Poisons in the House, Barn and Garden
Possible Pet Poisons Around the House, Barn or Garden
There are times where we see a poisoning case and cannot easily diagnose the type of poison immediately. Most animal poisoning cases do not have a diagnosis if there is only one patient involved and that patient responds to the various supportive therapies. To run a poison screen of the urine at a human toxicology lab costs approximately $300.00 (2000), and the screen does not diagnose the toxin. The results take over a day, and by this time we usually know how the patient is responding to the therapy we have initiated. Should the screening indicate it is a drug then a specific drug test is over $100 each. Our routine blood tests we do for sickness, such as a complete blood count and serum chemistries, may help us determine if the toxin is affecting the liver, but it will not determine the type of product.
Ingested poisons are commonly seen in pets. The common household rodent poisonings cause bleeding problems. Antifreeze poisonings cause kidney failure. Any animal who ingests a possible poison should be examined promptly and/or a call to the veterinarian. If treated before any signs develop the success rate is much, much higher. There are many types of poisonous plants in our house and yard, fortunately most cause only intestinal upsets. Foxglove, larkspur, lupine, nightshades, Jerusalem cherry, and most of the bulb plants can cause serious poisonings. Some bushes and trees are toxic such as yew, oleander, Chinaberry, the caster and Kentucky coffee bean plants. If you looked at the poisonous plants for household and garden you will find almost half are listed. For more information we have other handouts regarding only plant poisonings. The polyacrylamide soil gel can cause a dangerous intestinal blockage if ingested. Molds, mushrooms, food poisonings, algae and toxic bacteria have similar signs to an insecticide poisoning. We can see poisonings from heavy metals as a result of an animal eating or chewing on a product weeks ago. There are many chemical compounds, batteries (especially lithium) and other materials too numerous to individually list. Chewing on treated lumber can cause toxicities related to arsenic, copper or chromium. Bleaching treated lumber will cause it to become even more toxic. Treated lumber should not be used in building and/or animal areas where they are allowed to chew on wood. The expanding foams and glues are toxic, especially if the dog eats the products before they set up/expand. Sanding to reseal treated lumber can cause an animal or human toxicity. Giving one Tylenol tablet to a cat can cause a severe poisoning problem. Rodenticides intoxication usually causes seizures, diarrhea or salivation problems. Snail and slug bait can also cause similar seizuring problems. Mothball ingestion can cause sickness, seizures and/or anemia. Ingestion of paintballs can become a problem in dogs. If you use ant traps we recommend the safer avermectin products. Warfarin rat poisoning causes bleeding problems. Nicotine from patches and gum can cause problems if they ingested over 20 mg. Chocolate and Macadamia nuts for humans is a poisonous substance to animals. The sugar-free sweetener, xylitol, it toxic to pets; this includes the sugar free gums with this product. The cold medicine with pseudoephedrine, at < 1 mg/#, can cause hyperactive type signs death. Play dough, if ingested in large quantities, can cause salt toxicity. The dough artifact/molds you bake also may contain very high concentrations of salt. Garlic can be toxic to horses and dogs, including garlic extract. Some herbal medicines, especially the essential oils, can be toxic to pets. Many of the liquid potpourri products contain essential oils. Onions can cause toxicity problems to horses and cats. Grapes and raisins can be toxic to dogs and pocket pet herbivores. Bread dough can even ferment, produce alcohol and cause toxic problems if ingested by dogs. Brewing hops, cocoa mulch and/or fermented compost also causes toxicity if ingested. The cattle feeds containing xenobiotics (ionophores, Rumensin) are toxic to horses, dogs and cats.
Contact poisons are those which are absorbed through the skin, and are not very common in comparison to ingested poisons. Although if misapplied quite a few apparently safe products, such as some dog organophosphate flea and coal-tar skin products are toxic to kittens. Always read the label for the species or application method on the label. If toxic to another species the manufacturer does not have to state why, because the person was misusing the product. Most herbicide, petroleum products, insecticides, solvents and household chemical poisonings are a result of the animal walking through the chemical, then cleaning them self later. Benzyl alcohol is toxic, but rarely do animals ingest this chemical. If one does use insecticides or products with this alcohol, and then places the patient into a plastic carrier, a chemical reaction of the plastic and benzyl alcohol can cause the animal to stick to the crate.
