Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Reveals the Sources of Pet Poisoning

Toad PoisoningPet owners often joke about pets being like vacuum cleaners literally eating anything put in front of them. Unfortunately, that lack of dietary discretion too often results in pets ingesting toxic substances, emergency visits to the veterinarian, and large medical bills.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, has analyzed its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to find the sources behind the hundreds of poisoning claims submitted to VPI every month. Following is a ranking of the nearly 20,000 pet poisoning claims VPI received between 2005 and 2009:

  • Accidental Ingestion of Medications (pet or human drugs): 5,131
  • Rodenticide (mouse & rat poison): 4,028
  • Methylxanthine Toxicity (chocolate, caffeine): 3,661
  • Plant Poisoning: 2,808
  • Household Chemicals: 1,669
  • Metaldehyde (snail, slug poison): 396
  • Insecticide: 323
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity (lead, zinc): 288
  • Toad Poisoning: 270
  • Antifreeze Poisoning: 213
  • Walnut Poisoning: 100
  • Alcohol Toxicity: 75
  • Strychnine: 28

VPI policyholders spent more than $6.6 million between 2005 and 2009 treating their pets for poisoning. Accidental ingestion of pet or human medications, the most common type of poisoning, cost policyholders an average of $791 per claim. The most expensive type of poisoning, heavy metal poisoning, cost an average of $952 per claim.

“Not only can a poisoning incident be life-threatening for the pet, it’s traumatic for the pet owner as well,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Depending on what substance the pet has ingested and the amount, the reaction can be sudden with the animal exhibiting alarming symptoms such as staggering, vomiting, drooling, seizures, and even loss of consciousness. We recommend that pet owners be aware of which items around their homes can be harmful to their pets — medications, insect poisons, chocolate, and certain nuts — and keep these items safely out of reach. Also, they shouldn’t assume that their pets will ignore that bottle of bleach in the laundry room or the Philodendron plant by the window. Our data shows this just isn’t so.”

In addition to taking steps to avoid poisoning emergencies, pet owners should be prepared for such an emergency should it arise. For example, owners should keep the phone number of their pets’ regular veterinarian and a phone number for an emergency veterinary hospital handy at all times. For more information about pet poisoning prevention and poisoning first-aid, please visit the Pet Poison Helpline at

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