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Published: Mar 19, 2012

The American Veterinary Medical Association has declared this week Poison Prevention Week, and it's important that pet owners understand the dangers that may reside in their own homes when it comes to poisoning.

Many substances that are harmless to humans may be harmful to dogs. Xylitol is a common sugar substitute found in sugarless gum and other candies. Although not poisonous to humans, Xylitol can be extremely poisonous to dogs. This substance, also found in some sugar-free puddings, baked goods, toothpaste, mouthwash and chewable vitamins, is capable of causing low blood sugar, liver failure, seizures and even death.  Dog owners must be aware and keep these products out of their dogs reach.

In addition, other common foods which may be harmful to pets, include chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, garlic, coffee, cocoa, macadamia nuts, and avocados. Chocolate poisoning and grape and raisin poisoning can cause severe gastrointestinal and other issues in dogs. Many human foods may be prepared with these ingredients which is why it is important that dogs and cats eat pet food.  If you want to feed your dog a snack of fruits or vegetables make sure to ask your veterinarian for advice before you feed.

Unfortunately the ASPCA handles more than 150,000 cases of pets being accidentally poisoned every year. If you see your pet ingest something toxic or suspect they have been exposed to a toxin, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately. Time is of the essence when dealing with toxin exposure in dogs and cats.  Do not induce vomiting unless instructed by a veterinarian to do so, as this can cause further issues.

The best way to prevent accidental poisoning is to “pet proof” your home.  Keep purses and backpacks which may contain gums or candies out of reach of dogs.  Keep all chocolate and cocoa products on high shelves in closed cupboards.  Do not leave fruits or nuts out on the countertops where an inquisitive pet could reach them.  Keep all toothpaste, mouthwash and prescription medication in high, closed cabinets to avoid accidental exposure.