Got a great pet...or a few? You’ll want to protect their health by knowing the basics. And, of course, that means keeping their pokey noses out of where they don’t belong so they don’t ingest things they shouldn’t. But that’s not going to help you if you don’t know what’s safe and what’s not.


That’s why the American Society for the Prevention of Crulety to Animals (ASPCA) keeps track of which poisons were most likely to affect our pets in any given year through their Animal Poison Control Center. They then publishes the list so that the rest of us won’t make last year’s same stupid human mistakes all over again. Wishful thinking. 


This past year, the ASPCA tracked the top pet toxins by category:


1. Human Medications


By far the most popular poisons are found in the drugs we take for our own maladies. Advil, Tylenol, Aleve and their ilk top the list. Sometimes it’s because the candy coating proves irresistible. But in my experience, the most common  kind of pet poisoning is owner-induced––as when Fluffy’s fever gets treated to a Tylenol tablet. Bad, bad, bad! Always talk to your veterinarian before administering ANY human medication to your pets.



2. Insecticides


Fleas, ticks and other bugs may be hateful things. But that’s no excuse to kill your pet along with them. Safe products are everywhere. Make sure your exterminator is licensed and knows you keep pets you need to protect (birds are especially susceptible). And stay away from non-veterinary flea and tick meds. If you must use something less expensive, ask your vet before shopping at the supermarket.



3. “People Food”


Raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, chocolate and some sugar substitutes (Xylitol, in particular) are all toxic to dogs and potentially to cats, too. Though human food is generally very safe for pets (and when judiciously introduced, might make your pet much healthier), these items are a no-no.



4. Rodenticides


Ridding yourself of rats doesn’t have to include poisons. Still, poison pellets are by far the most popular way to dispatch rats in the United States. Problem is, the stuff will work on any mammal––including humans. And pets who consume afflicted rats are similarly at risk. Do your pets (and your neighbor’s pets) a favor and don’t buy the toxic kind.



5. Veterinary Medications


Ever heard tell of the medical truism, “Any drug strong enough to help you is strong enough to hurt you?” Same goes for your pets. Side effects are common. And overdoses happen––especially with the delectably chewable products.



6. Plants


The ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline received 8,000 calls last year related to plant ingestion. Azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera were listed among the hazards. Beware lilies and cats, especially. Just a little can shut their kidneys down for good.



7. Chemical Hazards


Antifreeze (ethylene glycol), paint thinner, and pool chemicals are among the chemicals pets are most likely to get into. Simple measure to hide these away safely can make all the difference. 



8. Household Cleaners


It should be a no-brainer, but many pet owners don’t pet-proof their homes as diligently as they might child-proof them. Leaving bleaches, cleaners and soaps out can be deadly. I find that bathroom chemicals are the most common offenders, as they’re less likely to have dedicated cabinets. Toilet bowl soaps and yummy-smelling bath salts were popular in my hospital last year.



9. Heavy Metals


Lead is a biggie. Just as children exposed to the fine dust of old paint may suffer permanently damaging neurological effects, pets can, too. It becomes a much more serious problem when you’ve got a pet who actually chews on doors, baseboards and furniture containing these paints. 



10. Fertilizers


In 2008, the ASPCA’s Poison Control Hotline fielded 2,000 calls related to accidental exposure to fertilizers. It shouldn’t be hard to make these potential poisons inaccessible. Lock ‘em up!



Image: Vera Zinkova / Shutterstock