The ASPCA today released its list of the top ten poisoning hazards encountered by household pets. Catmanager suspects this list will accord closely with the experience of most practitioners and veterinary support staff.

Topping the list, which is compiled from calls received by the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) during 2006, is human medication:

Last year, more than 78,000 calls involving common human drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements were managed by the Center—a 69 percent increase over 2005.

Dietary supplements? Thank goodness Pfizer just came out with Slentrol!

Second on the ASPCA list is insecticides. The ASPCA press release doesn’t differentiate between insecticides designed to be applied to pets (e.g., Advantage, Frontline) and those not so designed (e.g., Roundup—which is actually an herbicide, but you get the idea). However the release implies that the majority of insecticide calls are about flea and tick treatments. Catmanager would like to point some fingers based on what his veterinary clinic has seen, but I’ll be good.

The big surprise for many people will be the third item on the list: veterinary medicines. Last year the APCC saw (heard?) a 93 percent increase in calls about overdosing or otherwise misusing prescribed veterinary drugs. That’s a scary increase, and I hope the veterinary community takes a serious look at the issue. Client error certainly plays a role here, but so does veterinary error and poor client education by vet clinics. Can I prove that? No, and having a more thorough understanding of what’s going on is certainly essential to fixing the problem. But regardless of the cause, we in the veterinary community are in the best position to take the lead in solving this problem. Disagree? I’d love to hear from you, and hope you’ll add a comment below!

Moving on (and off the soapbox), the next five are usual suspects: plants, rodenticides, household cleaners, chocolate, and chemical hazards. This last is a newcomer to the ASPCA’s annual poisoning list and includes calls about substances such as ethylene glycol and paint thinner. This category is apparently distinct from the home improvement products category (number 10 on the list), which is where paints and glues reside.

Number 9 on the list is in some ways the most interesting category because it’s somewhat of a catchall and includes items that don’t necessarily cause toxicosis. The physical hazards category

consists of objects that could pose a choking hazard, risk for intestinal obstruction, or other physical injury, and in 2006, the number of physical hazard calls grew a staggering 460 percent to over 3,800. “We’ve managed cases involving the ingestion of several common objects—from pet collars and adhesive tape to bones, paper products and other similar items,” says [veterinary toxicologist and ASPCA senior vice president] Dr. [Steven] Hansen.

And there you have it!

By the way, the APCC offers a “Veterinary Lifeline Partner Program” that allows clinics to register (for free) with APCC for when they need to consult (this time for a fee) with an APCC toxicologist about poisoning cases. The program includes a free quarterly newsletter (also accesible online here).