Celebrate the Whippet Breed

The Toxic Ten

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals fielded more than 116,000 calls to its Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) hotline in 2006. Inexplicably, consumption was found to be on the rise in all ten of these top-10 animal hazards:

  • Human Medications: The biggest hazard documented by the ASPCA hotline for several years now, with 78,000 calls last year alone. Keep painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements above the counter and away from companion animals, just as you would children. "Just one extra-strength acetaminophen can be deadly to a cat, and just four regular-strength ibuprofen can lead to serious kidney problems in a 10-pound dog,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA.
  • Insecticides: The APCC handled more than 27,000 cases involving products used to kill fleas, ticks and other insects in 2006, up more than 28 percent from 2005. Never use a product intended for one species on another; dog products, for example, can be severely toxic to cats, which have a decidedly different metabolism.
  • Veterinary Medications: Just because your vet prescribes it doesn't mean there aren't potential side effects. Last year the APCC managed more than 12,000 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements—a 93 percent increase.
  • Plants: The number of cases involving plants more than doubled in 2006, to more than 9,300. Among the sulprits: Lilies, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. ”Just one or two sago palm nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and even liver failure,” says Dr. Hansen. “Also, lilies are highly toxic to cats—even in small amounts they can produce life-threatening kidney failure.”
  • Rodenticides: Last year, approximately 8,800 calls about rat and mouse poisons were received by the APCC, representing an increase of more than 27 percent over 2005.  Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets including bleeding, seizures or even damage to the kidneys or other vital organs. 
  • Household Cleaners: In 2006, approximately 7,200 calls pertaining to cleaning agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants were received—up 38 percent from the year before.
  • Chocolate: Always a common food-related call, more than 4,800 chocolate calls were received by the APCC last year, an 85 percent increase from 2005.  Depending on the variety, chocolate can contain large amounts of caffeine-like substances called methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity. In severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures and even death have been noted. “Typically, the darker the chocolate, the greater the potential for poisoning,” says Hansen. “Baking chocolate contains the highest amount of methylxanthines, and just two ounces could cause serious problems for a 10-pound dog.”
  • Chemical Hazards: A newcomer to the top 10 category, this includes such harmful items as volatile petroleum-based products, alcohols, acids, and gases.  In 2006, the APCC received more than 4,100 calls related to chemical hazards—an astronomical increase of more than 300 percent. Commonly-used chemicals that pose a threat include ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals.
  • Physical Hazards: While not necessarily all toxic, items in this group consists of objects that could pose a choking hazard, risk for intestinal obstruction, or other physical injury. In 2006, the number of physical hazard calls grew a staggering 460 percent to over 3,800, involving everything from collars and adhensive tape to bones and paper products.
  • Home Improvement Products: The APCC fielded about 2,100 cases involving paint, solvents, expanding glues and other products commonly used in construction. While the majority of water-based paints are low in toxic potential, they can still cause stomach upset, and artist paints sometimes contain heavy metals that can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. In addition, solvents can be very irritating to the gastrointestinal tract, eyes and skin, and could also produce central nervous system depression if ingested, or pneumonia if inhaled.