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Who Knew? Beware of Common Poisons Found in Your Home

Published: March 28, 2010

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Most BluePearl hospitals are open 24 hours a day for pet emergencies.  Our emergency veterinarians see many pets that become ill due to their curiosity, which leads to ingestion of common – but toxic – items we keep around our homes. It is important to seek medical attention if you believe your pet has swallowed any of the following items found around the home – or any other substance or item. Having frequent discussions with your family veterinarian is a good way to keep yourself educated and protect your pet from potentially life-threatening situations.

To protect your pet, be aware of these common toxic items:

Grapes and Raisins – Grapes and raisins (dried grapes) can cause kidney failure in dogs. The exact substance in grapes and raisins that causes the reaction has not been identified yet, so it is difficult to predict how many grapes or raisins will harm your pet.

Macadamia Nuts – Like grapes, what is toxic about macadamia nuts is unknown, but the nuts can cause neurologic signs in dogs such as tremors, weakness, and lack of coordination. The good news is that when pets receive prompt emergency care which includes administration of IV fluids, the prognosis is excellent.

Chocolate – Chocolate in sufficient quantity is poisonous to cats and dogs. The main toxins in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine, both of which can cause cardiac arrhythmias and seizures. Treatment involves eliminating the toxin from the pet’s body and providing treatment to stabilize the heartbeat and minimize seizures.

Garlic and Onions – Garlic and onions cause a pet’s red blood cells to burst, which can lead to anemia. When a pet eats garlic or onions, the pet may need supportive care, including a blood transfusion in some cases.

Pennies – If a pet swallows a penny, stomach acids start to digest the penny, releasing the zinc in the penny. When absorbed, zinc can be highly toxic. Often, the penny will stay in the stomach and must be removed by a veterinarian. Veterinarians can usually take it out with an endoscope to avoid surgery and then treat the pet for anemia, if necessary.

Lilies – For cats, lilies are highly toxic and life-threatening plants from their stems to their flowers. The toxins in lilies can cause kidney failure within 30 minutes to 48 hours of a cat swallowing part of a lily. Although there is no antidote, early supportive care — especially within six hours of ingestion — can help a pet recover.