It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare. You come home and your pet is behaving out of character, lethargic or even struggling to get up. It’s often difficult to identify if an animal has been exposed to a poison until it’s too late, which is why prevention is so important if you want to keep your pets safe.
“Unfortunately pets across South Africa are poisoned by criminals attempting to enter properties, so this is the first thing most pet owners worry about,” says Tarryn Dent, Diagnostic and Technical Manager for Companion Animals at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company.
It’s a sobering thought and one that has caused much heartache for owners who have lost a much-loved fur-family member.
“Where possible, we advise that owners keep their dogs inside at night, or at the very least in an area that is inaccessible from the road or a boundary wall. It’s also a good idea to regularly inspect your yard for anything out of place so that if poisoned food is tossed over your wall, you can find it and dispose of it before your dog sniffs it out.”
Everyday toxins can be fatal for pets
However, while deliberate poisonings are a sad reality, there are many accidental ways that pets can be exposed to toxins.
“Almost every home has products in it that can cause problems in dogs and cats, including vomiting and diarrhoea, or even more serious issues like seizures, liver or kidney failure,” says Dent. “Unfortunately, many of these conditions can lead to death if they aren’t treated quickly. The good news is that prevention is the best cure. Once you know what you’re looking out for, you can keep your fur-babies safe.”
Here are some toxins and poisons commonly found in most households that pets should be kept away from at all costs:
- Bleach or bleach-based cleaners
- Carpet or rug cleaner/shampoo/deodorizer
- Essential oils
- Plant fertiliser
- Glue, other adhesives
- Laundry or dishwasher detergent
- Paint, solvents, spackle
- Rat/mouse/slug bait or other insecticides
- Vinegar (plain or mixed with water)
- Window cleaner
“There are also a few surprising things that are extremely bad for animals, including grapes, raisins and chocolate,” says Dent. “Garlic and onions also aren’t good for dogs. In general, we would suggest avoiding all table scraps.”
Keeping pets safe from toxins
What’s important to remember is that pets can be exposed to toxic household products in several ways, from ingestion to inhalation. Dogs – and even cats – have a tendency to lick first and think later.
“Puppy training is an excellent way to train animals not to lick or eat anything that hasn’t been given to them by their owner,” says Dent.
“It’s also a good idea to always check labels, particularly for chlorine bleach, ammonia and Benzalkonium Chloride, which is commonly found in household disinfectants. Pet owners also shouldn’t assume that a ‘natural’ label means something is safe for animals. It’s best to consult a trusted resource or veterinary professional to confirm that a product is safe.”
Dent advises pet owners to keep household products stored securely in cupboards that are too high for pets to reach, and where possible, secured with a lock, especially if the storage location is within reach, such as under a sink.
“Veterinarians also recommend that pet owners never leave their pets alone in the garage,” says Dent. “Consider storing potentially hazardous products in a locked cabinet even if they are in the garage – you never know what will pique a pet’s interest.”
If pet owners do realise that their pet has ingested something toxic, the first question they should ask is how quickly they can reach their veterinarian. “If an owner can get there in a few minutes, that’s the obvious choice,” says Dent. “It’s not a good idea to try an induce vomiting unless specifically advised to do so, so we would always recommend phoning a veterinarian before taking any action.
“If your pet collapses, loses consciousness, has a seizure, or has difficulty breathing, treat it like an emergency and take them directly to the nearest veterinary hospital for immediate evaluation, and remember that time is of the essence.”