Protect Your Pet From Common Household Poisons

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When the weather chills, we spend more time indoors than out, and that’s true for our pets as well. But our homes aren’t always as safe as we would like them to be — and again, that’s also true for our pets. Knowing the risks when it comes to accidental poisonings will go a long way toward protecting your pet.

You might think that accidental poisoning is an outdoor hazard, related to risks such as spilled antifreeze. But in fact, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) claims data reveals that substances found indoors filled the top slots on our list of our poison-related claims. Our pets’ willingness to eat things better off left untouched sent more than 20,000 of our half-million insured pets to the veterinarian over a six-year period, racking up more than $8.2 million in costs for accidental indoor poisonings.

While prompt veterinary attention can be the difference between life and death in such circumstances, as the chief veterinary officer of VPI, the nation’s first and largest pet health insurance company, I can assure you that my colleagues and I would rather not see your pet under such life-or-death conditions. Taking some simple precautions around the house can reduce your pet's chances of becoming a poisoning statistic.

The Killers Inside Your Home

VPI claims data for poisoning tracks closely with that of other sources, including the Pet Poison Helpline. For example, accidental ingestion of medication (human or animal, prescription or over-the-counter) ranks high on our list of common poisonings. Pets can be very talented at getting into medication — in many cases, even child-proof lids don’t slow pets down at all. Storing all medications in drawers or cupboards can dramatically reduce the risk of accidental ingestion and poisoning. (And it’s not just dogs or cats who will pop open your pills: We’ve actually had a claim for a pot-bellied pig that got into an owner's medication.)

Other indoor poisoning hazards from our claims data, ranked by treatment cost, include the following:

Rodenticides: No surprise that products meant to kill rats and mice will kill dogs and cats too. Consider alternatives such as traps (snap traps or zap traps) that kill rodents instantly without risk to pets, or use catch-and-release traps if you don’t mind rodents living — just somewhere else.

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Methylxanthine: Most of us are more familiar with the common names of the toxins in this category: chocolate and coffee. Poisoning risks rise with the levels ingested in relation to the size of the dog (smaller dogs are at bigger risk), but these foods are both solidly on the “do not share” list for pets.

Houseplants: If you’re bringing plants into your home to brighten up your winter days, make sure lilies aren’t on your list. While most household toxins appeal more to dogs than to cats, lilies in particular and houseplants in general — even common ones such as daffodils and sago palms — are the exception, with cats getting into more than their share of trouble. Check Vetstreet's list of unsafe houseplants and make sure all your indoor greenery falls into the “OK for pets” category.

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