National Poison Prevention Week – March 20-26

What is National Poison Prevention Week All About?

On February 7, 1962, the American President J.F. Kennedy positively responded to the joint resolution passed by the Congress to proclaim the third week of March as National Poison Prevention Week. A month later the first ever NPPW was observed in March 1962. Each year veterinarians are urging owners to always remember that many pets die from poison and are even more vulnerable than people.

Ahna Brutlad (DVM, MS, DABT) from Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 animal poison control center, claims that every day of every week they receive emergency calls from concerned owners all over the country. The unfortunate truth is that most cases of pet poisoning could have been easily avoided if the owners were a bit more informed and paid more attention.

national poison prevention week
Source: NJ Poison Control Center

National Poison Prevention Week is a time to raise awareness about the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. Every year, poisonings kill more than 2,000 people and injure more than 250,000 people. Most poisonings occur in homes, and many of them could be prevented if people knew how to protect themselves and their families from accidental poisonings.

Causes of Poisoning

The majority of poisoning emergencies involve dogs (about 90 percent) because their curious nature makes them indifferent about what they put in their bellies. In 50 percent of the cases, the harmful substance was an ingested human medication toxic to dogs. Most of the dogs accidentally swallowed antidepressants, OTC drugs with acetaminophen in them and various NSAIDs (Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs). Therefore, all owners must know that medications must be safely stored out of the pet’s reach.

The second most common cause of toxicity in dogs and cats are foods that are bad for animals. Chocolate is the most vigilant food, especially dark chocolate containing larger amounts of theobromine which can be potentially fatal for pets. Toxicities due to ingestion of candies and sugarless gums containing xylitol are quite frequent as well. At last, grapes and raisins should be treated in the same manner as medication because they cause kidney failure in dogs and there have been many cases where they proved to be fatal.

kidney failure in dogs
From: Brenda Soto: “Patient with kidney failure. Comparison of the two kidneys after a necropsy was performed.”

Rarely animal poison control centers are contacted when dogs consumed rodenticides, insecticides, disinfectants, and other cleaning solutions in the household. In any case, an owner suspects poisoning of any kind it should immediately reach for professional veterinary help.

How Can You Contribute to National Poison Prevention Week?

First of all start from your own home. If you have a pet, a dog or a cat, find a detailed list of the most common foods and household items toxic to each species. After you are finished with the homework you need to pet-proof every single item on the list. All toxic food must be stored away from curious sniffs and all cleaning solutions and other chemicals should be unreachable kept away. Check the garbage for items toxic to pets as well. The same goes for medications and supplements.

If you are a vet professional you probably discussed the topic of toxicity with pet owners many times. However, you cannot repeat the same tips over and over again. Well, the last week of March is the time to make flyers and pamphlets where you will put the most important information on toxicity in pets, food toxic for pets and keeping them safe in your home. This way you will make sure the complete information gets to every owner.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself and your family from accidental poisonings. First, always keep poisonous substances locked up and out of reach of children. Second, never eat or drink anything you don’t know the ingredients of. Third, if you think someone has been poisoned, call 911 immediately.

If you liked this article, take a look at Human Foods that are Toxic to Dogs.