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What Toxins are Haunting Your Home??

Author: Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM

Ghosts and Witches aren’t the only things you and your pet should be worried about this October.  With the holidays gearing up, we want to remind all of you about potential toxins that your fur kids could be exposed to in your house. The list of possible toxins may surprise you!


The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., fielded more than 165,000 phone calls in 2011 regarding exposures of pets to potentially poisonous substances. Some of the top Toxins that prompt calls and emergency vet visits are:


  • Chocolate! Keep all your chocolate cookies and Halloween candy away from areas that dogs can access. Dark and baking chocolate tend to be the worst offenders, but any type of chocolate can be harmful in large enough quantities. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common symptoms, but it can lead to tachycardia (extremely fast heart rates) or seizures and death in extreme cases.


  • Rodenticides and Ant traps. I know mice, rats, and ants can be scarier than Werewolves, but make sure you keep traps in areas of the house that your animals can not access. The toxins and plastic can both be harmful if ingested.
  • Human pain medications (Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Aspirin).  If Rover or Fluffy gets too excited with all of the trick-or-treaters coming to the door and seems like they might have overextended their muscles or joints, please check with your veterinarian before you give your dog any medication. These human pain medications can be highly toxic to the kidneys and livers of pets and can cause stomach ulcers and ruptured intestines.
  • Xylitol. Oh xylitol – where will we find you next?! We are finding this sugar-free sweetener in everything from gums and mints, to peanut butter, vitamins, food, candy, and prescription and non-prescription medications, and a whole lot more.  Even small amounts of xylitol can cause life threatening drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, liver failure or even death in dogs.


  • Household Cleaners.  These should always be stored away from all kids (human and animal alike)


  • Human prescription medications. Anti depressants, ADD medications, Birth Control, and others can cause muscle tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures, heart problems, bone marrow suppression, and ataxia (“drunk” walking or gait).


  • Grapes and Raisins. Some of the healthier treats in your baskets for humans can be devastating for dogs. We aren’t sure why raisins and grapes are toxic yet, but any amount (even 1-2) can cause acute kidney failure which can be fatal, or cause long term damage to kidneys.

If you are ever afraid that your pet has ingested a toxin, please call the ASPCA poison control center's 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435 or your veterinarian.   Calvert Veterinary Center can be reached at 410-360-PAWS (7297).

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