National Poison Prevention Month has roots back to the 1930’s when a pediatrician recognized the correlation between accidental childhood poisonings and their deaths. He subsequently researched and publicized the hazards of certain household products. These important findings led President John F. Kennedy to proclaim that the third week of March would be recognized annually as National Poison Prevention Week to promote awareness and highlight potential dangers.
After that, the ASPCA joined in and showcases it throughout March to provide valuable information about harmful substances to animals. With spring approaching, it’s a good time to clean out toxic items and replace them with pet-friendly or green alternatives. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if there’s a new puppy in the home—they’re naturally curious and into everything.
We need cleaners that address dirty floors and rugs from muddy paws or stomach upsets. When purchasing, if labels have ingredients such as bleach or words you cannot pronounce like MEA (monoethanalomine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine), pass by. Opt for no heavy metals, phosphates, or dyes. Gravitate towards those that advertise pet-and kid-friendly when used as directed.
Keep edibles such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, garlic, undercooked meat, and dough out of reach. Marijuana and alcohol are a definite no. Check the labels on peanut butter, yogurt, and toothpaste for the sweetener Xylitol, for it can cause liver failure among other issues. The ASPCA warns any product starting with “xyl” may be related, so steer clear. Xylitol can also be known by the following names: wood sugar, birch sugar, and birch bark extract.
Plagued with mice and moles? They do not discriminate. (I cringe here. I still remember the mole that got into my family room. I screamed and ran upstairs, while Brady, the always-chill Golden, just watched it. My husband eliminated the mole with a broom. No harm to the dog!) Pellets, liquids, and bricks designed to kill can be a disaster waiting to happen. Ingestion may lead to internal bleeding and organ damage. Exterior metal bait boxes are billed as tamper resistant, but most have a disclaimer that they’re not foolproof. True, entrance holes are so tiny that only rodents can access, but they may leave the box with pellets, depositing them around the yard. A family member’s Cav passed from ingesting the poison moved to a pumpkin patch.
Don’t neglect your garage or basement. Check those craft supplies and glues if that’s your thing—stash in a spot where your nosy friend can’t find. If you use pesticides, place on a high shelf or lock in a cupboard. For those with a “buggy” house like me, consider an extermination service that will treat your interior and exterior several times a year with safe products.
Refrain from weed treatments on grass. For beds, finely chopped wood-based mulches are better choices. Be aware of what not to plant, especially if you have a pup who chomps. Stay away from calla and peace lilies, tulips, azaleas, daisies, chrysanthemums, mistletoe, English ivy, American holly, and Autumn crocus. For your vegetable garden, keep tomatoes, rhubarb, onions, and chives out of reach, or skip. For a more detailed list, visit aspcapro.org/resource/17-plants-poisonous-pets.
To clean those floors, baseboards, and rugs, look for products with words like organic and sustainable. For the DIY-er, use your fav search/discovery engine to find inexpensive solutions. (Pinterest is my go-to.) To freshen rugs, shake baking soda around, wait fifteen minutes and vacuum. Your rooms will smell terrific. (An easy idea comes from a friend for less floor washing. She stocks up on rugs during back-to-college dorm sales and uses them for her entryways to grab dirt. When the dog muck dries, she simply vacuums. When the rugs wear out, she pitches.)
For snacks, try small bites of fresh green beans, bananas, watermelon, and strawberries. Visit local pet boutiques and talk to the sales associates. They’ll steer you to their healthy baked goods that your dog will flip for.
As far as rodents, a few green alternatives are irritating to them. Soak cotton balls in peppermint or clove oil and rub at suspected entry points. You can find many alternatives out there, but I believe the best option is a cat. We had far more mice before the neighborhood feline took a liking to us. We returned from a weekend away—twice—to find a dead mouse presented by our front door.
For indoor foliage, check out colorful African violets, orchids, ferns, Swedish ivy, and prayer plants. For a nice outdoor garden, plant sunflowers, snapdragons, camellias. If you’re an ambitious home-cook who delights in creating tasty, flavorful dishes, you can grow basil, rosemary, dill, thyme, sage, cilantro, and savory without worry.
These are only a few green alternatives to try, as well as those that may be hazardous. If you’re not sure, please check the web or consult your vet. I thought I was-versed, but I had a close call with Brady and an unbeknownst-to-me lethal dried arrangement of eucalyptus. Thankfully Brady’s stomach wasn’t happy with the twig and eliminated it, but I dialed up the poison control hotline anyway for pointers.
If you have a Brady and think he’s eaten something dangerous, call your veterinarian, or a pet poison control center such as ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, 888-426-4435, aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control, right away. Note there may be a consultation fee.