The sunshine and milder weather of spring are a welcome change for many families and their pets. With increases in an outdoor activity at home, and a new emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting our home environments in response to COVID-19, taking common-sense precautions can help to protect our pets from potential toxins.
Watch where pets dig in the yard, as some flowers and their bulbs can cause sickness if eaten. Tulip, hyacinth, and Spring crocus (Iridaceae) bulbs, and all parts of the daffodil plant, can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. The later-blooming fall crocus Colchicum autumnale (Meadow saffron) is much more toxic (can cause liver or kidney failure).
Lilies are of special note. Some, like the Peace lily, Calla lily, and Peruvian lily, have oxalate crystals in their stems and leaves that cause mouth irritation and drooling. However, the true lilies (Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter lily, and Japanese show lily) are extremely poisonous, in any amount, particularly to cats. Even small bites of a leaf, or grooming and ingesting pollen, can cause kidney damage or kidney failure within hours. If you see or suspect that your pet has eaten any part of a true lily plant, seek veterinary care immediately. (While Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) is not a true lily, it can cause vomiting, heart trouble, and seizures, and intoxication should be treated quickly).
Fertilizers and garden chemicals can be unexpected hazards. Bone meal can cause gastrointestinal blockage; blood meal can trigger pancreatitis. Rose fertilizers may contain organophosphates or other pesticides. Slug or snail bait with metaldehyde can cause seizures in pets. As always, keep antifreeze safely stored, and keep pets out of areas where leaks or spills could happen. Antifreeze is sweet-tasting and small amounts can cause kidney damage or failure. If you see or suspect antifreeze exposure, please contact your vet immediately.
Read all label directions, and store cleaners safely. Phenols, quaternary ammonias, acids, and alkalis (such as lye) can cause contact irritation, digestive troubles, or neurologic problems if eaten. Never mix cleaners! Most detergents and soaps are mild and non-toxic. And, hand sanitizer does not contain antifreeze, so small exposures should not be a worry. More information is available at VeterinaryPartner.vin.com – “Toxic Disinfectants.”
For questions about poison exposure, please contact your veterinarian’s office, or a pet poison control center. For a reasonable fee, they will assess your pet’s exposure, and develop a treatment plan to assist your veterinarian in caring for your pet.
ASPCA Poison Control – (888) 426-4435
Pet Poison Helpline – (855) 764-7661