dark-chocolateToxins: This is a subject that cannot possibly be fully addressed here.  Our goal is to educate you on some of the most common toxins available to your cat or dog.  Please review this list closely as some apply more specifically to cats or to dogs.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol): Is especially toxic to cats causing severe liver damage.
Antifreeze: Animals love the sweet taste, but even a small amount can be fatal. Watch for leaks from your vehicles.
Chocolate: Dark chocolate and cocoa mulch can cause seizures and neurological symptoms.
Grapes/Raisins: Cause kidney failure in cats and dogs.
Ivy: Many species of ivy are considered moderately toxic, and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, along with breathing difficulty, coma, or even death.
Macadamia Nuts: Toxicity has only been seen in dogs causing severe neurological symptoms, which usually clears within 48 hours.
Mistletoe: Can cause liver damage in cats and dogs.
Moldy Food: Can cause muscle tremors, ataxia and convulsions that can last for days.
Onions: Fresh, cooked, dried or powdered can cause severe anemia in cats and dogs (watch out for baby food flavored with onion powder).
Permethrin: The active ingredient in Advantix as well as many over the counter flea and tick applications, and is toxic to cats.
Rat Poison: It is made to be tempting to animals and causes internal bleeding that may not have obvious symptoms for a couple days.
Rhubarb: The leaves can cause neurological disease in cats and dogs.
Rising Bread Dough: An animal’s body temperature can cause the dough to expand to the point of obstruction, which can cause death.
Snail and Slug Bait: Animals like the taste, but even a small amount can cause seizures, coma or even death. A cup of cheap beer is a good substitute.
Tiger Lily and Easter Lily: Can cause kidney damage to cats, GI problems for cats and dogs.
Tobacco products (nicotine): Ingestion of a partial cigarette or cigar is enough to be lethal.
Xylitol: An artificial sweetener found often in sugar free gum, cookies, muffins, etc… can cause a number of serious problems including liver failure.

If you suspect your pet got into any of the above listed toxins, be sure to contact us immediately.  Even if symptoms are not apparent, you should call so that you know what to look for.  In many cases the antidote is cheap and safe, but only effective if administered early.  Symptoms such as disorientation, lethargy, weakness, staggering, pale gums, drooling, seizures, restlessness, vomiting and respiratory distress are only some of the symptoms a toxin may cause in your pet, but are always a sign to call your veterinarian.

Lawn and Garden Treatments: In addition to the above list, each spring and summer we are faced with the decision of what to do with our lawn, and if we are not addressing it our neighbors probably are.  Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, cocoa mulch and chemicals in pressure treated wood are all potentially toxic to cats and dogs.

Herbicides’ effect on dogs have been the subject of more than one study finding a link between lawn treatments and increased cancer incidence in dogs (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2004;24:1290-1297; and JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1991; Vol. 83, 17: 1226-1231).
Cocoa mulch is common (mulch made from cocoa beans) and as toxic as baking chocolate.  According to the ASPCA 2 ounces of cocoa bean mulch can make a 50 pound dog sick, 5.3 ounces could cause seizures and 9 ounces could cause death.
Chemicals in pressure treated decks are toxic to pets.  Try to keep your animals from lying on or underneath pressure treated wood that has not been sealed.  Sealants should be applied every other year.

What can you do?  Be aware of what products you are using and what your neighbor is doing.  Make sure your pet doesn’t disappear into the neighbor’s shed where the antifreeze or rat poison might be stored.  If you or your neighbor is having their lawn treated remove all water and food dishes from the area and keep your pet off of the treated areas for at least 24 hours.  If your pet does get onto a treated lawn give him or her a bath (a tall dog may only need a paw wash) with soap right away.   Be very careful about how and where you store and dispose of products that are toxic to your pets.

Resources:

Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database: This website has an extensive list of plants with pictures and toxicity information on each plant.