How to avoid your pet being poisoned and expensive vet visits

Top tips for poison prevention month for pets


March is the national pet poison prevention month, so it acts as a timely reminder to ensure your pet is safe inside and outside your home.


Thousands of pets are rushed to vet clinics from accidentally devouring a poisonous substance every year. Often, pet owners have no idea that certain substances are poisonous to pets, and other times, it’s mischief and curiosity that gets your pet into trouble.


Take cats, for example – they are very curious. If you’ve left a container open with cleaning chemicals, alcohol or medication in it, they may jump up for a closer look. Just one lick can be enough for their small body to react.


And puppies are the same. They’re known for being a bit naughty, so they may get into cupboards they shouldn’t be in (mainly cleaning product cupboards), find things dropped on the floor that they’ll snuffle up, or sniff out food products they shouldn’t eat.



Common house plants can be poisonous to your pets


If you’re a plant lover or receive gorgeous bunches of flowers (lucky you!), you need to be aware that certain plants are toxic to your pets. Cats are notorious for nibbling at house plants, and dogs are prone to digging up and eating flowers outside.


Here are the common house plants you need to avoid:


  • Azalea

  • Poinsettia

  • Lilies (these are often in flower arrangements, so be aware!)

  • Cactus

  • Ivy

  • Mistletoe

  • Philodendron


You should also be cautious with potting mix and fertilisers that may be toxic to your pet. Dogs will be highly attracted to fertilisers (primarily blood and bone mixes) and happily eat them. Some fertilisers also contain bacterial and fungal toxins, which have serious side effects if eaten.


If you believe your pet has ingested a toxic plant, but you’re unsure what it is (e.g. you’re at a park or friend’s place), take a photo of the plant to take with you to the vets.



Top 5 household poisons that can harm your pet


1. Your medication

Medications often have warning labels to ‘keep away from children’, but they should add, ‘keep away from pets’! A determined dog will chew through a lid, and a cat will play with an open bottle, scattering medication all over the place.


Common medications like pain killers, cold & flu tablets, vitamins and diet pills, along with anti-cancer drugs and antidepressants, are all potentially lethal to your pet (even in small doses).


2. Pest baits and poisons

Any poison designed to kill pests can also be toxic to your pet – ant, rat or snail bait and even weed killers. Snail bait is one of the most common types of pet poisoning as they are small, smell great to a dog, and resemble the size of their dry dog food.


3. Our food

Pets suck us in – those big eyes looking up at you, begging for food. But there are quite a few human foods that can be poisonous to our pets:


  • Chocolate

  • Coffee

  • Onions

  • Fatty foods

  • Salt

  • Sultanas, raisins and grapes

  • Yeast dough

  • Mould or rotten food

  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)

  • Absorbent pads (found under the meat on trays)


4. Alcohol and smokes

Although most people wouldn’t purposely share their drinks or smokes with their pet, you need to be aware of what your pet is up to when these items are around.


Dogs will lick up just about anything, and spilled alcoholic drinks are no exception. They may even get their tongue into glasses for a taste if left low enough. They are also prone to chewing up cigarettes and cigarette butts that are left lying around, so ensure you and your guests dispose of them correctly.


5. Common household items

Many everyday household items may cause an issue for your pets. These include:


  • Ribbons and string (from parcels, Christmas trees etc.)

  • Batteries

  • Cleaning products

  • Paint and varnish

  • Anti-freeze (watch out for leaks from your car in the driveway)

  • Glow in the dark jewellery

  • Turps and methylated spirits

  • Silica gel packets (found in most shoe boxes, new clothes packages etc.)

  • Soap and shampoo



Symptoms that your pet may have consumed something poisonous


Some toxic reactions may happen instantly, while others may take a while (as the toxin needs to get into their digestive system). If you notice any of these symptoms, get to the vet immediately (and try to look around at what may have caused it):


  • Drooling, vomiting or diarrhea

  • Lethargy, weakness and loss of appetite

  • Pale or yellow gums

  • Excessive thirst or urination

  • Muscle tremors, seizures or coma

  • Nervousness or hyperactivity



The best thing to do is keep poisonous materials locked away and act quickly when you need to


No matter how old your pet is, it’s best to keep up the habit of keeping hazardous materials locked up in cupboards. Also, avoid house plants that may be toxic and if you receive a beautiful bunch of flowers, make sure no ‘pet nasty’ flowers are in the mix.


If your pet accidentally consumes something poisonous, try to find out what they ate and get to your local vet (or vet emergency) asap.


Do you have any more tips to share on pet poison safety? I’d love for you to share them with us. Please pop them in the comments below.


Until next time, pat your fur babies for me.