March 2011

National Poison Prevention Week, which is March 20 to 26 this year, was established by Congress in 1961 to promote poison prevention in homes across America. This includes our pets as well. In fact, the ASPCA®’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) fielded 167,000 phone calls about pets exposed to poisonous substances in 2010. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help keep your pets safe and be prepared in case of an emergency.

Common Poison Dangers

You may be aware of some poison dangers around your house, but some might come as a surprise. For instance, did you know that dryer sheets can harm your pets? They can contain detergents that cause gastrointestinal irritation, especially in cats. Here are five other pet poison problems that could be lurking in your home. You should also ask your veterinarian for more advice about your particular pets.

1. People Pills

Prescription medications and over-the-counter painkillers, cold medications, and dietary supplements can be harmful to pets. Keep them out of paw’s reach in cabinets or high up on shelves. Pets can grab them off low nightstands or counters. Also, pick up dropped pills before your pets can gobble them up. And never give your pets any kind of medication without speaking to your veterinarian first.

2. Dangerous Dining

There are certain foods you should be wary of when it comes to your furry friends. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, and gum or candy containing xylitol can all be dangerous to pets. Why is chocolate so dangerous? It contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which can cause problems from vomiting to seizures. Other problematic foods include coffee, macadamia nuts, onions, salt, yeast dough, and garlic.

3. Perilous Plants

Plants that can harm your pets include lilies, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Lilies are very poisonous to cats, and can result in kidney failure even from a small nibble. Poinsettias can also be problematic, but they’re not as dangerous as you might think. They typically cause mild to severe tummy upset if eaten. Check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants to see if your plants are safe, and find some good green choices for your home.

4. Cleaning Supplies

Household cleaners like bleach, detergents, and disinfectants can be irritating and even toxic to pets. They can cause tummy troubles, eye or skin irritation, or difficulty breathing if inhaled or ingested by your dogs or cats. Take precautions when using these products. For instance, put your pets in another room while you mop, dust, and scrub. And, of course, keep cleaning supplies in a safe place.

5. Bad Chemistry

Pet poisoning incidents involving chemicals, like those found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinners, drain cleaners, and pool or spa treatments are on the rise. These substances can cause stomach upset, depression, breathing problems, and chemical burns. Don’t let your pets near chemicals when you’re using them, and store them securely. Also, clean spills right away so your pets can’t lap them up.

Animal Poison Control Center

If you think one of your pets has been exposed to poison, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) can help. The APCC is staffed with specially trained veterinary toxicologists available around the clock. They have experience with more than 1 million cases and access to an extensive database to diagnose problems quickly and offer treatment advice.

Keep the APCC hotline, 1-888-426-4435, in a prominent location. A $65 consulting fee may apply, but 80% of this charge is covered by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. If you have any questions about your coverage, you can view your plan at the Member Center or call us at 1-866-204-6764.

Information was accurate at time of publication, please contact us to check on available reimbursement options.

In Case of Emergency

Symptoms of animal poisoning vary, but you may notice vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, lethargy, trouble breathing, or seizures. If your pet is ill, these pointers can help.

Stay calm, and don’t try to induce vomiting on your own. It may not be necessary, and you could risk injuring yourself or your pet.

Get help by calling your veterinarian or the APCC at 1-888-426-4435. The APCC may charge a $65 consultation fee, 80% of which is covered by ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.

Have information ready, like your pet’s age, breed, what they were exposed to, when it happened, and any container or packaging information.

To get more tips and information on pet poison prevention, visit the APCC online.

Go Green
for Your Pets

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are some different ways to “go green” for healthier pets and a cleaner environment.

  • Quench your pet’s thirst with filtered tap water rather than bottled water. If you do use a bottle, recycle it.

  • Use biodegradable bags instead of plastic ones as doggie pooper scoopers. For cats, choose earth-friendly litters and avoid brands with mined minerals.

  • Go with environmentally safe pet shampoos and grooming products when you can.

  • Cut back in simple ways, like walking to the park instead of driving or cleaning up with rags instead of paper products.

  • Try your hand at making your own healthy pet treats and store them in a reusable container.

  • Buy large size pet supplies, so you’'ll make fewer trips to the store and have less packaging to throw away.

Also, if you’re signed up for our “Go Paperless” option, you’re helping the environment by getting your plan and available communications online rather than by mail. If you haven’t signed up for paperless, you can do so anytime at the Member Center.

Pet First-Aid Kit

A pet first-aid kit can come in handy for following treatment instructions from your veterinarian or the APCC.* It should include hydrogen peroxide with 3% USP to induce vomiting, a large syringe to administer it, saline eye solution and artificial tear gel to lubricate eyes after flushing, and a mild grease-cutting dishwashing liquid to wash contaminated fur. But remember never to treat your pets without consulting a veterinarian first.

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Pet Speak: A Customer’s Story

I didn’t have pet insurance for my cat, so I've had to spend thousands of dollars on her care during her 18-year life. Fortunately, she’s still with me, but when my daughter brought a tiny puppy home, I knew he needed insurance.

Amigo had a rough beginning, so he’s a little food-obsessed. We’re careful, but sometimes he gets his paws on things he shouldn't. I knew when I got home and saw an empty raisin bag on the floor, we were in trouble! I immediately called the Animal Poison Control Center, who gave me a case number and had me rush Amigo to my veterinarian.

If I hadn’t acted quickly, Amigo most likely would’ve died from kidney failure. But luckily, the veterinarians followed the protocol given to them by the APCC specialists, and he survived. The ordeal was very expensive so I was thankful to have ASPCA Pet Health Insurance!

— Sonya V., Worchester, Mass.

Share your story!

Please note, in some states we now offer 90% reimbursement of usual and customary covered costs.

Conditions discussed in this e-newsletter are not necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Please review your individual policy for specifics by visiting the Member Center online at www.aspcapetinsurance.com or call our customer service line at 1-866-204-6764.

This newsletter is not intended to provide advice on individual pet health or behavioral matters or to substitute for consultation with a veterinary doctor.

While the above testimonial may include examples of recent claim payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.

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