Photo courtesy of proflowers.com
Photo courtesy of lake.ifas.ufl.edu
Photo courtesy of preventingpetpoisoning.org
INSET BELOW: LoSasso wants to put cat and dog images on products that are dangerous to pets.
By Arden Moore
Stargazer lilies, sago palms and other blooming beauties grow in healthy abundance throughout Palm Beach County. They rank among the most popular plants found in floral shops and garden stores.
While stargazer lilies rank as my favorite botanical, I will never plant any in my garden or place a bouquet of them inside a vase on my dining room table. The reason is simple: This colorful botanical can quickly kill my far-too-inquisitive cat, Casey. And stunning and majestic as sago palms are, they can be downright lethal to my dogs, Chipper and Cleo.
While many of us with pets are aware that there are safe plants and poisonous plants to pets, making that distinction isn’t always easy. Plants at floral shops and for the most part, at garden stores, do not come with dangerous-to-pets warning labels. We tend to shop by looks, preference and ease of maintenance.
Let’s hope that is about to change thanks to a frustrated-yet-determined emergency medicine veterinarian named Mike LoSasso. This Dallas-based veterinarian has launched the Preventing Pet Poisoning initiative, a national grassroots public awareness campaign taking a new approach to reducing the number of pets who needlessly die of accidental poisoning from nibbling on lethal plants.
“I’ve been a veterinarian for 22 years, spending the past 12 as an ER veterinarian. During this time, I’ve seen a steady increase in the number of pet poisoning cases coming into our ER clinic and I’m not alone,” says LoSasso, on staff at the Emergency Animal Hospital of Collin County in Plano, Texas. “There is an estimated 2 to 3 million cases of pet poisonings due to exposure to toxic plants, household chemicals and human medication in this country every single year. That is an epidemic and we’ve got to do something about this.”
He shares the tragic tale of a sweet healthy Siamese named Peacock. One day, Peacock suddenly stopped eating and the next day, she began to vomit violently. A blood chemistry analysis performed at the veterinary clinic revealed severe acute kidney failure. Peacock died that day.
The culprit? A bouquet of lilies her owner had brought into the house a few days earlier. It turned out that Peacock had collected some of that orange-brown pollen on her fur and had eaten this toxin while grooming herself.
“Veterinarians do their part to help educate pet owners, but we have to stop warning owners after the fact and educate them before they have to take their sick pets to the ER,” he says.
Tired of trying to beat the odds by treating near-dead pets inside the ER, he decided to be proactive and came up with a social media-based education effort aimed at prevention. His idea is simple but effective: Place dog and cat image labels on products dangerous to pets. This includes plants, human medicine (including ibuprofen), sugar-free chewing gum containing xylitol, and more.
His goal is to get retailers to begin placing these warning labels on these types of products. Think about it. For years, products dangerous to children carry warning labels. So why not post warning labels on all products that are toxic to cats and dogs?
“If florists marked every single bouquet of lilies as toxic to cats, would you still buy flowers?” asks LoSasso. “Of course you would. You would just not buy lilies for people who have cats. This is not an effort to prevent sales, but to make pet owners aware of the danger so that they can make safe choices. It is also a chance to acknowledge companies that label their products in a responsible manner.”
He needs our help. To learn more details on his campaign, please visit his site at www.preventingpetpoisoning.org.
And while you’re at it, please post the contact info for one or both of the main pet poison phone numbers in a visible place in your home (like on your refrigerator door) and in your cellphone.
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s number is 888-426-4435 and the Pet Poison Helpline’s number is 855-764-7661. Both places require credit card charges and are staffed 24 hours daily by veterinary toxicologists.
As for me, I play it extra safe when it comes to household plants: I stick with silk ones. It’s just another way to play it safe for Casey, Chipper and Cleo.
Arden Moore, founder of www.FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Each week, she hosts the popular Oh Behave! show on www.Pet Life Radio.com. Learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.