Every day, the Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control helpline based out of Minneapolis, gets calls from frantic pet owners whose dog or cat has accidentally ingested something poisonous. Thankfully, animal poison control helplines are available 24/7, so you always have advice available in case your veterinarian isn’t there.
As animal poison control centers aren’t state or federally funded, there is a small per incident fee (Pet Poison Helpline, $35; ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, $65) to help provide the service 24/7.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about a few simple ways to avoid paying these costs — and expensive emergency veterinary visits - while keeping your pet safe. I’ll cover some key tips on how to prevent accidental pet poisonings by pet proofing your home. Today, five pet-poison prevention tricks of the trade.
- If your pet is on prescription medication, make sure to keep these stored away from your own human prescription medications. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen pet owners accidentally take their pet’s medication and give their more dangerous human medication to their pet unintentionally — simply because the prescription bottles were sitting right next to each other on the kitchen counter. Avoid this problem by storing your own medication in the bathroom cabinet, far away from your pet’s medications. This way, there’s no chance you’ll accidentally pill the wrong medication to the wrong recipient.
- Always take an extra ten seconds to read the label of a prescription bottle — you want to make sure the medication, dose, milligram strength, and pet name are correct.
- Keep medications safely locked up behind secure, elevated cupboard doors. Don't leave them on counter tops or tables, where dogs can easily reach them. This includes inhalers, dietary aids, dietary supplements, or nutraceuticals!
- If your pet is on a chewable medication (which are typically meat-flavored), take extra steps to keep these out of reach. "Child-proof" containers don’t apply to dogs — their sharp teeth can chew right through them, and I’ve seen plenty of dogs and cats get poisoned because they ate the whole bottle of chewable medications in one sitting. Be particularly careful of chewable non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). When ingested, these can result in severe gastrointestinal ulcers and acute kidney failure. If you own both dogs and cats, pay heed: Cats are particularly sensitive to NSAIDs, and just one canine NSAID pill can be fatal to a cat when ingested. Leaving one pill on the counter even for a few minutes is just enough time for your cat to chew into it.
- About to pack a suitcase? Hosting a houseguest who might be on medication? Make sure weekly medications aren’t temporarily stored in a plastic Ziploc bag — it’s too easy to chew through, smells unique (making our curious pets intrigued to investigate), and is conveniently located on the floor in the suitcase — within easy reach. Unfortunately, when chewed into, a massive ingestion of several days worth of medications are ingested all at once. Also, as the pill vial information is not included, the active ingredient and milligram strength is unavailable at the initial time of the pet poisoning.
Have you had a pet poisoned by one of these ways? Share your story!
Dr. Justine Lee