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The Ruff Report: Overlooked household item causes most pet poisonings

Many pet poisonings are caused by cleaning products, pesticides and fertilizer, but your dog and cat are actually in more danger of getting seriously ill or even killed from another common household item.
The Hunt of Her Life: A book series about a rescue dog that will touch your heart 
This item - found on tables, desks and counters in virtually every household – is the leading cause of pet poisonings. It is just waiting to be snatched and ingested by curious dogs and cats.
This frequently overlooked household item is your own medications.
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According to the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, human prescription medication were the leading cause of accidental pet poisonings in 2013, and they have been at the top of the list since 2008. Human over-the-counter medications were the third leading cause of pet poisonings in 2013. Medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen as well as antidepressants and decongestants are all harmful to pets.
When you examine the data, clear trends emerge,” Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, states in a media release. “Year after year, human medications top our list as the most common reason for pet owners calling our center. Determined dogs have no problems breaking through the pill bottles and swallowing everything inside.”
So the best way to lower your pet's risk of accidental poisoning is to keep human medications in a place that is inaccessible to your dog or cat, Dr. Wismer states. “Keep all medications out of reach and take your pills behind a closed door away from your pets. If you drop your medication, your dog can scoop it up quicker than you can say ‘poison’.”

The other leading causes of pet poisonings in 2013 were: insecticides, second; household products, forth, people food, fifth; veterinary medications and products, sixth; chocolate, seventh; rodenticides, eight; plants, ninth; lawn and garden products, 10th. The ASPCA’s list is based upon 180,000 calls made to its Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Illinois.

Human medications

The most common culprits include over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, cold medications, dietary supplements, antidepressants and ADHD medications. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep medications tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.

Insecticides are commonly used on pets for flea and tick control or around the house to control crawling and flying bugs. The most serious poisonings occurred when flea and tick products not labeled for use in cats were applied to them, so the ASPCA recommends pet owners always follow label directions.

Some species of animals can be particularly sensitive to certain types of insecticides, so it is vital that you never use any product not specifically formulated for your pet,” Dr. Steven Hansen, senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Health Services, says. He advises to consulting with a veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.

Baits used to kill mice and rats are mostly grain-based, which manes they attract dogs and cats as well as rodents. Several different types of rodenticides can cause seizures, internal bleeding, or kidney failure. The ASPCA recommends keeping these products out of the reach of pets.

People food

Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are foods commonly ingested by pets. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs, while onions and garlic can cause anemia if enough is ingested. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener used in many sugar-free gums and mints, can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Avocado and certain citrus fruit can also seriously harm pets. Chocolate is one of the most dangerous because it contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.
Veterinary medications

Many pet medications are often flavored to make it easier to administer them , so they can be so tasty that pets may ingest the entire bottle if they get hold of it. Common chewable medications include arthritis and incontinence medications. Always contact your veterinarian or the APCC if your pet ingests more than its proper dose of medication.

Other leading causes of pet poisonings are:
  • Chemicals, such as antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool chemicals.
  •  Household cleaners, such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants which can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.
  • Heavy metals, such as lead, zinc and mercury found in paint chips, linoleum and lead dust.
  • Fertilizer, which can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs.
  • Common house plants, such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera.
Pet owners must learn about the many toxic substances that can harm their pets, ASPCA President Ed Sayres states in a media release. “Our animal companions depend on us to be informed and protect them from danger.”

More reports about dogs, safety and poison
More reports about dogs and safety 
This common activity can injure - even kill - your pet

More reports about dogs and food:

The Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hot line can be reached 888-426-4435.


The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, 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 and


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