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Household chemicals: It's important to remember that pets (especially young ones) will eat things that we can’t imagine have any appeal. Keep your cleaning supplies and other household products safely stored; childproof latches for cabinet doors are a good investment in homes with pets.
Insecticides: As with rodenticides, these are chemicals meant to kill, and they don’t always hit their intended targets; to keep pets safe, read and follow directions carefully. This is especially true of flea and tick products: Don’t use dog products on cats, and if the label says not to use on young animals, don’t. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for recommendations on safe, effective flea-and-tick products. And of course, be sure to store unused product safely.
Heavy metal toxicity (lead, zinc): You may not know that pennies are made of copper-coated zinc, and you probably are also not aware that among all the claims for all the crazy things pets will eat, a belly full of pennies wouldn't be surprising. Keep loose change out of reach of curious pets.
Alcohol poisoning: Giving your dog a beer isn't funny, even if he seems to like it. Because pets are smaller than we are, even small amounts of alcohol can be dangerous for them. A related case from our claims files: A dog who got sick after eating bread dough, because the material fermented in the warm, dark environment of the dog’s stomach.
Foods that do more than don’t agree: Certain nuts (walnuts and macadamias), fruits (grapes and raisins) and other common foods (onions, garlic, avocados) can be toxic to pets, and it’s always a good idea to know what they are. And don’t forget that while everyone worries about chocolate, sugar-free candies and gums sweetened with Xylitol also put pets at risk.
Sometimes you know your pet needs to see a veterinarian right away because you find the evidence — an empty medicine bottle, for example. If that’s the case, bring the evidence with you, so your veterinarian will know what your pet ate, how much and how to counteract the toxic substance. You may not find the empty package, though, so it's important to be aware of poisoning symptoms, such as staggering, vomiting, drooling, seizures and even loss of consciousness. Get your pet to the veterinarian, right away!
Preventing poisoning should be your goal, but knowing how to react is also critical. Make sure your first aid kit is equipped to deal with accidental poisoning, and ask your veterinarian where she recommends you go for emergency veterinary care when your regular clinic is closed. Most cities have dedicated emergency veterinary hospitals, but in more rural areas veterinarians may share after-hours duties or respond to after-hours calls themselves. Don’t waste precious time figuring out what to do when every second counts: Know what to do, who to call and where to go when your pet needs medical attention immediately.
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