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The Ruff Report: Pot, grapes, mushrooms are leading pet poisons

The leading cause of plant-related poisonings in pets is grapes/raisins, which are so toxic that even a tiny number can cause acute renal failure in dogs and cats, a survey has found.

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Mushrooms, second, and marijuana, third, are next on a top-10 list of pet poisonings caused by toxic plants, according to a survey compiled by Veterinary Pet Insurance from its claims by policyholder.

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Pet parents can easily prevent most poisonings related to plants by exercising caution, VPI veterinarian Carol McConnell says.

"Prevention is a simple matter of keeping these hazards out of a pet's environment," Dr. McConnell states in a media release. "To avoid plant poisonings, try not to give a dog table scraps that contain raisins, onions or nuts, and make sure that a new pet is introduced to a backyard free of sago palms, wild mushrooms or other toxic plants."

A pet that ingests grapes or raisins needs immediate treatment, Dr. McConnell says. A veterinarian may try to induce vomiting and administer intravenous fluids. Symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

The mushroom most responsible for poisoning pets is the common backyard variety that often grows in grassy places, especially after a heavy rain, according to the survey. It contains toxic components that disrupt the functioning of the digestive tract and liver. If ingested, mushrooms can cause salivation, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea and liver failure. The best way to prevent an accidental ingestion is to regularly scan a yard and remove wild mushrooms.

Pets are most frequently exposed to pot when they eat baked products that had the drug as an ingredient or the remains of marijuana cigarettes.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ingestion of marijuana by a pet can result in depression, lack of coordination as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma. Pets that ingest marijuana should get immediate veterinary treatment. A veterinarian can make the pet vomit to minimize the amount of toxin available to be absorbed or can administer activated charcoal to help reduce the amount of toxin absorbed.
Rounding out VPI's list of top 10 toxic plants are: the lily, walnut, onion, sago palm, macadamia nut, azalea and hydrangea.

VPI also received claims for ingestion of the following plants or plant products: delphinium, crocus bulbs, hemlock, rhododendrons, gladiolus, tea tree oil, poison ivy, nightshade, tobacco, poinsettia, oleander, brunfelsia, hibiscus, almonds, scarlet pimpernel, potpourri and kalanchoe. Nearly all claims for lily ingestion were submitted for cats.

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Fertilizer is another garden-variety toxin often ingested by pets. Its strong smell can motivate a dog to taste or eat it. Some fertilizers contain organophosphate pesticides which impair the nervous system. VPI received 60 claims for organophosphate poisoning. Pet owners can avoid accidents involving fertilizer by using fertilizers that contain no pesticides in areas frequented by pets.


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The Ruff Report is a column that appears on MySetterSam.com, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on Createspace.com and Amazon.com.

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