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Unusual Pet Threats Can Be Surprisingly Dangerous

It might surprise you, but a lot of things in your home are more dangerous for your pets than a speeding car.

Nearly any chemical in or around your house is a potential problem. But until we have an accident involving a child or a pet, we become used to them and forget the potential danger they represent. And then it becomes too easy to leave something in harm’s way.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals listed the top toxins that impacted pets during 2020. All were home and garden products but two, which were human food. The majority were over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, bouquets and plants, household toxicants, rodenticide, veterinary products, insecticide and garden products. It’s hard to imagine a home without multiple varieties of each of these. All should be kept out of reach for kids and pets!

Good for You, But Not for Pets

One of the biggest surprises may be that items which are safe for people are not always safe for pets. Watching a hungry dog wolf down food illustrates one good example. Except for very young children, most people can pick through chicken or fish. If they come across a bone, they can deal with it.

But dogs, cats and other pets are very likely to suffer injury from a sharp bone, even a small bone. They just aren’t “programmed” to recognize that danger. Their instincts tell them to eat it quickly so another won’t steal it first.

Other problems are even riskier. Over the counter and prescription medications that are okay for humans may not be safe for pets. Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, decongestants, stomach medicines, birth control, diet pills, and even vitamins can be unsafe for pets, even in small quantities. If your pet gets hold of these, you may be visiting your vet or calling poison control.

Pet-Specific Threats

Some of these threats are dangerous only to certain pets. For example, a relatively new insect repellent, Permethrin, can be sprayed on clothing for good results. However, it should be dried before wearing and, while still wet, is especially dangerous for cats. Risk for other pets appears to be minimal and, once it’s dried, even the danger to cats falls or disappears.

Another  common insect repellent, DEET, is also potentially harmful to cats and dogs. Although part of many popular brands (alternatives are increasingly available), DEET can cause tremors, seizures and even death.

Another feline threat involves essential oils, which can cause everything from breathing trouble or skin problems. Birds are often especially sensitive to chemicals of several kinds. Even spraying something in a nearby hall can endanger a pet bird.

One of the most dangerous household chemicals for pets will likely be found in the basement or garage: antifreeze. Even small amounts can be life-threatening to many pets and, worse, many animals find the “sweet” taste of antifreeze attractive. Even a little spill on a concrete floor can be a threat.

Paint thinners or solvents are other common dangers, capable of burning a pet’s skin and causing serious problems if ingested. Drain cleaners, some perfumes and more are on the list, too.

Look for Problems Before They Happen

These are only a sample of potential poisons for pets that you likely have in your house. If your pet comes into contact with any of these and shows signs of distress or simply unusual behavior, call a poison control center or your veterinarian right away.

To get you started, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline is 888-426-4435. Keep a list of your local vet and other numbers handy so if the danger comes to your pet, you’ll be prepared!