We all know that dogs should avoid chocolate and to keep those Easter lilies far away from cats. But what about those lesser known toxins lurking around our homes and gardens? To help keep you in the know, we’ve written about five less familiar toxins that you may not know are dangerous to your pets.
1. Tea Tree Oil
Essential oils are all the craze nowadays and are often used for a wide range of ailments in people; however, there’s currently little information regarding their safety for use on animals. One type of oil that we know pet owners should steer clear of is tea tree oil – found in gels, shampoos, conditioners, balms, and even household cleaning products. Tea tree oil is even touted as a parasite repellent on pets; however, it is actually very dangerous to animals, and toxicity can occur from either skin contact or ingestion. Tea tree oil can affect the nervous system, liver, skin, muscles, blood vessels, gums, and respiratory system, and pets can even die. If you use products with tea tree oil, keep them out of your pet’s reach. If you wish to use other essential oils on your pet, please consult with your family veterinarian first!
Chives are a great addition to mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, soups, and salads. But chives don’t jive well with cats and dogs! Chives are in the Allium plant family – along with garlic, onions, and leeks (all toxic to pets!) These plants can cause severe upset stomach and ulceration, which may lead to vomiting, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, bleeding, and diarrhea. If that weren’t enough, plants in the Allium family also attack red blood cells and destroy them – causing anemia, collapse, or in the worst cases, death! So even if chives are just an ingredient in a meal you’ve eaten, don’t feed the table scraps to your pets. Also, if you grow chives (or any other plants in the Allium family), keep your garden area fenced-in and inaccessible to your pets.
3. Pepto Bismol©
Pepto Bismol© can work well to ease our upset stomachs, so why wouldn’t it be okay for pets? Well, Pepto’s main ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate, which is closely related to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). If your pet gets a high enough dose, he or she could suffer from aspirin/salicylate toxicity. Salicylate toxicity can cause a whole host of problems: severe stomach ulcers and even hemorrhage, kidney injury or kidney failure, liver injury, weakness, and neurological symptoms like depression, seizures, and brain swelling. Pepto may be safe for you, but it is ultimately NOT safe to give to your pets. If your pet has an upset stomach, talk to your family veterinarian. There are much safer options your family veterinarian can provide to get your pet feeling better.
4. Homemade Playdough
It’s all fun and games – until the dog eats it! Homemade playdough is typically made from a mixture of flour, salt, and food coloring. Those fun playdough sculptures can be too tempting to pets (especially dogs) and result in a salt toxicity due to the high salt content. The salt is absorbed quickly leading to a number of symptoms including rapid fluid shifts in the body, severe brain swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), kidney damage, muscle rigidity or muscle tremors, and high body temperature. Pets affected by salt toxicity need immediate veterinary care to correct their sodium imbalances and other symptoms. If you choose to make homemade playdough, supervise playtime and keep pets away from the area until after cleanup. Remind your children to never give your pets a playdough snack.
Toads? Yes, toads! In Minnesota, these beloved amphibians are safe if you or your pets are exposed to them (they won’t cause warts!) However, it’s a different story if you travel or move to the southwest with your pets. States like Arizona, Colorado, California, Texas, Hawaii, and Florida (as well as Mexico) contain toads from the Bufo toad family. The Colorado River toad and the cane/marine toad secrete a toxin from their backs when threatened. Pets can touch or even consume this toxin off the toad. The toxin is rapidly absorbed and can cause severe irritation including foaming at the mouth, painful gums, and retching. The toxin can also cause heart arrhythmias, difficulty breathing, or seizures. Be sure to see a veterinarian right away if your pet came in contact with one of these toads! If your pet shows interest in a toad, distract him or her with a tennis ball or Kong toy instead!
We hope you’ve learned something new – and don’t forget to add these five pet toxins to your list of things that are dangerous to your pets! If your pet does get into any toxic items, be sure to contact your family veterinarian. If your family veterinarian is unavailable, both our Oakdale and St. Paul clinics are open 24/7 for emergencies.
By Melanie Neufeld, DVM