter, it was more likely being “all thumbs” – getting ready to toss back the daily dose with a glass of water and dropping the dose on the floor and Fido gobbles it before Human can grab it off the floor.

Rounding out the rest of the list:

2) Insecticides. Read labels. Check petwebmd to learn which ingredients are safe and which products contain ingredients that can harm pets. Many products are weight-specific. The ASPCA reports nearly 16% of all calls to the Pet Poison Control Hotline were related to insecticides.

3) OTC medications. Tylenol. Cough medicine. Medicinal tea. Nasal inhalers. Dogs, cats, birds love ‘em! Keep them secured in cabinets. Many have sweeteners or scents that are attractive to pets. The ASPCA reports nearly X% of all emergency calls were related to ingestion of OTC medicine.

4) Household Products. Treated fire-starter logs, cleaning products, dental floss, ornaments, colored lights. Whatever pets can get into and have with ends up in their mouths. Secure and high up should be your mantra. The ASPCA reports nearly 17,000 calls related to pet ingestion of general household products.

5) Human food. Strong-scented foods, such as onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, sugar and even sweeteners like Xylitol, are poisonous to pets. Secure your trash, your produce bins, and your baking cabinets. Pets follow their noses and their paws are quite dexterous at opening anything that attracts them, if uninterrupted.

For a look at the full list of Top Ten Pet Toxins of 2013, see the ASPCA “Pet Care” section of the home page.

But emergencies don’t occur because pets have gotten somewhere they shouldn’t have – poisons can appear in treats. Watch for the country of origin. The Humane Society is finding pet treats from overseas don’t have the same standards as in the United States. While the FDA doesn’t establish or enforce guidelines to check that products are safe, the industry is self-regulated. The Association of American Feed Control Officials checks products to guarantee each meets established nutritional guidelines. Those that do bear the AAFCO statement.

The FDA veterinary medical officers specifically warn pet owners to read labels on jerky treats. Since 2007, jerky treats containing sweet potatoes, chicken, duck or dried fruits have sickened a reported 3,600 dogs and 10 cats nationwide, according to FDA information. A seven-year investigation has failed to identify the specific ingredients in the jerky treats, but all owners returned package labels from products reading “Made in China.” Since 2007, Chinese manufacturers have been watched for adding melamine to animal feed after large numbers of U.S. animals were poisoned and died; but with industry growth and the FDA’s lack of required inspections for new production facilities, outsourcing can occur easily.

If you think your animal may have ingested something toxic, call the ASPCA 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. For a fee, you can speak to a board-certified veterinarian, who will listen to the symptoms and advise on the immediate situation as well as follow up with your regular veterinarian.

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