March is one month during which pets and their human friends share an observance at the same time. The third week of the month each year marks National Pet Poison Prevention week and National Poison Prevention week for humans.
For 2014, the dates are March 16-22, according to Poison Prevention.org. The purpose of the week, which the Pet Poison Helpline says celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, is saving lives and making homes safer.
The most important recommendation all pet poison sources offer is having an emergency plan in the event that you know or even suspect that your dog, cat or other pet has ingested or been exposed to a poison. Had my family had a plan a few years ago, it would have prevented panic.
The Vanishing Hyacinth
The panic occurred thanks to my casual handling of a plant. Hyacinths are my favorite. Each year, I bought one hyacinth. With a cat rescue in our home and furry creatures circulating both floors, I was careful to always place the plant on top of a tall piece of furniture they couldn’t reach. We were able to enjoy both its blooms and fragrance without exposing the cats to a toxic plant.
After each hyacinth finished blooming around Easter, I stored it on a high shelf in the closet and then planted the dried-out bulb in early November. However, what caused a pet emergency was my decision to instead toss a not-so-attractive plant into the kitchen trash can, still in its pot, on a Saturday morning.
I left and returned home in late afternoon. In the kitchen sink, I found the empty pot and a lot of scattered dirt. There was no sign of the hyacinth. One of the cats, who loved to travel countertops, looked up at me from the floor. Panic caused me to assume he looked sick.
For 15 minutes, I rummaged around the kitchen, looking for a poison control number I remembered putting in one of the drawers. But which one? Just as I reached for the phone to call my vet, a family member returned. Thinking I had thrown away the plant by mistake, he had rescued the bulb and stored it in the closet. Another moral of the story is to practice good communication.
How to Observe Pet Poison Prevention Week
You can best mark this important week by developing a pet poison action plan and by going through every room of your home to identify and remove hazards.
Even the living room is a potential problem if it has any butts with nicotine, purses or backpacks that pets can pry open, TV remotes or cell phones with batteries, or hot liquids like potpourri.
It’s a good idea to keep a list handy of foods poisonous to pets. Among them are grapes, raisins, some nuts, garlic, onions, foods with a high fat content, chocolate, alcohol, and unbaked yeast bread dough. We now use baby door locks on any cabinets that store “iffy” things such as medications and the one that houses the trash can.
Poison prevention isn’t complete without checking your utility room, garage, yard, and garden. Among the most potentially dangerous items you might find are insecticides, rodenticides, glue, antifreeze, other automotive products, certain fertilizers, and snail or grub killers. Prevention also requires you to keep your pets off lawns that have been commercially sprayed until the herbicides used have dried.
If you do face an emergency, be sure to call a local veterinarian or a poison control center right away.