Inhaled toxins are fairly rare. Some species are more sensitive than others. Did you realize a Teflon-type pan, which burned a few days ago, can cause death in your bird today?
We have many handouts on specific poisons, when we are able to diagnose them. It is not easy to accurately diagnose a poisoning until sample tests are back from the laboratory, unless we happen to find the poison nearby. Poisoning cases can be very frustrating for all of us. The specific antidotes may do more harm than good if the patient did not have that type of poisoning. Patients who have ingested acids, oils, alkaline solutions or tranquilizers and drugs that have calmed the patient should not be induced to vomit. For those products you know the patient has ingested within the last 30 minutes or less, such as wild mushrooms or chocolate, etc, you can try to induce vomiting. At home you can use 1 teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Ipecac syrup per average size dog to induce vomiting; you can repeat in 5-10 minutes if there is no emesis and/or try another product. A teaspoon of salt or dry mustard in the back of the mouth can also produce emesis. Animals that are very sick or depressed should not be induced to vomit. If you gave the stronger strength of peroxide, used an excessive amount, the patient swallowed the peroxide and has stomach pain, or if the patient is comatosed after giving an excess of peroxide then please call and mention this to us. After inducing vomiting we can then examine the patient and use activated charcoal and other products to help absorb toxins. If you know the animal has ingested a poisonous compound and two doses of peroxide or ipecac syrup has not induced vomiting, the patient needs to be seen so we can induce vomiting if it has been under 0.5-1.5 hours after ingestion. If you ever have questions on a product a national pet poisoning hot line is 1-888-232-8870 or 888-426-4435. (If you need the human poison control their number is 800-222-1222 or 877-800-5554. The human service will not answer animal questions, while the animal poison control will refer you for human poisonings).
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic
Miscellaneous Pet Household and Yard Poisons
If we single spaced the possible toxins out in the environment, the list would be a book. The more common household and yard poisonings are within another handout. As a different approach the basic list can be:
Alcohol in found in human liquors, rubbing alcohol, cleaning products and even bread
dough. Initially induce vomiting, yet vomiting should not be induced in any
Ant and Roach Baits contain insecticides. The organophosphate chlorpyrifos and the
arsenic containing baits are the most toxic. The avermectins are the safest of
products. Vomiting should initially be performed. Activated charcoal does
not work as well for arsenic, as compared to other toxins.
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, and if ingested the animal should be made to vomit
and then immediately treated for this non-reversible poisoning. Other car fluids
also contain glycols, yet propylene glycol is not toxic.
Batteries contain acids. Very few batteries contain lead anymore. Feed the patient and
call for advise. Sometimes we will recommend the animal be fed with food (only),
then be induced to vomit while other times we may not induce vomiting and may
instead xray and perform surgery.
Chocolate is treated similar to alcohol.
Cleaning products contain acids or alkaline agents. Vomiting is not indicated, and oral
protective products such as Pepto Bismol initially can be used. Pepto Bismol can
be toxic in cats, and Milk-of-Magnesia, Milanta, etc may need to be purchased.
Essential oils are toxic to pets and can cause seizures.
Feed additives – there are many feed additives which can be toxic to some animals;
monensin and dogs or horses is one such example.
Fertilizers mostly cause intestinal upsets. If they contain over 1% iron, then iron
toxicosis may occur. Some fertilizers may contain insecticides or herbicides.
Treat as if they ingested a cleaning fluid, then encourage food and water intake.
Food safe for humans can be toxic to pets. Chocolate, garlic, onions, and the sugar
substitute xylitol are examples of toxic compounds. If > 1mg/kg of xylitol is
ingested, hypoglycemia develops. If > 5 mg/kg xylitol is ingested liver problems
Garages have antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid as a major concern, plus
batteries and wiper fluid (alcohol).
Glues usually are not a problem, except Gorilla Glue which expands when setting up.
The expanding polyurethane glues with diphenylmethane diisocyanate cause problems.
Gopher and mole pellets containing zinc phosphide causes a phosphine gas poisoning.
Iron can be toxic in acute and chronic doses. After vomiting, egg whites should be fed.
Jewelry can contain toxic metals. A foreign body may require surgery.
