Seven Deadly Pet Sins: Terrible Toxins to Avoid at all Costs

Pet care & safety

The following toxins are common around households and yards and are nothing like your dog eating a couple Hershey kisses. The toxins below can become deadly all too quickly when ingested by our dogs and cats, and you should seek veterinary care ASAP if you suspect your pet has been exposed. Please take a moment to read this list as some of these deadly dangers may already hiding in your medicine cabinet or sprinkled on your lawn.

1. Tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs (such as amitriptyline)

Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant that increases neurotransmitter levels (primarily serotonin). Amitriptyline is safely used in dogs for separation anxiety and cats for urination problems at low dosages, but when a pet gets into the whole bottle, a depressing situation becomes, well, far more than depressing.

Overdoses of tricyclic antidepressants can be life threatening. Cardiac arrhythmias and cardiovascular collapse can be expected. Your pet may suffer other clinical signs such as lethargy, seizures or tremors, and hypotension.

2. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

Antifreeze has a sweet taste that makes it appealing to animals. Most commercial antifreeze preparations contain between 95 to 97 percent pure ethylene glycol! Ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed and can be measured in the blood within 30 minutes.

In most cases of ethylene glycol poisonings, the pet begins vomiting within the first few hours. Within one to six hours post-ingestion, signs of depression, wobbliness on feet, weakness, fast, shallow breathing, increased urination and increased thirst are seen. By 18 to 36 hours acute kidney failure occurs. Other signs seen with ethylene glycol toxicosis include seizures, coma, and death.

3. Lily Toxicosis in Cats

The Easter lily, tiger lily, stargazer lily, Japanese show lily, Asian lily, some species of day lily, and certain other members of the Liliaceae family can be fatal if ingested by a cat. Kidney failure from ingesting these types of lilies has been reported to occur only in cats.

All parts of the lily plant are considered toxic to cats and even ingestion of tiny amounts can cause severe poisoning. Within only a few hours of ingestion, the cat may vomit, become lethargic, or develop a lack of appetite. These signs continue and worsen as kidney damage progresses. Without prompt and proper treatment, the cat will develop kidney failure in approximately 36 to 72 hours. Play it safe and keep these blooms out of your house altogether.

4. Weight loss drugs and flu and cold meds (Ma Huang, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)

Ma Huang is used as an herbal weight loss aid that contains the sympathomimetic alkaloids ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which act as stimulants. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are found in cold and flu medications such as nasal decongestants and are similar in structure to amphetamines. Yikes! These can cause increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, wobbliness, dilated pupils, hyperactivity, tremors, and seizures.

5. Snail bait (metaldehyde)

Metaldehyde is used commonly as a molluscicide. While we don't know the exact mechanism of action, onset of clinical signs is typically within 30 minutes to 3 hours. Common clinical signs seen with metaldehyde toxicosis include increased heart rate, nervousness, panting, drooling, wobbliness, hyperthermia, tremors, and seizures. Metabolic acidosis usually follows requiring hospitalization. In some cases, liver failure may occur within 2 to 3 days post exposure.

6. Fly bait (methomyl - cholinesterase inhibitors)

Methomyl is a highly toxic insecticide that can be found in fly baits. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, such as the carbamate Sevin and the organophosphate malathion, can cause many dangerous side effects. Exposure to these chemicals can cause increased salivation, tearing, urinary incontinence, diarrhea, gastrointestinal cramping, and vomiting. CNS effects may include stupor, coma, and seizures. Hypertension, increased heart rate, or cardiorespiratory depression may also occur. The usual cause of death is respiratory failure.

7. Mole and gopher bait (zinc phosphide)

Zinc phosphide is used in mole and gopher baits and is considered to be highly toxic. The metabolized ingredient causes severe respiratory distress in practically no time. Clinical signs are seen soon after ingestion, typically within 15 minutes to 4 hours. Death occurs secondary to respiratory failure.

There are certainly more than seven deadly toxins to our dogs and cats but this list is a good place to start for common toxic compound around the household when you have pet-proofed against the common and well-known biggies, such as chocolate, macademia nuts, and tylenol. Has your pet had any close encounters with any deadly toxins?