This month is Pet Poison Prevention Month and to commemorate that and also get some advertising, the toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline have developed an interactive map showing the top toxins that sicken or kill our pets in each state.
Before we go too far, I always like to see how the data was obtained. The Pet Poison Helpline accepts calls from pet owners and veterinarians for consultation with their veterinarians and veterinary toxicologists. As individual records, the data is kept as confidential and proprietary.
To build the map, the group surveyed five full years of calls and compiled which toxins showed up most frequently in which states. The study range was Jan. 1, 2018, to Feb. 27 of this year.
For Idaho, dogs account for almost 92% of the calls and cats were more refined at about 8%. Chocolate topped the list of toxins at 11% of all the calls received from the state. Antidepressant and antianxiety meds came in second at 4.7% followed closely by xylitol at 4.3%.
The latter is a low-calorie sweetener found in a wide variety of products, perhaps most notably in sugar-free gums and toothpaste. This artificial sweetener is highly toxic to pets, potentially causing fatal low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.
In canines, xylitol promotes a spike in insulin production, just like a big pile of sugar would. This is true even though xylitol is not a “real” sugar. This increase in insulin draws glucose from the bloodstream into the cells dropping the animal into hypoglycemia.
It is not known conclusively if xylitol can have the same effect on cats. It may be that we don’t know because cats are not as likely to eat as many crazy things as dogs do. Also, cats do not have taste receptors to detect sweetness. So it may be that they just don’t try to eat sweetened things.
Sure enough, someone out there in Readerland will send me a photo of their cat getting all hopped up on sugar-free gum or such.
In Washington, dogs represent 88% of all the calls and sick kitties are nearly 12%. The top three toxins in order are: chocolate at 15%, grapes and raisins at 5.8% and xylitol at 4.5%.
The grapes and raisin finding is interesting. There is no well-established toxic dose for grapes or raisins. Toxicologists should know this. Dogs are more likely to become poisoned if they ingest large amounts of fruit of any kind. There appears to be individual sensitivities to these sugary fruits in dogs, too.
Some dogs can tolerate some of the fruits and some will get really sick after just a bit. There is no way to predict which dog will be sensitive and which won’t. Maybe if we quit shuffling their genes around for our personal enjoyment we might be able to get a test. Just a thought.
I know you have been waiting, so here it comes. Where does weed fall into these calculations? In Washington, it comes in at No. 10 representing only 1.7% of all the PPH calls across the five-year period surveyed. It didn’t even show up in cat calls.
In Idaho, marijuana was about the same in dogs at No. 13, with only 1.3% of the calls. Again, cats chose different recreational drugs as they didn’t reflect any calls.
For all toxins in both states, the single greatest reason folks call Pet Poison Hotline is their pet is vomiting. Next comes excessive drowsiness, followed next by an inability to move with coordination.
This data is at:petpoisonhelpline.com/toxin-trends.
Powell is the retired public information officer for Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. This column reflects his thoughts and no longer represents WSU. For questions or concerns, email firstname.lastname@example.org.