Some seemingly innocuous common household items can cause severe problems when ingested by animals. The Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) has issued a list of products that all pet owners should be aware of at this time of year, including mothballs, mushrooms, antifreeze, and mouse and rat poisons. Old-fashioned mothballs contain naphthalene, and more modern mothballs contain either paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene, both of which can be deadly. If ingested by an animal, symptoms include vomiting, severe abdominal pain, tremors, weakness, possible kidney or liver failure, and severe abnormality of the pet’s red blood cells.
While most mushrooms are generally non-toxic, certain types, such as Amanita phalloides or death cap mushroom, are very dangerous to pets. The death cap mushroom is found throughout the United States and proper identification is so difficult that the helpline advises that pet owners should consider all mushroom ingestion as dangerous until proven otherwise. Depending on what type of mushroom is ingested, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression, tremors, and seizures, with liver and kidney damage occurring later. The PPH recommends that you remove mushrooms from your yard as frequently as possible.
At this time of year it is common to prepare boats and cars for winter with antifreeze top-ups. Most pet owners are aware of the danger of antifreeze, but are unaware that even as little as one teaspoon can be fatal when ingested. Antifreeze is particularly dangerous because it is tasteless, so pet owners should be very careful with even minor spillages. Signs of early (antifreeze) poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys, which result in acute kidney failure. Immediate treatment with an antidote is vital. The helpline also warns pet owners to position rat and mouse poison in positions that pets are unable to each.
"Rodenticides also pose the potential for relay toxicity," said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. "In other words, if your dog eats a bunch of dead mice poisoned by rodenticides, they can experience secondary effects."