Pets are curious creatures and often explore the world with their mouths. Unfortunately, this can lead to some dangerous situations if your pet ingests a toxic food or product. March is National Pet Poison Prevention Month, and our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team is sharing the information you need to know to protect your pet from an accidental poisoning. Remember the acronym P.O.I.S.O.N to help keep your pet safe. 

P. Put dangerous items out of your pet’s reach 

You likely underestimate how resourceful your pet can be when their curiosity is piqued. The best way to protect your pet from accidental poison ingestion is to prevent them from accessing potentially dangerous items. Follow these tips:

  • Use pet-proof locks — Pets are quite good at figuring out how to open cabinet doors, and by installing locks, you help prevent them from accessing something harmful. Keep all medication in a secure cabinet out of your pet’s reach, and store household cleaners in a cabinet with a secure lock. In addition, to prevent your pet from searching for forbidden snacks and garbage, use a trash can with a locking lid, or store the bin behind a closed door.
  • Install pet gates — To keep your pet from accessing potentially dangerous home areas, install pet gates. They enable you to decide if and when your pet is allowed in a certain area, which helps protect them from hazards. Consider installing pet gates to prevent your furry pal from accessing the following home areas:
    • Kitchen
    • Stairs
    • Front door
    • Bathroom 
    • Bedroom
  • Place hazardous items on high shelves — Shelves provide additional storage and a safe place to display special items, helping keep them away from your pet’s mouth. Prevent your pet from accessing these items:
    • Chemicals — Place household chemicals on a high shelf out of paw’s reach.
    • Plants — Many popular houseplants and flowers are toxic to pets. Place household plants on high shelves, out of your pet’s reach.

O. Observe your pet for toxicity signs

Many personal and household items can be hazardous to your pet if they ingest them. If your pet shows any toxicity signs, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team or take them to your nearest emergency hospital for evaluation. While illness signs vary depending on the toxin your pet has ingested, keep an eye out for these especially telling toxicity signs: 

  • Temperament change 
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Incoordination
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Drooling
  • Pale gums

I. Identify common pet poisons

To help prevent your pet from ingesting something toxic, the more you know about potential pet toxins, the better. The most common pet toxins include:

  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications — Many medications intended for humans are toxic to pets. The top offenders include:
    • Ibuprofen
    • Acetaminophen
    • Antidepressants
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs
    • Heart medications 
  • Foods — Most pet owners are aware that chocolate is toxic to pets. However, many other foods can also be harmful, especially:
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Onions, garlic, and chives
    • Macadamia nuts 
    • Alcohol
    • Xylitol
  • Plants — Many indoor and outdoor plants can pose a threat to your four-legged friend. Before adding plants to your house or garden, check the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants list. Plants that are poisonous to pets include:
    • Lilies
    • Tulips
    • Autumn crocuses
    • Daffodils and narcissi
  • Cleaning products — Bleach, rust removers, drain cleaners, detergents, and numerous other cleaning products are toxic to pets. Pets may come in contact with cleaning products by inhaling fumes, lapping up spills, or licking their feet after crossing a treated surface. Avoid cleaning products whose labels list toxic ingredients or hazard warnings, such as danger, warning, and caution. Always use cleaning products in well-ventilated areas.
  • Garden products — Lawn and garden products often include toxic chemicals. The following garden products have the potential to harm your pet:
    • Fertilizer — Many fertilizer products are not safe for use around pets, or they may have a drying period before your pet can safely return to rolling around on the lawn. Follow label directions carefully to determine when your pet can venture back out to an area that has been treated.
    • Pesticides Pesticides are poisonous and have devastating effects on pets. Choose pet-safe alternatives and natural pest control methods to keep your pet safe. 

S. Spread the word about pet toxin prevention

Now that you have learned more about common pet toxins, help keep other pets safe by sharing this information with your pet-loving family members and friends. If you notice they are doing something that could be harmful to their pet, speak up. Spreading awareness is the best way to ensure all pets’ safety. 

O. Obtain veterinary care for your pet if you suspect they ingested toxins

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a toxin, don’t wait. To help ensure your pet has the best prognosis, get them prompt emergency veterinary treatment.  

N. Never assume something is safe for your pet

Never assume a food, or personal or household product is safe for your pet. Read labels carefully, and look for warnings and listed ingredients that may harm your pet. When possible, choose pet-safe products, and if you aren’t sure if something is toxic to your furry pal, consult your veterinarian for guidance. 

Taking precautions can help ensure your pet’s safety and reduce their accidental poisoning risk. In case of a medical emergency, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Richmond team, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or the Pet Poison Helpline