When an inquisitive pet with a lack of dietary discretion is combined with a careless owner, all too often the result is the ingestion of a toxic substance, resulting in emergency veterinary treatment and often large medical bills. The nation’s largest pet insurance provider, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), has analyzed nearly 20,000 poisoning-related claims collected between 2005 and 2009 to determine the most common causes:
- Accidental Ingestion of Pet or Human Medications: 5,131
- Rodenticide (Rat Poison): 4,028
- Methylxanthine (Chocolate, Caffeine) Toxicity: 3,661
- Plant Poisoning: 2,808
- Household Chemicals: 1,669
- Metaldehyde (Slug Poison): 396
- Insecticide: 323
- Heavy Metal Toxicity: 288
- Toad Poisoning: 270
- Antifreeze Poisoning: 213
- Walnut Poisoning: 100
- Alcohol Toxicity: 75
- Strychnine: 28
Between 2005 and 2009, customers of pets who had ingested a toxic substance spent more than $6.6 million treating their pets. The most common type of poisoning, accidental ingestion of medications, cost policyholders an average of $791 per claim. The most expensive type of poisoning, heavy metal poisoning such as lead and zinc, cost an average of $952 per claim.
"Not only can a poisoning incident be life-threatening for the pet, it’s traumatic for the pet owner as well. Depending on what substance the pet has ingested and the amount, the reaction can be sudden with the animal exhibiting alarming symptoms such as staggering, vomiting, drooling, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. We recommend that pet owners be aware of which items around their homes can be harmful to their pets – medications, insect poisons, chocolate, and certain nuts – and keep these items safely out of reach. Also, they shouldn’t assume that their pets will ignore that bottle of bleach in the laundry room or the Philodendron plant by the window. Our data shows this just isn’t so," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.