If your pet is experiencing respiratory distress or seizures caused by a toxin, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
If you witnessed or strongly suspect your pet ate or was topically exposed to a toxin, these are considered “ORANGE ” – or urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.
Ahh, summer. It’s the season to soak up the sun, enjoy a backyard oasis, or travel up North for much-deserved lake time. No matter your plans, keeping your pet from eating toxic substances probably isn’t your idea of fun! But as pets spend more time outside, there’s more likelihood of encountering toxins. The good news? Toxin cases are preventable! And our list of the ten most common summer pet toxins will help ensure your precious summer hours aren’t spent in the animal ER!
1. Flowers & Plants
Whether in your home or the garden, many plants are toxic and cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten. However, some are very dangerous! Cat owners – avoid true lilies which can cause fatal kidney damage in cats. Other dangers for cats and dogs include:
- sago palms – cause liver failure
- tulips and daffodils – cause seizures and heart abnormalities
- azaleas, rhododendrons, and fox glove – cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias
Have a veggie garden? Plants in the Allium family (onions, leeks, chives, and garlic) can damage red blood cells, leading to anemia.
2. Yard and Garden Products
If your pets have access to your yard, restrict areas that contain toxins and keep pets off treated areas for the product’s recommended amount of time. Garden dangers include:
- cocoa mulch – composed of cocoa bean husks (chocolate)
- compost piles – may contain toxic mold
- slug and snail baits – metaldehyde is a toxic ingredient
- fertilizers with iron – cause iron poisoning
- organic fertilizers – if they contain blood meal, fish meal, feather meal, or bone meal, they can cause gastrointestinal upset, pancreatitis, or a foreign body obstruction
- weed killers, herbicides, and insecticides – cause respiratory issues, rashes or chemical burns, or if swallowed, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, lethargy, seizures, coma, or death
From picnics to BBQs, pets have easier access to a lot of foods – including toxic ones! Watch out for grapes (as well as raisins, Zante currants, and sultanas), chocolate, macadamia nuts, xylitol (sugar-free baked goods, gum, puddings, and some peanut butter), marijuana edibles, and alcohol.
4. Wild Mushrooms
Several types of wild mushrooms are toxic to pets. Many cause gastrointestinal upset while others cause neurologic symptoms like weakness, stumbling, disorientation, and seizures. Some mushroom ingestions can even result in liver failure.
Often, summer is the time to clean out the garage, shed, or storage area – and pets may encounter long-forgotten rodenticide products. Anti-coagulants, neurotoxins, cholecalciferol (activated Vitamin D3) and zinc phosphide are the most common types of rodenticides, and they can each cause potentially fatal symptoms such as internal and external bleeding, brain and spinal cord swelling, and organ damage leading to organ failure.
6. Pool Chemicals
If you have a swimming pool, keep chemicals secured. Chlorine tablets, muriatic acid, brominating tablets, and other concentrated pool cleaning chemicals are poisonous.
7. Blue-Green Algae
Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) grows in slow-moving or stagnant lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Blue-green algae can produce hepatotoxins and neurotoxins which cause a variety of symptoms including anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, seizures, difficulty breathing, and death. Swimming or even drinking a few sips can kill a dog.
8. Insect Repellents/Bug Sprays
DEET bug sprays intended for humans shouldn’t be used on pets. Even low concentrations of DEET in “dog-safe” products can cause itchy skin. If DEET is licked off, pets can experience vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, and lungs.
9. Preventative Mix-Ups
Preventatives are necessary for dogs and cats, including indoor-only pets. But remember, there are dog-specific and cat-specific products. Don’t mix them up! Flea and tick preventatives with pyrethrin and permethrin are extremely toxic to cats. If accidentally used on a cat, or if your cat grooms your dog post-application, these ingredients can cause drooling, muscle tremors, seizures, apnea, and even death.
10. Essential Oils
Since essential oils aren’t regulated by the FDA, their concentrations (and toxicity levels) vary widely. Symptoms of exposure range from mild allergic reactions to liver damage, and everything in between. Summer essential oils that are toxic to pets include citronella (often found in insect repellent products like candles, clip-ons, and torches), citrus oils (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange), lavender, and spearmint – just to list a few! The most severe cases from toxic essential oils year-round are Pennyroyal Oil, Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil), Wintergreen, and Pine Oil. Please use caution with essential oils around your pet.
We hope this list helps keep your pets safe this summer! Always keep toxic products and foods out of your pet’s reach. There are many other pet toxins out there so if you have any questions or concerns, ask your family veterinarian for more resources on toxins for your specific pet.
If your pet is exposed to a toxin, contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised and your family veterinarian is unavailable, both our Oakdale and St. Paul emergency facilities are open 24/7, every day of the year.