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March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month- knowing what to do and having the necessary tools on hand can avert a minor injury or a major disaster. Keep reading to learn what steps you should take should your furry friend ingest poisons. 

Pet Size Matters in Regards to Poisoning

Size matters in regards to poisoning, whether it is ingested, absorbed, inhaled or injected under the skin! 

What could kill a Chihuahua, may have no effect on a Saint Bernard. The ability for any potentially poisonous substance to cause health issues is proportional to the animal’s body weight. Additionally, every item on a poison list may not harm every animal, but if it has made the list, a significant number of animals have had an adverse reaction to it, so erring on the side of caution is best.

The Dangers of Chocolate

Chocolate accounts for half the calls received by the Pet Poison Helpline.  The sweet treat humans have been told is good for their hearts is most poisonous to dogs, cats, and ferrets. The reason is theobromine, a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic, which can speed up the heart while pulling fluids from the body, resulting in rapid heart rate and breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.

One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight can be fatal to pets. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine which means the less it takes to cause problems. However, it is important to remember that some pets are more sensitive and can be harmed by less than the amount listed below:

  • Milk Chocolate – 1 ounce per pound of pet’s body weight
  • Dark Chocolate – ½ ounce per pound of body weight
  • Baker’s (unsweetened) Chocolate – ¼ ounce per pound of body weight
  • Dry Cocoa Powder – 1/8 ounce (less than one teaspoon) per pound of body weight
  • Cocoa Bean Mulch – Concentration levels of theobromine can vary depending on the manufacturer.  If you suspect your pet has ingested cocoa bean mulch, seek veterinary help at once!

 Preventive Measures

Take the following steps into consideration to help keep your pets safe from ingested poisons:

  • Get down on all fours, and be proactive, making sure your pet’s environment is free of potentially hazardous substances.
  • Install childproof locks on cabinet doors if you share your life with curious critters.
  • Read labels and purchase “pet-friendly” chemicals and cleaners.

Signs & Symptoms

Below is a list of symptoms to watch for if you think your pet has ingested some form of poison:

  • Slow CRT
  • Rapid or decreased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or heavy panting (which may also indicate pain)
  • Muscle tremors or seizures
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Drooling or foaming
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Redness of the skin, ears, eyes, any body part
  • Lethargy or anxiety
  • Blisters or sores on the mouth or skin where poison made contact
  • Swelling
  • Elevated or decreased heart rate, breathing or body temperature
  • Anything that is not normal for your pet

Stay calm and call your veterinarian or poison control and do exactly as instructed.

Get to the vet

Take your pet to the vet and bring along a sample of vomit and poison with you if you are able to do so.

Be Prepared 

Don’t be caught unprepared when your furry kid needs you the most. Pets can become poisoned by toxins they inhale, that are injected (i.e. insect stings), and that are absorbed through their paw pads and skin.

Always be sure to supervise your pet, remove potential dangers and keep the scene safe, and learn Pet First Aid just in case the worst happens.

Or be sure to check out our guides on inhaled poisons, and injected poisons.

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance 

Looking for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy? Consider investing in a pet insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Learn more about our dog insurance and cat insurance policies or get your free quote today. 

Protect your Pets

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.