Pets don't really care what they eat - so you should

Our house used to be a filled with beautiful plants, but once Gizmo the cat came into our lives, the plants started leaving, one by one. He would knock them over and dig in the dirt. Worse, he’d sometimes eat them and get sick.

Besides plants, Gizmo has eaten strings and paper. Rufus the dog, meanwhile, once ate a rag, and a roommate’s dog had a bad habit of eating underwear. When pets eat something, it might not seem like a big deal, or may even seem funny, but all of these things can make an animal sick or clog their intestines. Then it’s an expensive vet bill or, tragically, a dead pet. You should always be aware of your pets’ surroundings and keep them from harm.

Even horses aren’t immune. Many horse owners have spent anxious hours walking with a colicky horse. Horses are unable to regurgitate so when they eat something toxic or poisonous, you have to take special care and hope they pull through. Many plants are toxic to them. And sand, ingested while eating off the ground, can block their digestive system. Again, make sure your pets’ environment is a safe one.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recently released their list of top 10 list of hazards encountered by pets in 2006.

1. Human medications; common human drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements.

2. Insecticides; products used to kill fleas, ticks and other insects.

3. Veterinary medications; animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.

4. Plants; some varieties that can be harmful to pets include lilies, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera.

5. Rodenticides; depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets including bleeding, seizures or even damage to the kidneys or other vital organs.

6. Household cleaners; such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants.

7. Chocolate; depending on the variety, chocolate can contain large amounts of fat and caffeine-like substances known as methylxanthines which, if ingested in significant amounts, could potentially cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity. This can potentially be fatal.

8. Chemical hazards; includes such items as volatile petroleum-based products, alcohols, acids and gases.

9. Physical hazards; consists of objects that could pose a choking hazard and risk for intestinal obstruction, or other physical injury.

10. Home improvement products; including paint, solvents, expanding glues and other products.

If a pet has encountered anything harmful, immediately call your vet, an emergency vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. For more information about the top 10 list or the ASPCA visit

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