Companion Animal Care Cat and Dog Poison Alert and Emergency Help
A Companion Animal Care Article from

This Companion Animal Care article is being presented to help people seeking reliable resources, tips, and information for companion animals.

By Dr. Michael W. Fox
January 2014

I occasionally receive desperate emails from cat and dog owners who think that their animal companions may have been poisoned, and have not been able to reach their veterinarians after-hours and there are no 24/7 emergency veterinary services where they live. But now there is a solution to this kind of animal emergency which can mean a life saved.

Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 is a 24-hour animal poison control service based in Minneapolis MN operated by dedicated veterinarians available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. They have the ability to help every poisoned pet, with all types of poisonings, 24 hours a day. In order to provide this critical service, please be advised that there is a $39 per incident fee, payable by credit card. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of each case.

This is their summary of the top ten toxins of concern to which dogs and cats were exposed during the year of 2013. This list serves as a warning for all, and will help in the prevention of pet poisoning by limiting exposure and taking all due precautions with the kinds of chemicals we bring into our homes and which could make our beloved animals sick and even die.

[For levels of toxicity and common signs to watch for regarding each of the 20 items below (for cats and dogs), please visit Pet Poison Helpline's website.]

Dogs: Top 10 Toxins of 2013

  1. Chocolate: Dark equals dangerous! Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic, and milk chocolate if ingested in large amounts.
  2. Xylitol: This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).
  3. NSAIDs: Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestions result in stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
  4. Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.
  5. Rodenticides (mouse poison): These may cause internal bleeding (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, etc.) or brain swelling (bromethalin), even in small amounts.
  6. Grapes and raisins: These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.
  7. Insect bait stations: These rarely cause poisoning in dogs – the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.
  8. Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in pets.
  9. Glucosamine joint supplements: Overdose of tasty products such as Cosequin and Move Free typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.
  10. Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers: Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses or backpacks, is rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.

Cats: Top 10 Toxins of 2013

  1. Lilies: Plants in the Lilium species, such as Easter, Tiger, and Asiatic lilies, cause kidney failure in cats. All cat owners must be aware of these highly toxic plants!
  2. Household cleaners: Most general purpose cleaners (e.g., Windex, Formula 409) are fairly safe, but concentrated products like toilet bowl or drain cleaners can cause chemical burns.
  3. Flea and tick spot-on products for dogs: Those that are pyrethroid based (e.g., Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant’s, etc.) cause tremors and seizures and can be deadly to cats.
  4. Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Effexor topped our antidepressant list in 2013. Cats seem strangely drawn to these medications. Beware – ingestion can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects.
  5. NSAIDs: Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Even veterinary specific NSAIDs like Rimadyl and Meloxicam should be used with caution.
  6. Prescription ADD/ADHD medications: These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death.
  7. Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are particularly toxic, as they damage red blood cells and cause liver failure.
  8. Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals: Common houseplants like the peace lily, philodendron, and pothos can cause oral/upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested, but severe symptoms are uncommon.
  9. Household insecticides: Thankfully, most household sprays and powders are fairly safe, but it’s best to keep curious kitties away until the products have dried or settled.
  10. Glow sticks and glow jewelry: These irresistible “toys” contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. When it contacts the mouth, pain and excessive foaming occurs, but the signs quickly resolve when the cat eats food or drinks water.

The best thing concerned pet owners can do is to be educated about most common pet toxins, which are listed above, and then pet-proof their homes. However, accidents happen and if a pet may have ingested something toxic, Pet Poison Helpline recommends taking action immediately.

Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. Pet Poison Helpline also has a helpful iPhone application with an extensive database of over 200 poisons dangerous to cats and dogs. “Pet Poison Help” is available on iTunes for $1.99.

I would add a warning about Polymer toy balls that significantly expand when wet. They have been identified as posing a potentially serious safety hazard to children, according to both the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Consumer Reports. Swallowing these balls and decorative beads could cause intestinal blockage in a child or animal. Heaven forbid that these polymers be added to cat litter to increase absorption, putting cats at potential risk after licking their paws and those dogs who get into the cat litter box to clean it up!

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