Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center manages more than 180,000 cases of suspected pet poisoning. Chocolate is the number one reason dog owners call the poison control hotline, followed by rodent poisons and human medication. For cats, the list includes household cleaners and plant ingestion.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, the first thing to do is remain calm. Often quick action will be crucial to a positive outcome. First, assess the situation. If your pet is having convolutions, has lost consciousness, or is having difficulty breathing, call ahead and bring your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital. Even if your pet is acting normal, it is a good idea to call your regular veterinarian. Symptoms can develop hours or even days after ingestion. However, not all exposure situations require an immediate trip to the hospital. Calling to talk with someone at your veterinarian clinic can help determine the appropriate course of action. They will either be able to direct you in what to do or advise you to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435.

If possible, safely collect any material involved with the suspected poisoning, including anything your pet may have vomited already. Having the container or wrapper of the suspected poison is very beneficial to determining a course of treatment.

Keep a small pet poison first aid kit handy to help in a poisoning situation. Include rubber or latex gloves, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide 3%, a teaspoon/tablespoon measuring set, syringes, liquid dish detergent such as Dawn, and saline eye solution. Never administer treatment without consulting with your veterinarian or poison control officers. Being prepared can help save your pet’s life when time is of the essence.