Pets Are Like Toddlers Who Never Grow Up: Poison Prevention

I have currently living under my roof two young children and a dog. There are several others living with us, like my wife and eldest son, but let’s focus on the little trio of son-daughter-dog for now. The two wee (human) ones are always up to mischief and need near-constant supervision. (I let my guard down when they are asleep).

They have been observed doing the following on many occasions (and before you call child protective services on me — I have stopped them from doing it):

  • Sticking a fork in an outlet
  • Climbing the back of a tippy chair
  • Eating many non-food items like dust bunnies, dirt, buttons, Q-tips (both used and unused flavors) and even the dog’s PurLuv Sizzlin’ Strips (they look like bacon!)
  • Licking the refrigerator

But for the lack of opposable thumbs, the dog has done many of the same dumb things. The kids are under 2 — they get a pass. The dog is 8 — a veritable middle-ager by doggie standards. I have thus concluded that dogs are little perma-toddlers, never growing up, trapped in some sort of Peter Pan netherworld where it is OK to lick the refrigerator without rhyme or reason.

But who watches dogs for their whole lives with the same level of intensity as they would a squealing toddler? I’ll answer that rhetorical question with a firm no one. In my 18 years as an emergency vet, I have seen countless legions of dogs and cats who got into trouble that was entirely preventable — problems that arose because of the flammable mixture of one part canine curiosity and one part human fallibility. Most of us just don’t have the extra bandwidth to monitor our dogs and cats all the time. We just watch out for the big trouble spots — the puddle of antifreeze, the spilled acetaminophen — and try and navigate around them.

Poisonings are a biggie — there are several poison control centers devoted entirely to animals (and they are lifesavers, literally). Just like kids, pets eat things they shouldn’t all the time. Licking the refrigerator is one thing, eating 10 pills of your blood pressure medicine is quite another. Pet poisonings are especially awful because the pets can never tell us what they ate. The guessing game sometimes costs lives and there are very few tests than can pick up just what toxin a pet got into. We have to go with what the owners tell us, the clinical signs and a few basic tests. It’s not like on TV where a sample is sent to “the lab” and a report pops up in 20 minutes that tells us exactly what is killing the patient. Would that it were — it would make treating poisoned pets that much easier, but that is pure Hollywood hogwash.

Prevention is key here. Keep pets away from the same areas you would keep a toddler away from: under the sink, dangerous chemicals in the garage, medicine cabinets, etc. Don’t forget that your sleepy 12-year-old Golden hides the mischievous spirit of a 2-year-old human deep within her. You have to help protect her from herself and be the daddy (or mommy). Some don’t like the term “pet parent,” but it does encapsulate the spirit of what we must do for our pets — keep them safe.

Now, if you could just pop by and watch my kids for a bit, I have to clean the refrigerator…


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