Our homes contain dozens of foods and other substances that, while safe for human use and consumption, are extremely irritating or even deadly if our pets are exposed. While many of these dangers are avoidable and obvious, there are some things we may not consider a danger, that is, until our furry family member is sick and needs emergency care.
Avocados make their way onto many lists, but these articles rarely discuss the reason avocados are dangerous for our pets. For cats and dogs, the avocado fruit itself is not harmful; the real danger is the possible ingestion of the large pit, a possible choking or intestinal obstruction hazard. In other animals such as birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, and certain farmyard animals such as cows, goats, and horses, the danger is from a compound called persin. Persin is extremely toxic to these animals causing respiratory distress, fluid around the heart and lungs, kidney and liver failure, and sudden death. In pet birds, persin toxicity will also cause the inability to perch.
When ingested, unbaked bread dough will expand, ferment, and release large amounts of carbon dioxide and alcohol into the bloodstream. This process will rapidly cause a bloated and twisted stomach (known as gastric-dilatation volvulus or GDV) and alcohol poisoning. If your pet is showing signs of bloat or GDV including an increased heart rate, distended abdomen, and vomiting or non-productive retching it is imperative to get your pet immediate intervention. As the fermentation produces alcohol, it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream causing intoxication, dangerous blood pressure and body temperature decreases, respiratory failure, and seizures.
Many pet owners are aware of the hazard posed by chocolate, but are unaware of the types are amounts of chocolate that pose the greatest threat. Chocolate contains theobromine which is a methylxanthine compound very similar to caffeine. Darker chocolate has a higher concentration of theobromine with baker’s chocolate and baking cocoa offering the largest threats. Pet poison control hotlines report 95% of chocolate consumption related emergency calls and veterinary visits are for dogs; small dogs often have to be treated for obstructions due to consuming the wrapper on a chocolate as well. Signs of methylxznthine poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, and seizures. Untreated, progressive and severe symptoms can lead to death.
The cause of toxicity from grape, raisin, or currant ingestion is unknown; however, it is known that dogs, and possibly cats and ferrets, can suffer severe, acute kidney failure after eating any type and quantity of grape or raisin containing product. Unlike other foods, the toxicity of grapes does not appear to be dose-dependent; even very small amounts can be dangerous to some animals while others are not affected until a very large dose is consumed. Veterinary care will include decontamination via induced vomiting or decreased absorption via activated charcoal administration, kidney function monitoring, and aggressive supportive care and intravenous fluid administration.
Tea Tree Oil
Often thought of as a natural wonder-drug for humans for the antibacterial, anti-fungal, possibly anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic properties, tea tree oil should never be used on pets. Also known as melaleuca oil, it is sold in several concentrations with 100% oil resulting in severe poisoning with as little as 7 drops and death after as little as 10 milliliters. Both cats and dogs show similar symptoms when exposed such as tremors, weakness, inability to walk or loss of balance, coma, and death.
Liquid potpourri or wax melts may seem like an easy and safe way to scent your home, it has been found to be a danger to pets. The scent is often enticing enough for a curious pet to take a couple licks, and that is all it takes to cause severe chemical burns in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. A high enough dosage will also lead to difficulty breathing, tremors, vomiting, weakness, and even organ damage.
Commonly sold under the brand name Gorilla Glue, diisocyanate glues as well as other wood and construction glues, carry a large risk if ingested. Interaction between these glues and stomach acids will cause a chemical reaction changing the glue into a rapidly expanding foam. The foam solidifies in the stomach and intestinal tract and requires surgery to remove the foreign body. Gastrointestinal distress symptoms caused by glue ingestion include vomiting, retching, drooling, distended stomach, and loss of appetite. This is an emergency situation and requires immediate emergency care.
Cats are most commonly affected by corrosive burns due to detergent exposure. This typically occurs because the cat may walk across spilled detergent, liquid or powder, that was not cleaned up immediately and then ingest it later while grooming. Visible burns on the paws or mouth, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, and respiratory distress can all be present. Immediate veterinary attention is required as internal damage may be severe.
Non-smokers brush this danger off commonly because it isn’t found in their homes. If your pet is allowed outside at any time, it may encounter and consume dropped cigarette butts. Consumption of nicotine gums poses a increased danger to dogs since many brands are sweetened with xylitol which is also toxic. Nicotine increases both heart rate and blood pressure, and with sufficient quantities will result in neurological damage. Even if your pet vomits following consumption, it is safest to have a veterinary examination in case further decontamination, intravenous fluids, or other medication is necessary to stabilize your pet.
Regardless of how well you attempt to avoid dangers for your pets, you still need to be prepared if something happens unexpectantly. Act quickly and appropriately during an emergency situation to increase the chances of your pet’s survival and return to good health. Create a pet first aid kit, list important phone numbers including animal poison control and your veterinary clinic, and respond quickly in the event of an emergency.