The official start of spring — the vernal equinox on March 20 — is just a week away, and with its arrival comes all types of indoor and outdoor activities for us, our families and our furry friends. Next week is also National Poison Prevention Week, an annual observance created to raise awareness for poisoning dangers and to reduce unintentional poisonings. So, before you tackle lawn care, gardening and spring cleaning, take time to identify potential poisons that may be hiding around your home, in the garage or in the yard — and take steps to keep them out of paws’ reach.
Start off spring with a cautious cleaning
Your pets may not help with the cleaning, but they may try to add extra shine by licking things you just cleaned. Some dogs even prefer dirty mop bucket water to fresh, clean water! According to ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, nearly all cleaning products — including all-natural products — contain chemicals that may be harmful to pets. Some household cleaners can cause irritation or burns to a pet’s mouth, vomiting or diarrhea. Others may lead to liver or kidney damage. To protect your pet, use cleaners according to their label directions, keep pets out of the area being cleaned, and store all cleaning products out of your pets’ (and children’s) reach.
The same goes for laundry detergent pods, dishwasher packs and fabric softener dryer sheets. These products contain cationic detergents that can cause serious symptoms, such as ulcers in the mouth and throat along with drooling, vomiting and fever. If your dog ingests several dryer sheets — used or unused — an intestinal blockage may occur.
Check out ASPCA’s poisonous household products guide to determine which products can be a problem for your furry family members.
Prudent plantings can help avoid lethal landscaping
Spring rain and sunshine bring plenty of beautiful flowers, including crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, lilies of the valley, azaleas and rhododendrons. If ingested, these plants vary in their ability to injure your pets. Check out Pet Poison Helpline’s website for information about the most common spring plants and the symptoms they can cause.
If you’ll be updating or adding new landscaping this spring, you’ll want to check if prospective plants could cause potential poisonings. And if you’re unsure if any plants currently in your yard pose a hazard to your pets, be sure to check out ASPCA’s poisonous plants and Pet Poison Helpline’s database. You’ll want to remove or avoid planting those that can cause severe or life-threatening toxicities, such as rhododendrons, oleanders, sago palms, yews and true lilies (including day, Easter, Asiatic, tiger and Japanese show lilies).
Keep lawn and garden chemicals out of paws’ reach
Fertilizers, compost, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides keep our lawns and garden plants healthy and green. But they can also cause tummy troubles and more when eaten by curious cats and dogs.
While many fertilizers cause only mild stomach and intestinal irritation when ingested, some can have effects that could be deadly if left untreated. Bone meal and blood meal are excellent organic fertilizers, but they’re also very appealing to dogs. Blood meal can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested; but more importantly, it can trigger severe pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). If blood meal — or any fertilizer, for that matter — is fortified with iron, iron toxicity is a potential concern. Ingested bone meal can form a large, cement-like ball in the stomach that blocks the movement of food.
Compost is a wonderful way to recycle and provides organic matter for garden soil. But it can also attract pets, especially dogs. Molds growing on decaying plant material or food leftovers like bread can produce substances called mycotoxins that cause tremors and seizures if eaten. Plus, other potentially toxic foods such as onions, garlic and grapes may be present in a compost pile.
Consider keeping pets inside when herbicides, insecticides or other products are being applied to lawns, trees and other plantings. Dogs and cats will sometimes lick the chemical treatment off of plants as it’s being applied. Or they may follow you as you’re working and be accidentally sprayed. To avoid potential problems, keep all pets out of an area that’s being treated.
Finally, apply fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and any other lawn and garden products according to the instructions on the product labels. It’s a good idea to keep your pets off of the lawn or out of garden beds until products have been watered in or it has rained and the ground has dried.
Seasonal celebrations mean treats and decorations
Easter celebrations often mean Easter lilies, egg hunts and baskets filled with chocolate bunnies and fake grass — and extra precautions to protect your dogs and cats. Chocolate and xylitol-containing sugar-free candy can be toxic to cats and dogs if enough is eaten. Even a very small ingestion of an Easter lily can cause kidney failure in cats. Keep in mind, too, that cats are notorious for chewing on the plastic grass used in Easter baskets and other string decorations. Unfortunately, consuming stringy decorations can result in life-threatening damage to the intestines, severe vomiting and dehydration. For your pets’ sake, keep all baskets and treats out of paws’ reach.
Know who to call in a poisoning emergency
If you suspect your pet may have ingested something that’s potentially toxic, contact your veterinary clinic or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for advice. You may also want to contact Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) for help in determining if a toxic exposure has occurred, what you may be able to do at home to manage your pet or if you should seek veterinary care immediately.