Accidental poisonings in the home are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. This week you can raise your awareness and take action to protect yourself and your family (human and animal) from poison-related accidents. The Poison Prevention Week Council has published a list of 50 tips for preventing poisonings in the home. Many of these tips are geared toward small children, but they can also apply to pets. Here are a few to be aware of, especially for the pets in your life:
Use this week “as the time to inspect your entire home for any medicines or household products . . . that may not be stored properly.”
Take a tour of your house through your pet’s eyes. This could mean getting down on your hands and knees and taking a stroll around. Explore under the furniture and in all the corners and nooks that you’re not usually thinking about. Look for cleaning products that are easily accessible, meaning they’re not enclosed in a cupboard or behind a shut door. Pay attention to what doors get left open in your home. We have a bad habit of leaving the pantry door open most of the time. This could allow a pet to access our cleaning supplies along with old brushes and rags with chemical residue on them. Also look for old products that may have corroded or leaked over time. Odds are they’re in the very back corner of the bottom shelf: hard for you to find but right in front of your pet’s nose. Clean up and change any problem spots you discover.
“Re-close medicines and other household products if interrupted during use.” You might be surprised to find that most common human medicines are harmful to pets. A single pill of things like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and sleep aids will have very negative effects on your pet’s health. Get in the habit of keeping all medicines secure all the time. Don’t leave loose pills out to take later. Always recap the bottles. And pay attention to any pills you drop. This last one is very important since your pet is most likely to discover the lost and forgotten pills on the floors of your bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen. If you know you dropped a pill, it’s always worth your pet’s safety to immediately get on your hands and knees to find it.
“If you think someone has been poisoned, call Poison Help.”
It’s important to know that there’s a poison hotline for humans and there’s a separate hotline for pets since it takes a different area of expertise to know how substances will affect animals. Be aware that most pet poison hotlines will charge a fee for consultation services. Along with a pet poison hotline, you should also know or have available the contact information for your veterinarian or the closest pet care clinic. Keep these numbers in your phone and posted in the kitchen for the benefit of any pet sitters or caretakers you may employ.
“Always remember to rinse and re-cap laundry containers before throwing away or recycling.”
Securely close or clean any products that you throw away. Use trash bins with secure lids so that your pet will not be able to access any old chemical containers. To a dog, an old plastic bottle might look like a great toy to play with and chew on. Never allow your pets to play with any old product containers, otherwise they might try harder to seek them out.
“Remove children, pets, and toys before applying pesticides (inside or outside the home).”
This tip includes the subtle yet very important idea that toys and other commonly used objects should not be exposed to pesticides. When using powerful cleaners, pesticides, and other products, remove all the items that your pet will be likely to eat or chew on. This includes toys, food, and bedding. Additionally, always read and carefully follow product instructions. Keep or make note of the products that you use in the case of an accidental poisoning. Not knowing what chemical is affecting your pet will delay prompt diagnosis and treatment for your pet.
“Keep batteries out of reach…keep magnetic toys and other magnetic items away.”
Any small items can be potential threats if swallowed, but magnets and batteries are especially problematic. Not only do they create a blockage, but batteries can also leak chemicals and multiple magnets can perforate internal tissues and organs by continuing to click together when in close proximity to one another.
This week, take the time to better protect your family by learning about possible poisoning threats and acting to remove them from your home.