It’s Poison Prevention Week: Protect your pets with knowledge and prevention (opinion) |

It’s Poison Prevention Week: Protect your pets with knowledge and prevention (opinion)

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
Elsa is about 3 years old. She was found injured laying in a snow bank by a motel employee and was picked up and taken to the vet. She is now ready to be adopted. Please come visit Elsa at The El Dorado County Animal Services, 530-573-7925. Don’t forget — all animals come spayed or neutered, with all vaccinations and a microchip! For spay-neuter services and other support, call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 530-542-2857.
Courtesy photo |

Poison Prevention Week is a campaign over 50 years old. Every year, we are urged to take notice of the chemicals in our lives that are dangerous. While much of the effort is spent on parents of young children, pets are likewise vulnerable to poisoning. In many instances, pets are more prone to poisoning since we may not be wary of foods or plants that we have no problem with but are toxic to animals.

Take some time this week to think about the people and animals in your life, and how you can prevent poisoning. Here are some tips that may help:

Use National Poison Prevention Week as the time to inspect your home for any medicines and chemical products, such as detergents, cleaning products, pesticides and fertilizers that may be improperly stored and make necessary changes immediately. Always store medicines and household products up high, away and out of reach from children and pets.

Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and chemical products.

Re-close medicines and other household products if interrupted during use. Many incidents happen when adults are using these products and are distracted by a telephone, doorbell, etc.

Program emergency poison numbers into your cell phone and write them down someplace noticeable, like a calendar or on the refrigerator. For human poisonings, call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222. For animal poisoning, contact ASPCA Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

Make sure any babysitters or pet sitters know the Poison Help numbers.

Read medicine and product labels before each use and follow directions.

Keep cleaning products in their original container with the original label intact.

Never use empty detergent containers for storage of any other materials.

Know the name of all household plants in your home. Remove any poisonous plants from the house and yard.

You are likely aware of what cleaning agents or other chemicals to keep away from your dog or cat, but you may not be aware of foods that are dangerous. Here is a list so you know what to avoid:

Alcoholic beverages

Apple seeds

Apricot pits


Cherry pits

Candy (particularly chocolate — toxic to dogs, cats, and ferrets — and any candy containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol)

Coffee (grounds, beans and chocolate-covered espresso beans)



Gum (can cause blockages and sugar free gum may contain Xylitol)

Hops (used in home beer brewing)

Macadamia nuts

Moldy foods

Mushroom plants

Mustard seeds

Onions and onion powder

Peach pits

Potato leaves and stems (green parts)


Rhubarb leaves


Tea (because it contains caffeine)

Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)



Yeast dough

Most importantly, time is of the essence if you think your furry family member has gotten into something that may cause poisoning. We recently helped a 2-year-old pup, “Goofy.” A roommate had left a bottle of Advil out and she consumed the whole bottle. The owner noticed a change in behavior the next day. Goofy was lethargic and not eating or drinking. It was when Goofy had vomited that the owner noticed the not fully digested pills. He called Lake Tahoe Humane Society for help. We sent him to the vet, who immediately started treatment. Sadly it had already been 48 hours since Goofy had swallowed the pills that were deadly to her. Her kidneys were failing. It looked very bad for Goofy. She required 24/7 medical care including medication and fluids (about a $1,700 vet bill). Then on day three a miracle happened. Her kidney levels started improving and she was actually getting better! Goofy made it!

While this story had a happy ending, this is very rare. Close to 100 percent of pets in this situation would have died. So please take the time this week to double check all the poison possibilities in your house and remember — never leave and medication out, even if sealed or the cap is on.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit HumaneSocietySPCA, or

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