ASPCA dispels common misconceptions related to poisons

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In preparation for the annual National Poison Prevention Week, to be held March 18-24, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reminds veterinarians and pet owners of the more common misconceptions related to poisons.

The ASPCA reported the following:

False: If eaten, poinsettias are deadly. Poinsettia ingestions typically induce only mild to moderate irritation in the gastrointestinal tract of pets. Keeping the plant out of reach to avoid stomach upset is a good idea, but pet owners don't need to banish poinsettias from their homes for fear of a fatal exposure.

False: Swiffer WetJets contain an ingredient similar to antifreeze, and causes liver failure in dogs. When used according to label directions, the ingredients in Swiffer WetJets are safe around pets and will not cause liver damage at product concentrations. Despite a similar-sounding name, the propylene glycol n-butyl ether or propylene glycol n-propyl ether found in Swiffer differs substantially from ethylene glycol, the potentially toxic ingredient present in most antifreeze products, which can cause kidney, not liver, failure.

False: Salt can be used to induce vomiting. It was once believed that giving pets a spoonful of salt was an effective means of making them regurgitate potentially harmful substances. However, salt is not a reliable emetic and could actually lead to a sodium ion poisoning if too much were ingested.

True: Macadamia nuts cause dogs to lose the use of their hind limbs. Dogs that consume roughly one gram of macadamia nuts or more per pound of body weight can develop lethargy, vomit, or suffer from an increased body temperature, progressing to loss of coordination, tremors, and profound weakness primarily in the hind limbs. So far, dogs are the only species known to experience these effects. Usually these clinical effects resolve completely in 24 to 48 hours with minimal management.

False: Greenies pet treats are deadly to dogs, causing intestinal blockage when swallowed. Although the safety of Greenies remains controversial, the ASPCA reported that Greenies do not pose a higher risk for gastrointestinal tract obstruction compared with other edible chew products.

True: Pennies are poisonous if ingested. United States pennies minted after 1982 contain 99.2 percent zinc (and 0.8 percent copper) by weight. Although an essential trace nutrient, zinc is a concern because ingestions of substantial amounts can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, red blood cells, and gastrointestinal tract. As a result of the high zinc content, pennies minted after 1982 are considered to be potentially toxic if swallowed.

To learn more, visit the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center online at