Since its inception in 1961, the third week in March was proclaimed as poison prevention awareness week by President John F Kennedy. Over the years this has grown to cover all of March. Whilst this is generally recognised in the US, the message of keeping our family members – including the 4 legged variety – resonates strongly with us.
How to observe poison prevention awareness month
It is all too easy to be complacent about toxic/poisonous substances around the home. Particularly if we have a new family member, such as a curious kitten or rambunctious pup. So what can you do to avoid accidental poisonings?
Learn the poisons
Some poisons and toxins are well known and, as adults, we know that consumption is dangerous and potentially fatal. However, there is a surprising range of items around the home and in the garden that are poisons to us and our pets. If we are to protect those close to us, we should take the time to learn the risks in our own homes.
Normally articles on this site focus on our furry and feathered family members. However, I am including this information on children as we believe it is an important aspect of poison prevention awareness month.
Young children are curious and are likely to try exploring all the nooks and crannies in your home. If you have young children spending time with you, it is vital that you child-proof cupboards and cabinets that contain cleaning products and/or medicines.
You should also consider older children. Teens are likely to throw away common sense. You should have a conversation with them about the dangers of taking prescription medicines or of trying the latest internet craze. For example, a recent craze saw teenagers filming themselves biting into a pod of laundry detergent as part of the Tide Pod Challenge.
Pets, just like young children, are curious. They also have no concept of the danger that exposure or consumption of many household items poses. For a pet, it’s all too easy to mistake a plastic bottle containing a toxin with a plastic chew toy. If the worst happens, pets can’t communicate with us. Therefore, it is important to recognise the common symptoms of an accidental poisoning.
Symptoms of an accidental poisoning in pets
For pets, common signs of poisoning include irregular breathing, diarrhoea, vomiting, agitation or lethargy. You know your pet better than anyone, if you notice them acting unusually, don’t delay! Take your pet to your vet. It is far better to have a false alarm than lose a pet because you delayed in taking any action.
Common household toxins
Household cleaning products often contain chlorine, bleach, or ammonia. These chemicals pose a risk to pets, even when they have been put away safely. Accidental poisonings can occur when a cat or dog drinks from a toilet bowl, or your pet comes into contact with the chemicals immediately after you have cleaned. Imagine your cat has just walked across a recently cleaned countertop and then has a grooming session.
We recommend either that your train your pet so that they do not drink from the toilet bowl, or that you ensure you keep your pets away from areas that have recently been cleaned.
Rubbish bins pose a high risk to pets. Dogs in particular get into the rubbish in the search of a tasty morsel. Consequently, dogs are likely to be exposed to toxins in the form of contaminated kitchen paper, discarded cleaning product containers, and household wipes. They may also come into contact with other risky items such as broken glass or human foods that aren’t safe for pets.
Foods that are poisonous to pets
There are foods that should never be given to pets. Some foods are simply too high in salt, sugar, or fats; other foods are toxic for our pets and can cause life-threatening conditions.
Food items that pets should avoid:
- Onions, Garlic, and Chives
- Macadamia nuts
- Xylitol (artificial sweetener often found in peanut butter)
- Grapes and Raisins
- Coffee or caffeine
- Raw/Under-cooked Meat, Eggs, and Bones
- Salt, and Salty Snack Foods
Toxins in the garage
I don’t know about all cats, but I do know that mine tries to get into the garage at every opportunity. I think the attraction for her is the fact that she knows she’s not allowed there. There is good reason why the garage is off-limits. The obvious concern is a pet being locked in a garage or shed without the owner’s knowledge.
There are many other risks. Common toxins found in a garage include:
- Anti-freeze, which with its sweet smell can be attractive to animals,
- Exposure to paint fumes can irritate the eyes, throat, lungs, and skin. Paint can also be extremely difficult to remove from fur.
- Paint thinners. Ingesting paint thinners can cause the same irritation of the eyes, throat, lungs, and skin as paint, but it also results in dizziness, shortness of breath, lack of coordination, and drowsiness.
To avoid these issues, pets really shouldn’t have access to garages or sheds and products such as paint, thinners and solvents, weed killers, oils, etc should be kept securely so pets and children can’t access them.
Plants that are toxic to pets
Plants found in the home and the garden pose a risk to our pets. Whilst it’s impossible to monitor pets all of the time, there are some steps that we can take to minimise risks. For example, if you are planting bulbs, you should ensure your dog doesn’t run off with one mistaking it for a chew toy.
Garden lilies such as daylilies, tiger lilies, and Easter lilies pose a serious risk to cats. A single bite of a petal or being exposed to pollen by brushing against a flower head can prove fatal.
Other plants that are toxic for pets include:
- Tomato plants
To ensure our family’s safety requires a little knowledge and common sense. If you are aware of any areas we haven’t covered, please let us know in the comments section.