What Pet Owners Can Do To Keep Pets From Being Poisoned

Poisoning of family pets is one of the most common dilemmas facing the veterinarian.  All too often the inciting toxin is not identified or the toxic level of the substance is undetermined.  Consequently, the treatment approach is all encompassing including intense observation and in some cases, lengthy hospitalization.  Poison prevention can be a very difficult task for a busy household with young children and numerous family pets.  The inquisitive nature of animals presents as prime targets to explore, which in many cases finding substances which look inviting.  In many cases, these substances can be deadly.  The old adage “oust of sight, out of mind” does not apply due to the keen sense of smell and the impulse to explore.  At last, the attempt to prevent exposure is only as good as the ability to keep toxins out of reach. 

There are several hundred thousand potential toxic substances in the environment therefore it is not possible to be knowledgeable of all the toxicities.  The good news is that there are poison control centers located throughout the U.S. and Canada to provide readily available information.  These centers aid physicians, veterinarians, and others in health fields to offer insights on specific poisons and treatment protocols.  These resources can be helpful when faced with rodenticides/insecticides, and other lesser known toxins such as grapes, artificial sweeteners, household plants, human medications, etc.

A suspected poisoned animal is a medical emergency and one must err on the side of caution even if there is no definitive proof that the animal has been involved in a poisonous incident.  Certainly intense investigation of the environment and status of the animal is paramount in attempting to establish suspected toxins and treatment protocols. 

As a general rule, emergency first aid is suggested for the owner as follows:

  1. Induce vomiting using hydrogen peroxide and saving the vomitus for future evaluation. However, if the toxic material is known to be a corrosive substance, vomiting should not be induced. In these instances, oral dilution of the toxin is also important with milk or water.
  2. If the animal was in physical contact with the toxin, the skin should be profused with water.
  3. If hyperactivity or convulsions are noted, attempt to protect the animal from self-injury.
  4. Seek veterinary help without delay, bringing samples of the suspected toxin as well as vomitus retrieved.


  • Dr. Hackett