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17 May 2000 Issue
Household Dangers to Companion Animals

WASHINGTON (March 15, 2000) - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reminds pet owners that many common household items can pose a threat to their animal companions. Even some items specifically meant for pets could cause health problems. Although rodent poisons and insecticides are the most common sources of companion animal poisoning, the following list of less common potentially toxic agents should be avoided if at all possible:

* Antifreeze-the types containing ethylene glycol have a sweet taste that attracts animals but are deadly if consumed in even small quantities; one teaspoon can kill a seven pound cat. The types containing propylene glycol are safe in small amounts but still toxic in large doses. The HSUS recommends pet owners use a safe antifreeze in their vehicles.

* Cedar and other soft wood shavings, including pine-emit fumes that may be dangerous to small mammals like hamsters and gerbils.

* Chocolate-poisonous to dogs, cats and ferrets.

* De-icing salts used to melt snow and ice-paw irritants that can be poisonous if licked off. Paws should be washed and dried as soon as the animal comes in from the snow. Other options: doggie boots with Velcro straps to protect Fido's feet, and make your cat an indoor pet.

* Insect control products-the insecticides used in many over-the-counter flea and tick remedies may be toxic to companion animals as well. Prescription flea and tick control products are much safer and more effective. Pet owners should never use any product without first consulting a veterinarian.

* Fumes from nonstick cooking surfaces and self-cleaning ovens can be deadly to birds. Always be cautious when using any pump or aerosol spray around birds.

Human medications. Pain killers (including aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen), cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills can all be toxic to animals. Keep medication containers and tubes of ointments and creams away from pets who could chew through them and be vigilant about finding and disposing of any dropped pills.

* Leftovers and other human foods: chicken bones easily shatter and can choke a cat or dog. Other foods to keep away from pets include onions and onion powder; alcoholic beverages; yeast dough; coffee grounds and beans; salt; macadamia nuts; tomato, potato and rhubarb leaves and stems; avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle and dairy goats) and anything with mold growing on it. Contact The HSUS for a complete list of dangerous food products.

* Poisonous household plants: azalea, geraniums, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), mistletoe, philodendron and poinsettia among others. For a comprehensive list, contact The HSUS.

* Rawhide doggie chews may be contaminated with salmonella, which can infect pets and humans who come in contact with the chews. These kinds of chews should only be given when you're with your pet, as they can pose a choking hazard as well.

* String, yarn, rubber bands and even dental floss -- easy to swallow and can cause intestinal blockages or strangulation.

* Toys with removable parts-like squeaky toys or stuffed animals with plastic eyes -- that can come apart can pose a choking hazard to animals. Take the same precautions with your pets as you would with a small child.

The HSUS recommends that pet owners use all household products with caution, and keep a pet first aid kit and manual readily available. The HSUS puts out a first aid book in conjunction with the American Red Cross entitled Pet First Aid: Cats and Dogs. If all of your precautions fail and you believe that your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary service immediately. Signs of poisoning include listlessness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, lack of coordination and fever.

The National Animal Poison Control Center operates a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-426-4435 for a fee of $30 per case. If you call, you should be prepared with the following information: the name of the poison your animal was exposed to, the amount and how long ago; the species, breed, age, sex and weight of your pet and the symptoms the animal is displaying. You'll also be asked to provide your name, address and phone number.

Source: "Bonnie" <bbwest@snet.net

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