Dogs and cats eat many of the same things we do but they metabolize both foods and drugs differently than humans. Cats, in particular, have different metabolic pathways in their livers, which mean that some drugs that are safe for people or dogs are very dangerous for them. Following are five (5) common items which can be potentially deadly to your pet.
1) Pain Medications: The most common toxicity we see at the emergency clinic is the ingestion of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications. These pain medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, Tylenol, and the veterinary drugs carprofen and deramaxx. Tylenol cannot be metabolized correctly by cats so even one (1) adult tablet is enough to result in death if ingested by a cat. Dogs are more tolerant, but an overdose can lead to severe anemia and liver damage. Ibuprofen, especially the brand name Advil, tastes sweet on the outside so dogs may eat through the bottle or especially through plastic bags. Carprofen, or Rimadyl, comes as a chewable tablet for dogs. Unfortunately, it tastes good so it is easy to give. However, I have seen dogs chew through child proof containers and eat the full contents. (Important – Always keep ALL medications, even those prescribed for your pet, in child proof containers, up high and out of reach.)
2) Lilies: The most dangerous plant toxicity we see is exposure of cats to lilies. I wish that more florists and nurseries knew this and could help get the word out. Members of species Liliaceae including Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum), Tiger lilies (Lilium tigerinum), Japanese showy lily (Lilium speciosum), Stargazer lily (Lilium orientalis) and daylily species (Hemerocallis demortieri and fulva) all contain an unknown compound that if ingested can lead to acute kidney shutdown. The toxin, which has not been identified, concentrates in the pollen and flowers so if a cat gets pollen on their fur and then grooms, they are at risk of the toxicity. Many cats will have moderate vomiting within hours of ingestion and can have fulminant kidney failure within two to three days if not treated. Treatment for exposure includes inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal and two to three days of intravenous fluids to prevent kidney damage. (Important – We strongly recommend not keeping lilies in any house where a cat lives.)
3) Sugar Free Gum: Dogs cannot metabolize the xylitol that is in many sugar free gums. The ingested xylitol can cause a severe drop in the blood sugar which can lead to seizures and even death. In addition, in large ingestions, liver failure is a risk. The amount of xylitol in sugar free gums is variable so without knowing the type, it is hard to know how many pieces could lead to clinical signs. If xylitol is one of the first ingredients, one to two pieces can be enough to cause a problem in a small dog. (Important – Keep sugar free gum out of the reach of dogs and/or considering buying gum with lower xylitol content.)
4) Grapes and Raisins: In 2001, the National Animal Poison Center, reported that they had consulted on 10 cases of cats and dogs who had eaten either grapes or raisins who then developed kidney failure. Much work has been done but we still don’t know why this occurs in some animals. It does not appear to be related to fertilizers or other chemicals and it does appear some animals may be more susceptible than others. In a 2005 study of 43 dogs and cats with kidney issues secondary to grape or raisin ingestion, dosages as little as 0.1 oz/kg raisins and 0.7 oz/kg of grapes resulted in the signs. (Important – We do not recommend feeding your pets grapes or raisins. Contact your veterinarian if your pet eats a large quantity.)
5) Rising Bread Dough: Dogs will occasionally eat an entire loaf of bread dough when it is rising. Bread dough in the stomach will ferment and release alcohol due to the heat in the stomach. Dogs have been seen with both bloated stomachs and with signs of severe alcohol intoxication. Treatment involves inducing vomiting if caught early or sometimes instilling ice water in the stomach to stop the fermentation process if they are too weak to vomit safely. (Important – Keep bread dough out of the reach of “counter surfing” dogs.)
It is wise to keep phone numbers for National Animal Poison Center and your local emergency clinic close to your phone. Always call if your pet eats something out of the ordinary.