Savvy Smarts: Limit Your Pet’s Exposure To Toxins

The Animal Poison Control Center receives thousands of calls each year from pet owners whose animals have accidently swallowed medication inadvertently dropped on the floor, serious reactions to human food or interaction with toxic household products. Our pets are generally unprotected from hazardous and toxic chemicals in our homes.

With more than fifty percent of Americans owning at least one pet, this leaves millions of animals unprotected unless we provide our furry companions with the least amount of chemical exposure possible.

Follow these guidelines to decrease your loving pet’s exposure to toxic chemicals:

  • Foods: Remember to keep your food cabinets closed and don’t leave human food anywhere your pet could possibly reach, jump or climb to retrieve it. Ingestion of significant amounts of chocolate has been reported to cause vomiting diarrhea, hyperactivity and even seizures and death in animals. Although cats, birds and rodents are susceptible, this problem is most common in dogs. The ingestion of raisins or grapes [a popular food item in homes], has resulted in the development of renal failure in some dogs. Rotten food with its toxins can cause vomiting and result in possible damage to internal organs.
  • Preservatives: Read all the labels on the foods you feed your pet. Avoid these three specific preservatives in your pet’s food: BHA which stands for butylated hydroxyanisole, BHT which is butylated hydroxytoluene and a preservative called ethoxyquin should all be avoided. To read about the detrimental effects of these preservatives please go to
  • Drug Safety: Be careful when taking your over-the-counter and prescription medications, vitamins, supplements and any other kind of pill out of their container and putting them on a counter or table. It is very easy for one of the pills to fall on the floor and for your pet to swallow it. If you think your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the 24-hour emergency poison hotline [The Animal Poison Control Center’s] directly at 1-888-426-4435. The Web site is
  • Pet’s Bowl: Clean the food and water bowl of your pet on a daily basis. Since chemicals from plastic can migrate into your pets bowl, it is best to use a stainless steel or a ceramic bowl. However, if you use a ceramic bowl make sure the bowl does not contain lead.
  • Pesticides/Detergents: All Pesticides and Detergents should be inaccessible to your pets. If you go to the following Web site and click on cleaners and toxins guide. At this Web site you will be able to download their guide to cleaners and toxins.
  • Flea and Tick Medicines/Collars: Always check with your veterinarian before you initiate any type of flea or tick program. Your veterinarian should inform you about the correct dosage and appropriateness for flea medicine and whether a flea or tick collar is appropriate or even necessary for your pet.
  • Plants: Be careful and keep poisonous plants inside your home or outside on your deck or lawn. Examples of a few poisonous plants would be oleander, foxglove, daffodil and rhododendron. Additional poisonous plants can be found at
  • Pet’s Bed: Your pet’s bedding or cage should be cleaned on a regular basis. Even if the bedding is discolored, avoid using bleach that contains harmful chemicals and use liquid lemon juice instead.
  • Paws and Claws: Wipe your pet’s feet with a towel and warm water when they come into the house after a walk or playing outside.

Here’s to a long, healthy life to your furry friends!

Linda Winkler Garvin, R.N., M.S.N., of Alameda, California, is Director of Health Management Associates, a health advocate and educator with an advanced degree in nursing. She assists individuals in navigating the complexities of their health problems from medical treatment, health insurance issues, chronic diseases and chronic pain. She is the author of several articles, including nutrition, health insurance, guided imagery & chronic health problems. Learn more at or e-mail her at


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