Poison Prevention-Household Items & Pets

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Continuing with March’s Pet Poison Awareness, let’s look at some common household items that are dangerous to pets.


Acids/Alkalines: Many cleaners and other items we have in our homes are poisonous to our pets.  Some are acidic, meaning their pH is less than 7, and others are basic, or alkaline, with a pH over 7.  Regardless, these products can cause harm to our furry friends.  This includes:

            - batteries               - battery fluid           - toilet bowl cleaners           - metal cleaners

            - drain cleaners       - vinegar                  - anti-rust compounds         - hair wave neutralizers

            - bleach                   - lye                         - cement                              - dishwasher detergents

             - hair relaxers         - oven cleaners       - industrial pipe cleaners

Pets can be exposed through the skin or if they ingest the product.  Exposure can cause severe injury to skin/tissue, eyes, respiratory tract, and intestines/GI tract.  You may see drooling, difficulty swallowing, ulcers in the mouth, pawing at the face, squinting, difficulty breathing, redness of exposed area, vomiting and/or abdominal pain with exposure.


Detergents: Soaps, fabric softener, deodorizer, and enzymatic cleaners are items used often in the home without thinking about potential pet exposure.  However, these can cause problems when ingested, or when spilled and pets walk through them (both topical injury and ingested when the pet grooms itself).  Drooling, burns in the mouth, pawing at the face, not eating, lethargy, vomiting, and difficulty breathing are common signs of exposure.


Firestarter Logs (Duraflame): These logs contain compressed sawdust and wax, which can cause an obstruction when swallowed.  Some may contain heavy metals, which also imposes the risk of heavy metal toxicity.  Commons signs include drooling, decreased appetite, vomiting/retching, and distended stomach.


Glue: Yes, certain types of glue are harmful for pets.  Wood glue, construction glue, and the popular Gorilla glue are dangerous when ingested.  Not only can they cause irritation to the GI tract, but once they mix with stomach fluid/acid, the glue quickly expands and cause a very large, firm obstruction, which is life threatening.  Symptoms include drooling, decreased appetite, vomiting/retching, and distended stomach.


Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizers are very common now, and contain ethanol (aka alcohol).  Ingesting hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning which can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, body temperature, and blood pressure.  These result in the following symptoms: weakness, lethargy, vomiting, collapse, hypothermia, weak respirations, coma, and rarely death.


Potpourri Liquid: These pleasant smelling oils can be harmful to pets, especially curious kitties.  Just a few licks can cause burns in the mouth, pawing at the face, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, vomiting/retching, weakness, fever, tremors, and occasionally, more severe organ damage.


Matches:  Matches contain chemicals, and can contain charcoal or sulfur and coloring agents, all which can cause illness in pets.  Some of the chemicals may even cause heavy metal poisoning.  Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea with blood.  If your pet ingested a large amount of matches, you may also see seizures or tremors, acute kidney failure, shallow breathing, bone marrow changes, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin, usually related to liver issues). 


Mothballs: These pesticides are used to kill and repel moths and other insects.  They can also repel snakes, mice, and other animals.  Mothballs contain insecticides which can cause problems when inhaled, absorbed through the skin (contact), or ingested.  Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, pale or brown gums, weakness, lethargy, difficulty breathing, mothball-scented breath, seizures or tremors, and liver/kidney failure.


Paintballs:  While paintballs are an uncommon toxin, they are a life-threatening toxin.  Chemicals inside the paintballs pull water into the intestinal tract which can cause severe electrolyte imbalances.   This alone is fatal if not treated.  Other ingredients in paintballs cause other problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, walking drunk, seizures or tremors, and decreased level of consciousness.

Paintballs can also cause a blood test for ethylene glycol (antifreeze) to be falsely positive.  Be sure to let your veterinarian know if your pet potentially ingested paintballs versus antifreeze.


Some of the above toxins you may be aware of, or common sense tells you that they’re potentially harmful.  Others may be new to you.   If you suspect your pet may have ingested any type of medication, don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.  Both of these centers charge a small fee for calling, but have veterinary toxicologists on staff to best help you help your pet.  They will be able to tell you what to expect from your pet, and if you should seek emergency care.  When you call, have ready the packaging from the substance ingested, your pet’s current weight, and current medical conditions your pet may have, and a list of any medication your pet is on.


Please note that you should NEVER make your pet vomit unless told to do so by your veterinarian or pet poison control.  Many of these products can cause even more damage when they are vomited up.


The above information brought to you courtesy of the ASPCA Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline.