Many of us are moving away from the traditional culture of keeping a pet “in the backyard and feeding him table scraps once a day,” to having a pet “as part of the family” and forming a closer bond with him. This is beneficial to both the animal and owner, but precaution must be taken to ensure that we poison-proof our houses. Pets love to explore, and they often get into trouble when we least expect it. So as a responsible owners, we should be aware of some potential hazards to our animals in our homes.
Prevention is best.
1. Medications for humans: Do not deliberately administer any medications for humans (including vitamins, herbs and supplements) to your pet, unless advised to do so by your veterinarian. Many packages are labelled “Keep out of reach of children,” and this should apply to pets, too. Animals have the advantage over children when it comes to “child-safe” containers because their strong jaws and teeth can chew through the bottles. 11
2. Veterinary drugs: Only use drugs prescribed by your veterinarian, and in the recommended dosage. Accidental or deliberate overdosing can prove fatal. Do not administer dog medications to cats and vice versa–the dosages vary due to size, and a drug that is safe for one species may kill the other.
3. Flea and tick treatments: External parasites such as fleas and ticks are unsightly to us, irritable to our pets and transmit deadly diseases. It is vital that we regularly treat our pets and their environment to get rid of these bloodsuckers. However, these treatments are poisons and caution is advised–using more of the product will not kill more of the parasite, but may kill your pet instead. Read, understand and follow the instructions and protocols, and do not use dog treatments on cats and vice versa.
4. Pest control poisons: Rats and mice transmit diseases to pets (and humans), and should be removed from any inhabited areas. When ridding your home of rodents, remember that the poisons used are baits–meaning that they entice animals (including your pets) to eat them.
Even if the poison is hidden, pets can be quite innovative in finding this “food.” You must use these poisons with extreme caution. Rodents which die from ingesting these poisons, which are then eaten by your pet, will also pose a risk.
5. Household cleaners: Products used to clean the house; do the dishes and laundry, and maintenance products such as paints, thinners and lubricants all pose a threat to pets who become bored or curious. They should be stored in locked cupboards.
6. Garden chemicals: The use of herbicides and pesticides is often necessary to protect plants from weeds and insects; and fertilisers help them to grow more healthy. These chemicals are not intended for use on animals, so ensure that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed, and treated plants and areas are kept inaccessible to the pet until it is safe. Pets like to roll in strange smells, and they explore with their noses so they may lick and ingest the chemicals. Store all containers in locked cupboards and dispose of empty ones safely. It is best to explore non-toxic, organic alternatives for pest and weed control.
7. Foods for humans: Having the pet in the house may lead to begging at the table, and it is hard to resist those eyes fixed on our food. We often find ourselves offering tidbits but some common foods to avoid include alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, avocados, chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, dairy products, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, artificial sweeteners, and stale, rotting or mouldy food.
8. Plants: Effects range from mild to fatal, depending on the type and quantity of plant consumed. It is safest to remove poisonous plants from your garden and keep any toxic ornamentals out of your home. Some common plants poisonous to pets include avocado trees, tomato plants, castor bean plants, poinsettia, lilies, lantana, bird-of-paradise, sweetheart ivy vines, Swiss cheese plants and hibiscus.
9. Coolant: Traditional coolant–ethylene glycol–is sweet tasting, which attracts pets. But a few tablespoons (or a few licks) can kill a 50-pound animal. This chemical is rapidly broken down by the liver to produce compounds that damage the nervous system and then cause kidney failure. Immediately mop up any spills, store coolant in locked cupboards, or use a safer alternative containing propylene glycol.
10. Trash cans: A cornucopia of goodies for pets! But meat and food scraps can be mixed with discarded household/garden chemical containers, sharp objects, expired medication, broken glass etc., which is a recipe for disaster on many levels. Keep all trash cans out of the reach of pets who may become bored, curious or enticed by the food smells, or invest in bins with “pet-proof” lids.
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian immediately. It is helpful if you can retain the packaging from the toxin or a sample of the ingested material to make diagnosis and treatment easier.
• This article is copyright to Best Pets Animal Behaviour Service. For further information contact Kristel-Marie Ramnath at 689-8113 or bestpetsbehave@ hotmail.com