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Well-Intentioned Pet Owners Unknowingly Poisoning their Pets

Veterinary Pet Insurance Survey Findings


Poison Pills

Poison Pills

Photo © Getty Images/Michael Matisse
Over the years, I have written about several types of poisons and dangers around the house that pet owners should be aware of, as well as common signs of poisonings. Pets have teeth and claws, a great sense of smell, and, if you throw in a little boredom, stress, or absent human supervision, trouble can result.

With this in mind, I found a recent survey about household poisons conducted by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) to be very interesting. The number one medical claim for pet poisonings in 2007 did not result from antifreeze ingestion or a chewing on a household plant. No, by far the number one poisoning type was owner-induced, and classified as "drug reactions" (3,455 claims). Most of these drug reaction poisonings were caused by pet owners giving their pets drugs intended for human use, such as over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil.

Of course, pet owners probably had their pet's best interests at heart, but please, never give your pet any medication without first consulting with your veterinarian. It is not just a matter of body size and dose; animals (especially cats) metabolize drugs differently than humans do, and simply giving a small dose is not the answer to treating small animals.

Of the top 10 pet poisoning claims for 2007, antifreeze and poisonous plants also made the list. Antifreeze (36 claims) was number ten and plant poisonings (466 claims) was number four on the list.

Here is the complete top 10 pet poisoning insurance claims for 2007, according to the VPI survey:

    1 - Drug reactions (3,455 claims): most of these claims were a result of owners giving their pet a medication intended for human consumption.

    2 - Rodenticides (870 claims): people need to remember that rat poisons are baits; they are made to be attractive to animals, and pets will sometimes go to great lengths to get at the rat poison.

    3 - Methylxanthine (755 claims): this class of compounds includes theobromine and caffeine, both components of chocolate, which is toxic to pets.

    4 - Plant Poisoning (466 claims): many household plants are toxic to pets, and plant producs, such as raisins, grapes and onions are also toxic.

    5 - Household Chemicals (313 claims) : bleach, carpet cleaning products, even toiletries or other personal products may be chewed or ingested by curious pets. Please "pet proof" all areas where these items are stored.

    6 - Metaldyhyde (88 claims): this is the chemical name for snail and slug bait, and like rat poison, it is a bait; a tasty, deadly treat for pets who try it.

    7 - Organophosphate (60 claims): this is a class of insecticides that works by inactivating the nerve function of insects and pets. Pets can be poisoned after ingesting this compound or absorbing through the skin. Please read all labels carefully, use only as directed, and safely dispose of containers.

    8 - Toad Poisoning (58 claims): some species of toads along the US Gulf Coast are extremely toxic and secrete a potentially lethal toxin when they feel threatened. Dogs may also become poisoned after licking these toads. To reduce this risk, monitor pets when outside as much as possible.

    9 - Heavy metals (48 claims): just like children, pets may be exposed to heavy metals by eating lead-based paint, copper pennies or via other sources such as contaminated soil or water sources.

    10 - Antifreeze (36 claims): antifreeze tastes sweet and spills or leaks under cars may attract pets. Clean up all spills immediately, as antifreeze is highly toxic.

Read More:
What are the signs seen with antifreeze toxicity in dogs and cats?

Coming up: I will be interviewing VPI's veterinary expert, Dr. Carol McConnell about these common household poisonings and how insurance claims for poisonings work.

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