Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Health and Wellness: Common Household Hazards
by Brian King DVM The Pet Vet in Mt. Pleasant

There are many potential toxins in the average household. Most dog owners are aware of some of these household products that could cause their pets to become sick. Chocolate, antifreeze, and pesticides are three possible poisons that many owners are attentive to. However, there are a number of common items that could be dangerous to dogs that you may not know about. If your dog consumes one of these substances, there is the possibility of some level of toxicity, but not all dogs will react adversely.

Toilet Water (Tank Drop-Ins)--Typically toilet tank drop-ins contain corrosive agents, yet concentration is very low when mixed with the water in the bowl.
Ingestion can cause nausea and mild vomiting with occasional ulceration of the mouth and tongue.

Cigarettes and Cigars--These harbor between 15-40 milligrams of nicotine with the filters carrying 25% of the total nicotine content. If the dog experiences adverse effects, the symptoms usually come on quickly, typically within 45 minutes. Watch for neurological signs such as muscle tremor, weakness, collapse, or even a coma. The lethal dose is approximately nine milligrams per kilogram; translating to between five to eight cigarettes for a 50 pound dog.

Pennies--Ingestion of coins is very common in dogs. Pennies minted since 1983 contain 99.2% zinc and 0.8% copper making them a rich source of zinc. Zinc can cause the rupturing of red blood cells, which can result in anemia. Hardware supplies such as nuts, bolts, and screws are another source of zinc so should be kept in a dog-proof container.

Bread Dough--Raw Bread dough made with yeast poses threats if consumed by your dog. The warm, moist environment of the stomach stimulates yeast growth which can cause gastric distention that can be quite severe. Perhaps even more significant is the release of alcohol from the yeast fermentation (beer). This can result in a drunken state and metabolic acidosis.

Moth Balls-- Moth balls are usually either 100% Naphthalene or 99% Para dichlorobenzene. The Naphthalene moth balls are twice as toxic. Like zinc, Naphthalene can cause rupturing of red blood cells.Para dichlorobenzene affects the liver and nervous system. It can take up to three days for your dog to show symptoms if it becomes poisoned by moth balls.

Mold--Many dogs will eat almost anything, including moldy food. The mold can be made up of tremorgenic myco(fungal)toxins and are a common, yet under diagnosed cause of tremors and seizures in dogs.

Ant and Roach Baits--Baits can include safe ingredients such as peanut butter or sugar, making them an attractive treat for dogs. The insecticides used in these baits usually poses little threat to dogs and rarely do they require treatment if ingested.

Silica Gel Packets--These are common in medication and food packaging and if consumed, can result in mild stomach upset.

Birth Control Pills--Each packet of oral contraceptives contains 21 pills of estrogen or progesterone. If too much or either hormone is eaten by your dog, bone marrow suppression can occur. If levels of ingestion are greater than one milligram per kilogram (about 22 milligram per 50 pound dog) than medical treatment is needed. Today’s birth control pills contain very small amounts of estrogen or progesterone and a 50 pound dog would have to eat at least a whole packet to need treatment.

Liquid Potpourri--The ingredients in these products often include essential oils and detergents. Essential oils can mildly irritate the mouth and stomach, whereas detergents can cause sever ulceration and pain in the same areas.

Ingestion of household toxins is a very common occurrence with dogs. Some dogs are more likely than others to eat things they are not supposed to. It is important to know what potential poisons are in your residence and effects they can have. Of course, anything that could be dangerous to your dog should not be available to him. However, accidents happen, so call your veterinarian if you have any questions or problems.

ASPCA Animal Control Center:

Brian King can be reached at

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