The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received over 213,000 calls in 2018 — many of those calls involved pets accidentally ingesting over-the-counter medications

By Kelli Bender
March 20, 2019 11:55 AM
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March 17-23 is National Poison Prevention Week, which means it is the perfect time for pet owners to get a refresh on how to protect their furry friends from everyday toxins.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) received over 213,000 calls from concerned pet owners in 2018 — an increase of roughly 17,000 cases over 2017. The APCC operates 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and can provide crucial information during medical emergencies, but the ASPCA also wants to prevent those emergencies from happening in the first place.

In an effort to keep the number of pet poisonings down, the ASPCA releases a Top Toxins for Pets list each year. This list is complied by looking at the toxins that have led to the most calls to the organization’s poison control center.

In 2018, a pet’s accidental ingestion of over-the-counter medications meant for humans caused the most calls to the center.

“Pet owners tend to treat OTC medications as less dangerous than prescription medications, but that is not always the case,” Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, said in a statement. “Common household medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and cold and flu medicines can cause life-threatening medical issues such as gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure in pets.”

Wismer added that the easiest way to prevent these poisonings, and the accidental ingestion of all the toxins on this year’s list, is by being aware of the household items that are dangerous for pets and by taking the time to place and keep these items out of a pet’s reach. This means keeping dangerous humans foods in high cupboards and shutting up medications and cleaners in pet-proof containers.

Along with OTC medications, these are the other toxins that made ASPCA’s annual list:

  • Prescription medications – The APCC answered 36,916 calls just last year of pets ingesting prescription medications. ADHD medication, antidepressants, and heart medications make up the majority of these calls. It is crucial to your pet’s health and well being to keep all human medications out of paws reach at all times.
  • Food products – There are a number of foods that can cause your pet to become ill. The top culprits are grapes, raisins, onions, and xylitol – a sugar substitute. Each of these foods can cause severe symptoms in pets and can lead to a fatal situation.
  • Chocolate – Chocolate, in many different forms, is extremely dangerous as curious pets love the taste. The APCC receives an average of 60 cases per day of chocolate toxicity. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are the most potent, but all types of chocolate can become toxic given the amount.
  • Veterinary Products – Many medications for pets come in the form of chews which can be mistaken for delicious treats to your pets. Also make sure to treat these medications, such as joint and allergy chews, as prescription medicines and keep them away from your pets.
  • Household Items – Cleaning products, fire logs, and home improvement products, such as paint, are extremely toxic for your pets. Make sure to always restrict access to these products.
  • Rodenticides – Rodenticide exposure increased in the last year to 6.3% of the APCC’s calls. Remember that pets, along with rodents, find baits very tasty. Rat or mouse bait ingestion can be deadly for our pets
  • Insecticides – Keep pets away and follow label directions when using insecticides.
  • Plants – Indoor and outdoor plants, as well as bouquets, can all be sources of potential problems for pets. APCC received 11,857 cases of household plant poisoning last year.
  • Garden Products – Many pets find fertilizers irresistible. Make sure your pets aren’t ‘helping’ when you are out working on the lawn or in the garden with herbicides and soil enhancements.

Hopefully, this list helps you keep your pet safe, but if you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435 or contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible.