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Veterinary Pet Insurance Data Reveals Well-Intended Pet Owners Unknowingly Poisoning Their Pets

Pet Owners Unintentionally Harming Thousands of Pets Each Year

BREA, Calif., March 20 /PRNewswire/ -- In the average household, many pets are only one bite away from disaster. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently analyzed its medical claims data to determine the most commonly ingested household toxins and poisons. VPI ranked the toxic substances by the number of claims received in 2007 for each type. Shockingly, the most dangerous poisons by far are human medications intentionally given to pets by their owners. Following is the list of top household toxins, with 2007 claim counts and prevention pointers for each.

1. Drug Reactions (3,455 claims) -- VPI received more claims for drug

reactions than all other poisoning claims combined in 2007. Many of

these claims involved pets given drugs intended for human

consumption, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. Pet owners

often give pets over-the-counter or prescription drugs for their

ailments, unaware that even given in small amounts, many of these

drugs cannot be metabolized by pets fast enough to prevent an

overdose. Never give pets medications without consulting a


2. Rodenticide (870 claims) -- Even if these poisons, most often sold in

pellet form, are placed away from pets, rodents can carry them to

pet-occupied areas. The taste and smell of rodenticides is designed

to appeal to small mammals. Pet owners should consider other options

for eliminating rodents.

3. Methylxanthine (755 claims) -- The methylxanthine class of chemical

compounds includes theobromine and caffeine, both of which are common

ingredients in chocolate. Toxic amounts of theobromine can cause

vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperactivity, abnormal rhythms of

the heart, or even seizures in pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate

contains much higher levels of theobromine than milk chocolate,

causing toxicity with the consumption of much smaller amounts.

4. Plant Poisoning (466 claims) -- Many household plants can be toxic to

pets, including sago palms, tulips, oleander, hyacinths, poinsettias,

azaleas, lilies, and amaryllis. Other plant products including

onions, grapes and raisins are also categorized under the company's

plant toxicity code. Pet owners should exercise extra caution when

pets are near these plants and abstain from giving grapes and raisins

as treats.

5. Household Chemicals (313 claims) -- Pets will get into just about

anything with bright colors and strong odors. Ingestion of cleaning

supplies such as bleach, liquid potpourri, even deodorant or

toiletries can result in an ill pet. Keep these items secured.

6. Metaldyhyde (88 claims) -- This deadly component of snail bait can

also attract pets. Signs usually occur quickly and include vomiting

and whole body tremors. Pet owners should consider alternative

methods for getting rid of snails and slugs.

7. Organophosphate (60 claims) -- This group of insecticides works to

inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to nerve function

in insects and pets. Ingestion can occur through skin absorption or

oral intake. The chemicals degrade quickly after being sprayed

outside, but pets should not be exposed to any area that has recently

been sprayed.

8. Toad Poisoning (58 claims) -- Some species of toad, particularly

along the Gulf Coast, secrete a toxic substance when threatened -- or

licked by curious dogs. Toxic effects are immediate and can be

life-threatening. Make sure to regularly monitor pets when outdoors

to reduce exposure to hazardous creatures.

9. Heavy metals (48 claims) -- Mercury, lead or excessive amounts of

zinc, iron, cobalt and copper can cause serious illness in pets,

especially if allowed to accumulate in a pet's body. Pets may be

exposed to heavy metals through lead-based paint, ingestion of

pennies coined after 1982, vitamins, soil contamination, or water


10. Antifreeze (36 claims) -- The sweet taste of antifreeze appeals to

pets. While most people are aware of the poisonous potential of

antifreeze, they may not notice a pool collecting from a leak beneath

a car. Regularly give a glance beneath the car and clean any spills


"Pet owners should be aware of the symptoms of poisoning -- vomiting, drooling, seizures -- and be familiar with the location of an animal emergency clinic," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "Treatment for poisoning can cost hundreds of dollars and an effective way to ensure preparation and peace of mind for emergency expenses is to safeguard your pet with a pet health insurance policy."

Ken and Judy Liberti of Union City, Calif., discovered how VPI Pet Insurance prevented a medical emergency from becoming a financial crisis when their Beagle, Molly, decided snail bait made a tasty snack. The couple caught Molly sniffing around the flower beds with snail bait in her mouth and rushed her to the veterinarian. Molly's doctor induced vomiting to get the rest of the snail bait out of her stomach. Aside from the discomfort of vomiting, Molly was unharmed. VPI reimbursed $275 of the $355.55 bill for Molly's treatment, making the price for her recovery more manageable.

"We've decided to take our chances with snails in the flower beds rather than use snail bait ever again," said Judy Liberti. "The cost to treat Molly's poisoning could have paid for a whole new garden. That's why we have pet insurance. No matter what problems we've had with Molly's health, VPI has always paid more of her veterinary bills than we have."

For more information on common pet toxins and poisons, visit

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the nation's oldest and largest pet health insurance company. Providing pet owners with peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted choice of America's pet lovers and an advocate of pet health education. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Optional Pet WellCare Protection(SM) for routine care is also available.

Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 1,600 companies nationwide offer VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and in all other states by National Casualty Company, an A+15 rated company in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

SOURCE Veterinary Pet Insurance
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