Small round items should be induced to have the patient vomit, and if there is a
sharp point (ear rings) then a cotton ball should be force fed and a call is
indicated. Strings over 4” can cause a problem. The glow-in-the-dark jewelry has
a product which tastes terrible to pets, and thus salivation occurs. With this
dibutyl phthalate ingestion give food, milk or anything tasty to dilute the taste.
Medicines for humans can be toxic to pets, depending upon the active ingredient. Ambien
(zolpedem) is such a toxic drug for pets, yet okay for people.
Metals themselves are not usually toxic, if considering ingesting aluminum, iron,
stainless steel, etc. For iron sulfate and iron pills these can be toxic. See
zinc below, which is toxic. Mercury is toxic, yet the elemental mercury in
a thermometer is not easily absorbed, and if ingested feeding a high fiber diet,
pumpkin, etc helps the patient. (Still clean up any broken thermometer).
Mothballs contain naphthalene, and the toxic dose can be one mothball per 14#. Treat
initially as you would for alcohol (induce vomiting), then give activated charcoal
and call the veterinarian so we can monitor the blood.
Paints are not very toxic. If ingested do not make the patient vomit, but instead feed
milk, food, etc. If on the skin, do not use paint thinner type products, which are
irritating and toxic. Instead use warm soapy water or shave off the dried paint.
Petroleum distillates are found in cleaning type fluids and paint thinner type products.
Do not induce vomiting, but instead give milk and food/water. Wash off the skin
with a mild soap and water. (In birds we recommend Dawn or Sunlight dishwashing
detergent for removal of oil products).
Phosphine is a product from aluminum or zinc phosphide used for fumigating grain. If an
animal is exposed to this gas there are the general signs of sickness, vomiting,
myositis and hypoglycemia on blood tests. (Phosgene is the WW1 Mustard Gas,
a similar poison). An animal eating grain that had been fumigated earlier, and
there has not been proper ventilation since, can potentially have this toxicity.
Many mole and gopher baits contain zinc phosphide. Vomiting and colitis, leading
to hypoglycemia, acidosis, acute renal failure and seizures are the signs
of phosphine poisoning. (Strychnine poisoning can have similar signs).
The fumigants to kill rodents also may be zinc phosphide; if you smell
garlic, a rotten/dead fish or an acetylene type odor this may be the product if
the dog has dug up such a product. Once the pellet hits water (or is swallowed)
the gas is produced. When you induce vomiting ensure that this heavier than air
gas is properly vented/patient vomits outside, etc. or the people in the building
may be sickened with the gas; we may give Milk of Magnesia or Tums. After
emesis, supportive care and antioxidants (i.e. SAMEe), Mucomyst, etc. are part of
the therapy. Neurological, respiratory and cardiac problems are also a concern.
Potpourri can contain may products, especially the essential oils and detergents. The cationic detergents cause irritation, and should be treated as if a petroleum
Salts for sidewalks are not as toxic as one may be led to believe. Encourage water
drinking if you think a patient has ingested too much salt from licking their paws.
Play Dough contains salt, and can be toxic to pets.
Seaweed can be toxic if it is allowed to decompose and there is a cap on it; hydrogen
sulfide is released when this cap is broken.
Snail bait is treated similar to ant and roach bait.
Strings over 4” can cause a sawing action in the intestines. A call is indicated.
Tobacco contains nicotine, and is treated similar to alcohol. One cigarette can be toxic
to a 6# animal, while a cigar can be toxic to a 9# dog.
Vitamins and minerals can be toxic in high doses. Vomiting is recommended.
Zinc is a heavy metal, and the ingestion of a coin containing zinc is a concern. (The
penny contains zinc). One penny contains 2.4 grams of zinc. Zinc phosphine
poisoning is above.
Always call us if your pet has ingested any of the above products. If an animal has ingested a poison 3-4 hours earlier, to induce vomiting may not be indicated, but usually does not hurt to do unless the patient is in a stupor, not mentally there and/or ingested a caustic or petroleum distillate type of product. Ipecac syrup or hydrogen peroxide orally can induce vomiting in most pets. Rabbits and horses cannot vomit.
Poison Control’s phone numbers are 1-888-232-8870 or 888-426-4435. (If you need
the human poison control their number is 800-222-1222.
The Staff at the Nelson Road Veterinary Clinic
We have dozens of general and specific poisoning handouts. For more information on poisons go to the Client Education section.