“Almost all plant poisonings in pets can be prevented, but prevention depends on knowledge, thus it is important for pet owners to become familiar with which items can be toxic if ingested,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Prevention is a simple matter of keeping these hazards out of a pet“s environment. To avoid plant poisonings, try not to give a dog table scraps that contain raisins, onions or nuts, and make sure that a new pet is introduced to a backyard free of sago palms, wild mushrooms or other toxic plants.”
Pet owners have good reason to take the threat of grape/raisin ingestion seriously. Even in low doses, ingestion can place pets at risk for acute renal failure. Symptoms include anorexia, lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The exact cause is unknown, but some experts think that there may be a toxic component in the skin of the grape/raisin. Treatment by a licensed veterinarian may include inducing vomiting and/or administration of intravenous fluids. Immediate treatment is essential.
The mushrooms most responsible for poisoning pets are the common “backyard” variety. These often grow in grassy places, especially after a heavy rain, and contain toxic components that disrupt the functioning of the digestive tract and liver. If ingested, mushrooms can cause salivation, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver failure. The best way to prevent an accidental ingestion is to regularly scan a yard, or any other grassy area a pet may occupy, and pull wild mushrooms up when they appear.
Most mushroom ingestion claims were submitted in late summer and fall. In fact, half of the plant poisoning claims received in October were due to mushroom ingestion. In addition to the top 10 plant poisonings, VPI received claims for ingestion of the following plants or plant products: delphinium, crocus bulbs, hemlock, rhododendrons, gladiolus, tea tree oil, poison ivy, nightshade, tobacco, poinsettia, oleander, brunfelsia, hibiscus, almonds, scarlet pimpernel, potpourri and kalanchoe. Nearly all claims for lily ingestion were submitted for felines.
While not a plant or plant product, fertilizer is another garden variety toxin often ingested by pets. The strong smell of fertilizer can motivate dogs to taste or eat it. Unfortunately, some fertilizers contain organophosphate pesticides which impair the nervous system. In 2008, VPI received 60 claims for organophosphate poisoning. Pet owners can avoid accidents involving fertilizer by not using pesticide-containing fertilizers in an area frequented by pets. As with plant poisonings, prevention of fertilizer poisoning is primarily a matter of observation and knowledge of a pet“s environment.