Cletus: Cletus the bloodhound here. The humans recently brought home a new puppy named Scout, and it is my job as the grandpa of the household to teach this young whippersnapper a thing or two about safety. She has been here only a week, and I have already had to keep her from eating all kinds of dangerous objects. Scout says she can’t help it, because beagles love to eat, but if she wants to grow up to be old and wise like me, she had better heed my advice.
#1: Chocolate and dogs
Based on calls received in 2019, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reported that chocolate was the toxin most commonly ingested by North Carolina pets. Dogs who eat chocolate may experience vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, irregular heart rate or rhythm, and occasionally death. The darker or more bitter the chocolate, the more likely it will cause toxicity.
Cletus: Pay attention, Scout. Soon the humans will celebrate something called Easter, where they hide baskets full of chocolate, and then make the little humans find them. Our noses are way better at finding objects, but leave the chocolates for the little humans, and don’t steal any from their baskets. Not only can chocolate have those bad effects on you, but also the wrappers can get stuck in your stomach and intestines, and you may need surgery. Sometimes other bad-for-you foods, like espresso beans, raisins, or macadamia nuts, are hiding in the chocolate.
#2: Xylitol and dogs
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that can be found in gum, sugar-free baked goods, dental care products, medications or supplements, and peanut butter. When ingested, xylitol can rapidly lead to low blood sugar and liver failure. Affected dogs exhibit vomiting, an uncoordinated or weak gait, lethargy, seizures, coma, or death.
Cletus: Hopefully, the humans are reading labels to keep xylitol-containing products out of your reach, Scout, but xylitol is becoming more common all the time, so keep your nose out of purses, the pantry, and the cupboards. If you want fresh breath, ask the humans to brush your teeth, rather than steal their gum.
#3: Medications and dogs
Over-the-counter human medications, like cold and flu medications, antihistamines, and pain medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen, as well as vitamins and herbal supplements, can be dangerous to dogs. Prescription medications, such as antidepressants, and ADHD and heart medications, may also be toxic to dogs. Pet medications can also be dangerous, if a pet consumes more than the prescribed amount, or a dog eats a medication prescribed for a cat.
Cletus: Scout, usually the humans keep the medications up high where you can’t reach them, but the best rule of thumb is to never take any pills unless a human hands it to you wrapped in something tasty. My best advice—always feel free to make them tempt you with different yummy treats each time they try to give you a pill.
#4: Mouse and rat poisons and dogs
Mouse and rat poisons come in four types, which are all dangerous to dogs:
- Long-acting anticoagulants — This toxin prevents the dog’s blood from clotting, and leads to internal bleeding, characterized by weakness, pale gums, difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, collapse, or death.
- Cholecalciferol — Increased blood calcium and potentially fatal acute kidney failure are seen in dogs who ingest cholecalciferol-containing products.
- Bromethalin — Ingestion causes brain swelling, and leads to uncoordinated gait, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death.
- Phosphides — Phosphine gas is released when the poison mixes with stomach acids, leading to bloating, vomiting, seizures, abdominal pain, collapse, liver or lung damage, or death.
Cletus: I know those green, red, tan, and blue pellets or blocks look really tasty, but don’t eat them, Scout. They aren’t good for the rats and mice, and they definitely aren’t good for you.
#5: Household products and dogs
Many toxins lurk in products used throughout the house, and can pose problems for curious or mischievous dogs, and should be stored out of reach.
- Garage — Fertilizer, anti-freeze, paint, gasoline, garden chemicals, tulip and hyacinth bulbs, and insecticides are all dangerous for dogs.
- Laundry — Dogs may chew laundry pods or dryer sheets, or try to drink bleach, leading to toxicity.
- Bathroom — If ingested, cleaning products and cosmetics can cause toxicity, while dental floss, tissues, and other items in the trash can cause stomach or intestinal obstructions.
Cletus: OK, Scout, we should stick to this simple rule—if it isn’t dog food, or a treat from the humans themselves, don’t eat it. But, if your stomach overpowers your brain, and you make a mistake, ensure the humans get you some help immediately. You might be a bit much for this old dog at times, but you are starting to grow on me, so I would like to keep you around for a while.
At TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Davidson, we want your pet to stay safe, but we know many toxic products are in every home. If your pet does get into trouble, first call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or the Pet Poison Helpline for advice, and then bring your pet to our hospital immediately.