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Keeping Pets Safe

Veterinary experts say common household items can harm animals.

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Common household items, such as certain foods, medicines and plants, can be harmful to dogs and cats.

Did you know that a bowl of grapes sitting on your counter can be fatal to your dog or that a bouquet of fragrant lilies could be lethal to a cat? Were you aware that a stick of gum might cause a life-threatening canine emergency?

Veterinary experts say that while pet hazards are lurking around almost every home, many pet owners are unaware of them. From favorite foods to over-the-counter-pain relievers, a number of common household items are dangerous to family pets.

“The most important way to prevent accidental toxicity [is to] inform children and adults of potential toxins before introducing a new pet to a household,” said Dr. Tracy Navarra, a veterinarian at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital in Potomac, Md. “Keep all pantry doors closed and locked [and] keep all medicines in cabinets [and] off countertops and away from dogs and cats who can get on counters.”

Veterinary experts say foods such as raisins, grapes, chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions and garlic, as well as foods that are high in fat can be harmful to dogs and cats. “We don’t know which grapes and raisins and which breed of dog would be affected, so we say keep all dogs away from them,” said Dr. Amanda Higdon, a veterinarian at Herndon Animal Medical Center in Herndon. “Most cats aren’t going to eat those things.”

PAIN RELIEVERS that are found in many medicine cabinets can cause harm as well. “Some people see their dog or cat limping and say, ‘I’ll give them a Tylenol to stop the pain,’ but a single Tylenol can be deadly for a cat,” said Tom McPheron, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In fact, experts say to leave all animal medical care to the experts. “What we see most often is people taking their veterinary care into their own hands,” said Higdon. “My message would be to talk to your vet first and don’t give pets anything that wasn’t made for them.”

Veterinarians say that chewing gum, mints or candy that contains an artificial sweetener known as Xylitol is dangerous as well. “Diabetics also use Xylitol for cooking, but it can cause liver failure in a dog,” said Higdon. “One or two sticks of gum can kill a small or medium dog.”

“The most important way to prevent accidental toxicity [is to] inform children and adults of potential toxins before introducing a new pet to a household.”

Dr. Tracy Navarra, a veterinarian at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital in Potomac, Md.

HOUSEHOLD AND YARD PLANTS can also be harmful to pets, say veterinarians. Lilies, hydrangeas and oleander are among the foliage that can be toxic if ingested. “Lillies are a very common household flower and they are deadly for cats,” said McPheron. “Some cats like to nibble on the leaves, and they are deadly.”

Of course, pets often consume dangerous substances without their owners’ knowledge. The most common symptoms are vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea. Sources for emergency assistance are The Pet Poison Helpline, 1-800-213-6680 or www.petpoisonhelpline.com and the animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

Pet medical information can be found on the animal care website www.veterinarypartner.com.