5 Poison Prevention Tips for Cats and Dogs

What’s good for you — for example, a king-sized Hershey chocolate bar — isn’t necessarily good for your pet.

In 2017, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) received approximately 199,000 cases about potential poisoning situations, with one of the most common culprits being chocolate, which is toxic to pets.

“Pet owners should be particularly careful with chocolate products,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the center. “For example, never leave cake or brownies on the table or counters, but instead keep them under wraps or somewhere safe like the oven or microwave. Remember that dogs can move furniture to get what they want if they aren’t tall enough to reach it.”

March is Pet Poison Awareness Month so we asked the ASPCA for tips for keeping our furry ones safe — especially the ones that bark.

“Cats tend to not get themselves into as much trouble as dogs,” says Wismer. “They usually think before they chew or swallow. However, plants are an exception to this rule, and many cats love to chew on plants.” For a full list of poisons that could potentially harm your pet, click here.

Read on for more helpful poison prevention tips.

1.       Never leave your purse or backpack where your pet has access. Remember those M&M’s you stuffed in your purse for a late afternoon snack? A certain curious canine might just get his paws on them, should the opportunity present itself. Wismer advises that you remind your houseguests to keep their belongings out of reach as well.

2.       Always take your pills in a room away from your pets. “That way, if you drop one, the pet cannot get to it,” Wismer says. Try popping your pills in a bathroom with a door closed, so your dog or cat doesn’t have the opportunity to swallow something harmful.

3.       Never keep your medication and your pet’s medication in the same place.  It’s just too easy to get pills for people and pills for pets confused, especially when bottles look similar. “We get many calls about people giving their pets their own medication by mistake,” Wismer says. It’s definitely wise to designate two different areas in your home for human medication and pet medication.

4.       Pet proof your home.  As soon as a pet walks through your door, survey the space. Are things that could potentially harm them — like houseplants, harmful chemicals or certain cosmetics — within reach? If so, do something about it. “Baby gates and locks can help keep your pets safe,” Wismer explains. “Prevention is key.”

5.       Never give your pet any medication not prescribed for them by your veterinarian.  Leave serious stuff, like prescriptions, to the animal experts. “Dogs and cats take different doses than people and can be accidentally poisoned with human medications,” she says.

How will you know if the unthinkable happens and your pet has ingested something harmful? “The signs will vary depending on what has been ingested,” Wismer explains. “For example, some toxins can cause sedation while other toxins are stimulants. You know your pet best and know what is their normal behavior. If he or she is acting odd, give your veterinarian a call.”

If you believe you have a poison-related emergency, call the APCC at (888) 426-4435 for a consultation. For more information about household items that could potentially harm your pet, visit the ASPCA’s website. 


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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for People.com, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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