Star-Bulletin Features


Cats are naturally curious and playful so they might seek out pill bottles that rattle and packets that crinkle. Keep your medications in a cabinet that closes securely, safely away from pets and kids.

Don’t let Fido bite a bufo and
other poison prevention tips

By Hawaiian Humane Society

As National Poison Prevention Week (Sunday-March 23) approaches, it's a good time to consider ways to help safeguard our pets' health.

According to Honolulu veterinarian Eric Ako, the most common pet poisoning is caused by improper use of flea and tick insecticides. "Read all of the information on the label before using a product on your pet or in your home," said Ako.

Most baits contain ingredients that your pets are attracted to. Ako said that he frequently treats pets for poisoning caused by ingested snail or slug bait. "Pets like the taste and veterinary intervention is required," said Ako. When using rat, mouse, snail or slug baits, and ant or roach traps, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to companion animals.

Bufos are a particular problem in Hawaii. Also called cane toads, these big bufos produce powerful toxins concentrated in the paratoid glands behind their ears. If your playful dog bites a bufo, these glands release a poison so potent that even a large pet can die in minutes. The toads come out after dark, so supervise your dogs outdoors at night.

Common plants -- including oleander, sago palm, Easter lily, daffodil, castor bean, parts of the yew plant, philodendron, dieffenbachia, cyclamen, corn stalk plants, bird of paradise and azaleas -- can also be fatal when ingested by pets.

Many household products can be dangerous to animals, including fabric softener sheets, detergent, pennies, potpourri oils, mothballs, homemade Play-Doh and batteries. Keep these secured, and place your garbage in containers that can't be tipped over.

Food items that potentially could be harmful to pets include onions, chocolate, macadamia nuts, alcoholic beverages, yeast dough, coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate-covered espresso beans), tea with caffeine, salt, tomato leaves and stems, rhubarb leaves, tobacco products and spoiled foods. Avocados are toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, goats and cattle. The best diet for an animal is a nutritionally balanced pet food.

Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze are very dangerous to pets, so clean up any spills promptly.

Cleaning products consumed by pets may cause mild stomach upset or severe burns of the tongue, mouth and stomach. Store cleaning products in secure cabinets.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs should be kept out of a pet's reach. Painkillers including Tylenol and aspirin, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins and diet pills are all examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals, even in small doses. Keep drugs in closed cabinets up and away from the reach of the critters.

Just as taking another person's prescription medicine could prove harmful, many medications that are safe for humans can be deadly for animals. Pet products specifically made for dogs should never be used on cats (and vice versa). "Never give your companion animals medication unless your veterinarian tells you to," said Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society.

In case of emergency

>> Put your veterinarian's phone number in a place where you'll find it easily, and make sure your family knows how to get to the clinic.

>> Pick up a "Guide to Pet Emergencies" available at your veterinarian or at the Hawaiian Humane Society. The list offers first-aid treatment suggestions for a variety of accidents. It is also available on the Humane Society's Web site at, Animal Care & Behavior, Dog Care, then Emergency/First Aid.

>> Who to call: If your veterinarian is not available in a poison-related emergency, the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center at 888-4ANIHELP (426-4435) is available 24 hours a day. The service costs $45 per case (by credit card). Veterinary health professionals trained in veterinary toxicology handle the cases. The center will do as many follow-up calls as necessary in critical cases, and at your request will contact your veterinarian.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.

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