Cat Care

Over-the-Counter Products Top ASPCA’s List of Poisons for First Time


Increase in vitamin and supplement-related calls to Animal Poison Control Center mirrors the increasing popularity of these products

As National Animal Poison Prevention Month kicks off, The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®)’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) reveals that, for the first time ever, over-the-counter medications and supplements surpassed prescription medications to take the top spot on the list of toxins most commonly ingested by pets, according to the annual data of cases handled by the APCC. Headquartered in Urbana, Ill., APCC handled 181,818 cases involving pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances in 2015. Nearly 16 percent of those calls (28,523 cases) were from owners whose pets accessed over-the-counter products intended for human use, putting this category at the top of the toxins list.

“We’ve seen numerous new vitamins, herbal supplements and joint supplements hit the market over the last year, exposing more pets to these types of products, and more of these products to our pets.,” said Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “Just as we recommend for prescription medications, it’s crucial that pet owners keep these potentially toxic items out of their pets’ reach and keep them behind closed doors,” Dr. Wismer advises.

According to the ASPCA, the top ten calls into the APCC in 2015 involved the following toxins, ranked in order of call volume:

  1. Over-the-counter medications. These medications, including herbal and other natural supplements, attracted the most concern this year for the first time in history, with more than 28,500 cases. This category is exceptionally large, encompassing nearly 7,000 different products.
  2. Human prescription medications. Prescribed human medications fell to the second spot on the list, representing nearly 16 percent of all cases. The types of medication to which these animals were most often exposed correlate with the most popular medications prescribed to humans.
  3. Insecticides. Insect poisons accounted for nearly 9 percent of the calls to APCC (more than 15,000 cases). If label directions are not followed, these products can be very dangerous to pets.
  4. Human foods. Pets – especially dogs, who ingest human foods more often than cats – can get into serious trouble by ingesting onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, alcohol and xylitol, a sugar substitute which can be life-threatening for animals. More than 14,600 APCC cases in 2015 involved human foods.
  5. Household items. Products found around the home made up more than 14,000 cases in 2015. The most common items for this category of APCC cases include cleaning products, fire logs and paint.
  6. Veterinary medications. Overdoses of medications prescribed by veterinarians represented more than 7 percent of total cases in 2015. Chewable medications are very appealing to pets, requiring extra caution.
  7. Chocolate. Enjoyed by humans, chocolate continues be very dangerous for pets, accounting for more than 7 percent of all APCC cases in 2015 – averaging over 30 cases a day. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it can be.
  8. Plants. Indoor and outdoor plants represented nearly 5 percent of the calls to the APCC in 2015. Most of these calls involve cats and houseplants. Be sure to understand the toxicity of plants before putting them in or around your house.
  9. Rodenticides. Rodent poisons can be just as toxic to pets as they are to the mice and rats these products are designed to kill. Last year, APCC handled more than 8,100 cases involving rodenticides.
  10. Lawn and garden products. These products, including herbicides and fungicides, round out the top ten, accounting for 3 percent of all APCC calls, an increase over last year. It’s incredibly important to store lawn and garden products out of the reach of pets.

More important information about pet toxins can be accessed on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s free mobile app – APCC by ASPCA.  Featuring a searchable database of more than 275 toxins as well as helpful information for owners of dogs, cats, horses, and birds, the app helps pet owners quickly and accurately identify common household hazards, toxic and non-toxic plants, potentially harmful medications, as well as warm and cold weather hazards.

For further information, visit www.aspca.org/apcc. If your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s 24-hour APCC hotline at 1-888-426-4435. Since its opening in 1978, the APCC has handled more than two and a half million cases.

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