As National Poison Prevention Week (March 20 – 26) nears, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is marking a significant milestone of handling more than 4 million cases of potential pet toxicity at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) since its inception nearly 45 years ago.
The APCC operates a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year hotline that serves as a critical and trusted resource for pet owners and veterinarians nationwide in keeping animals safe and healthy. In 2021, the APCC call volume increased more than 22 percent and the team assisted 401,550 animals of all sizes and species across all 50 states, with cases ranging from gardening product toxicity to essential oil ingestion.
“For decades, veterinarians and pet owners have relied on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for critical information to make sure pets receive immediate and effective care when they are exposed to potentially toxic substances,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO. “This 4 million case milestone reflects not only the deep expertise of the APCC staff but also a level of compassion and commitment by pet owners that we’re proud to acknowledge and support.”
Established in 1978, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is the only facility of its kind staffed by 70 veterinarians including 11 board-certified veterinary toxicologists, 100 certified veterinary technicians and 13 veterinary assistants. The APCC has developed a sophisticated veterinary database system called AnTox that helps identify and characterize toxic effects of substances in animals and enables the ASPCA to collect more patient data than any other veterinary toxicology medical record system in the world.
APCC board-certified veterinary toxicologists examine data annually from the previous year to determine a list of the top 10 pet toxins to keep pet owners and their pets informed and protected against potential toxins lurking in their homes. Leading the top toxin list for the fourth year in a row and making up more than 17 percent of APCC’s call volume are human over-the-counter (OTC) medications. While pet owners tend to be more careful with food items they know are toxic such as chocolate, human medications are more dangerous given pets’ smaller size and their accessibility to pets around the home.
Among the more than 401,000 animals helped by the APCC in 2021 is Gumbo, a 1-year-old dachshund mix, who had a scare with acetaminophen, a common household OTC medication that can cause life-threatening issues when ingested by pets. Last November, Gumbo chewed through a bag of various medications leading to a 3-day hospital stay as the APCC team worked closely with his local veterinarians to provide lifesaving care to prevent liver and kidney failure. After a month of treatments and ongoing collaboration between APCC and his veterinarians, Gumbo made a full recovery and continues to live a healthy life.
APCC experts urge pet owners to remain vigilant and aware of potential pet toxins lurking in their homes, especially the remaining items on the top toxin list, which made up more than 79 percent of total cases in 2021.
- Human prescription medications came in at No. 2 with antidepressants, cardiac and ADHD medications being the main concern. Both OTC and prescription medications can lead to gastrointestinal upset and kidney failure in severe cases.
- Food products remain near the top of the list at No. 3, making up 14 percent of APCC cases last year. The most common food product cases include ingestion of protein bars and shakes, xylitol, garlic and onions and grapes and raisins.
- Remaining in the fourth spot for several years is chocolate. APCC averages more than 103 cases of chocolate ingestion per day, which results in more than one case every 15 minutes.
- As pandemic hobbies such as gardening continued to be popular in 2021, indoor and outdoor plants remained in the top five. APCC received more than 7,500 more calls related to plant ingestion when compared to 2020.
- The last five items on the top toxin list include household items such as cleaning products and paint; veterinary products including calming chews and joint medications; rodenticides and insecticides; and gardening products such as fertilizers.
In addition to responding to calls from veterinarians, shelters and pet owners, APCC staff provide toxicology and veterinary consulting services to industry, agriculture and government clients on a wide array of subjects, including legal cases, formulation issues, product liability and regulatory reporting. APCC veterinarians also conduct retrospective data research on past cases to better understand toxicity risks and impact in pets, and in 2021 made a groundbreaking discovery that the toxic component in grapes is tartaric acid, which has been unknown to the veterinary community for more than 20 years.
For more information about the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, click here. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435 or contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible.