Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Plugged in to poison

Food, medicine, common household items can be harmful, even deadly for your pet

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Grapes and raisins are still killing dogs, and lilies are still killing cats. Chocolate, xylitol, prescription drugs and other items can be life-threatening and life-saving treatment can rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills.

None of this is new information, but many people still don't know that our houses and yards are full of things that can sicken or kill pets.

Only 34 per cent of pet owners know that cocoa mulch is toxic, according to a survey conducted by Petplan insurance. Only 16 per cent know that tulip bulbs are dangerous, and that's a new one for me. A total of 67 per cent knew the dangers of grapes, xylitol in sugar-free candy and gum, diced onions and coffee grounds. This marks the first time we've heard that coffee grounds are bad, so keep an eye on kitchen trash cans.

Medications intended for humans topped the 2013 list of reasons people called the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The telephone hotline handled 180,000 calls, and nearly 20 per cent were for prescriptions, including 4,151 calls about pills intended to control blood pressure or heart rate and 2,836 cases involving pain killers.

Here's the rest of the ASPCA Top 10:

2. Insecticides, 15.7 per cent of calls.

3. Over-the-counter drugs including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, 14.7 per cent.

4. Household items including expandable glues and paints, 9.3 per cent.

5. Food for humans, including onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and xylitol.

6. Meds prescribed by veterinarians. Some are available in chewable form with nice flavours, and pets have been known to break through pill bottles to eat the whole batch.

7. Chocolate: the darker the chocolate, the higher the toxicity, 7.7 per cent.

8. Rodenticides, 5.5 per cent.

9. Plants, mostly houseplants eaten by cats, 5.4 per cent.

10. Lawn and garden products, 2.8 per cent.

None of the news releases we've received have figures for how many animals die of poisoning.

Now for the sticker shock: Petplan's news release said the company has paid out as much as $10,000 for a poison claim. Here's the insurance company's list of average reimbursement for veterinary bills: $929 for antifreeze, $750 for illegal drugs, including marijuana, $700 for prescription drugs, $545 for unknown causes, $501 for poisonous plants and $465 for food or additives.

Here are the symptoms that indicate you need your dog to get to a veterinarian quickly: vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, loss of appetite, tremors, seizures, excessive thirst and infrequent urination.

Human and pet meds can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure, especially in cats, according to veterinarian Jules Benson at Petplan. Internal bleeding, pancreatitis and kidney failure can all be caused by things that are toxic to pets.

Pet Poison Helpline is a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S. and Canada. Have your credit card handy because the call to 1-800-213-6680 will cost you $39. This fee covers the initial consultation as well as all follow-up calls associated with the management of the case.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 27, 2014 D5

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