Summer Is The Deadliest Time of Year For Companion Animals

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Monday, 3 May 2004

Recent data finds pesticides continue to be leading cause of summer pet poisonings.

Statistics compiled by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) confirm that June, July and August are the most dangerous time of year for companion animals. According to 2003 data, the center received approximately 8,800 calls in July, making it the month with the highest volume of cases for the year. The data found that over 4,300 (48%) of the cases involved animals being exposed to pesticides. This includes commonly used insecticides (flea and tick products), rodenticides (mouse and rat baits) and herbicides (weed killers).

"The misuse of flea and tick products is extremely harmful and can even be deadly to our companion animals," comments Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. "By taking the time to read a product label carefully a pet owner could save their animal's life." The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center consulted on over 3,100 cases in July 2003 involving insecticides, including flea and tick products. While there are many safe products available, caution must always be used when choosing and appropriately applying them on pets. The ASPCA also warns that some products that are safely used on dogs can be deadly to cats, even in small amounts. For example, there are over 18 brands of permethrin insecticide spot-on products for flea and tick control that are labeled for "use on dogs only." These permethrin products have a good margin of safety when used on dogs, but even a few drops of concentrated permethrin could be lethal to a cat. Cats are most commonly exposed to these products through inappropriate or accidental application by their owners.

Additionally, it is important to consult with a veterinarian before using a flea and tick product on a very young, pregnant or elderly animal. As an alternative to using flea products directly on such pets, the ASPCA recommends owners use a flea comb. This would be a good option for pets that enjoy being groomed, but violently refuse baths or the application of a spray. Also, after using a flea and tick product, it is necessary to observe an animal closely. If a pet exhibits unusual behavior or becomes depressed, weak, or uncoordinated the owner should seek veterinary advice immediately.

The second most serious type of cases involved rodenticides. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handled over 470 cases about rodenticides in July 2003. The most dangerous forms include zinc phosphide, strychnine and commercial rat and mouse baits. Some baits contain inert ingredients that can attract an animal. If a pet ingests a rodenticide, there is a chance that seizures, bleeding or death may result. When using any rodenticide it is important to place the product in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals.

In July and August the center received over 925 calls about herbicides. A large number of those calls were owners concerned about letting their pets walk in an area that was treated with weed killers. While many weed killers are safe for pet traffic once dry, the center urges pet owners to contact the manufacturer for specific recommendations about using herbicides around pets. Additionally, it is important to always store pesticides in areas that are inaccessible to pets.

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