Poison Prevention: Pet-Proof Your Living Room and Kitchen

Hey Pet Parents, did you know an important anniversary is coming up the week of March 18-24, 2019? It is the 50th anniversary of Poison Prevention Week. This isn’t just a pet affair; this happening is also directed at raising awareness with the parents of small children. This is very significant because, as we all know, pets and small children are both vulnerable and susceptible to the accidental ingestion of life-threatening items commonly found in the home. In this blog we are going to focus on our pets.

So, how do we accomplish making our homes safe for our animal companions?

First, make certain you are prepared to act in case you need help.

Place the national, free Poison Helpline phone number: 1-800-222-1222 somewhere you can find it during an emergency, like the refrigerator. You can also save the number in your mobile phone by texting POISON to 797979.  Another important resource you should have on your fridge, that has been a literal life saver for many years, is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) phone number: 1-888-426-4435.  The ASPCA APCC also has a free mobile app for your phone that focuses on dogs, cats, horses, and birds. This app helps owners quickly identify over 300 potential everyday hazards, provides crucial information about the severity of the problem and critical next steps. Go to the app store on your mobile phone and search for ASPCA. The app is called: Animal Poison by ASPCA.

The other critically important phone number to have handy is that of your family veterinarian.  Following Murphy’s Law, emergencies unusually happen when your vet is closed so be certain to have the nearest emergency veterinary clinic’s phone number handy too.

The next thing we all need to do is to practice safe storage habits.

Always store medicines and hazardous substances up and away from pets. If hazardous substances need to be stored in areas where pets can reach, be certain to use locking mechanisms that are effective against your pet companions. Hazardous substances, including medications, should be kept in their original, child resistant containers which is great for kids but many times no match for your pets’ teeth and jaws. It is important to try and locate the remnants of a chewed medicine container, once it has been demolished, to help identify what your pet chewed and/or ingested.

Your next step is to go through your home and identify items which should be kept away from your pet.

There are several methods to help identify items that are harmful to your animal companions. One is by categorizing them by the room or area in your home where you keep them and another is simply by listing them.

Let’s start by categorizing them by areas:

Main Living areas

  • Common household plants such as lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.) can be toxic to dogs and cats so eliminate them from bouquets where cats live and keep them out of reach of dogs.
  • Aerosols or heavily fragranced products can be harmful to pet birds so don’t spray them in rooms that contain your flying friends.
  • Keep ashtrays and smoking associated items such as nicotine chewing gum, patches and vaping products out of reach. Even cigarette butts contain enough nicotine to be dangerous.
  • Be careful with batteries as some dogs enjoy chewing on batteries and battery-containing devices such as remote controls, electronic toys and cell phones. If ingested, they can cause serious chemical burns.
  • Hide your purse and backpack! Pets love to rummage through purses and backpacks which may contain potential pet poisons like medications, cigarettes or sugar-free gum with xylitol.


  • Be mindful of the human foods that can be poisonous to dogs and cats. Common foods to be avoided are raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, unbaked yeast bread dough, fatty foods and of course chocolate.
  • Keep garbage cans secured behind closed doors or drawers. Trash and compost bins can contain many pet toxins such as cigarette butts, coffee grounds, moldy foods and bones.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach, pets should never drink alcohol!!
  • Most bird owners know the dangers of nonstick cookware around birds. When nonstick surfaces like Teflon™ are heated to very high temperatures, they emit vapors that damage a birds’ sensitive respiratory system and can cause instant death. Don’t overheat your non-stick cookware and do not house your bird in or near your kitchen.
Meet Petland’s Consulting Veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Edling, DVM, MSpVM, MPH:
Dr. Edling received his BS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1981 and his degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Colorado State University. He previously served as Vice President of Veterinary Medicine for Petco and was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. In addition, Dr. Edling completed the American Board of Veterinary Practitioner’s residency program for Companion and Wild Avian Medicine and Surgery, at North Carolina State University, where he also received his Master in Specialized Veterinary Medicine (MSpVM) in 2001. In 2011, Dr. Edling completed the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Johns Hopkins University. As a veterinarian, Dr. Edling works closely with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV).

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