Like many of us, I enjoy freshening up the house over the holidays with some decorative potpourri.
I usually buy a new bag every year, replacing the old as needed. I’ve also used the liquid potpourris before, although not so much since Sean and I have been living together, since he tends to be rather sensitive about what he refers to as “that stinky crap you keep burning all over the house”.
A recent email, however, has left me pondering if potpourri and pets are meant to co exist in the same household:
We have suffered a terrible, terrible tragedy.
Last Wed. two, beloved Cavaliers of mine, Haley and Zoe both ate potpourri from a decorative basket in my living room . Within hours, they were vomiting it, convulsing and going into total body rigidity and shock.
We took them to the after hours clinic, they had no idea what it could be and wouldn’t listen to me about them vomiting potpourri at home and how I had such concerns about the toxic effects of it. They treated symptoms. We transferred them to our day vet. He also wouldn’t listen to me about the potpourri theory. He said they had “strychnine” poisoning symptoms.
I kept telling him that the potpourri was Made In India, sold by a company in California and sold at my local WalMart. My heart told me that it was the culprit of their condition.
They declined rapidly throughout the day and we transferred them back to the after hours clinic for a second night. At midnight, I made the agonizing decision to put them to sleep. Haley was in constant seizures that wouldn’t stop, fluid was filling up in her lungs, body temp was dropping on both of them, Zoe was lying almost lifeless on the table, struggling with every breath she took. Every muscle was completely rigid, you couldn’t even move her.
I have devoted the last couple of days (now that I can get out of bed and function) to researching my concerns with the potpourri and have since found out I was right…………there is a lab in England that has case studies on toxic potpourri from India!! The toxin….strychnine, which in it’s commercial source, comes from a certain tree grown in India.
I am completely heart broken over this. Please be aware of the potential toxins in any and all stuff like this in our homes. I would’ve never guessed this could happen but when I saw them both “playing” in the potpourri and then after about two hours saw the symptoms of a poisoning, I just put two and two together.
Karen Cantner, Heartland Kennels, Evansville , Indiana USA
The liquid form is no safer for our pets (or for toddlers, for those who prefer their babies two legged). The ASPCA’s Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president, says of liquid potpourri that
the essential oils found in many of these products can cause irritation of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and mucous membranes. More significant injuries are typically a result of thermal burns or exposure to a specific type of detergent. Says Hansen, “A class of detergents known as cationics is usually responsible for severe ulceration of the membranes of the mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract.
Where there is contact with the skin, redness, swelling and extremely painful lesions can appear.” Symptoms of these exposures include drooling, vomiting, depression, metabolic disturbances and difficulty breathing from fluid on the lungs. 10 percent of the liquid potpourri poisoning cases managed by the ASPCA since 2001 have included life-threatening effects.
If you’ve used those scented sachets to add a pleasant smell to your dresser drawers, take care to keep them out of reach of pets and children, since they’re also often toxic.
A healthy, non toxic alternative would be a home made sachet with rose petals, hips and dried lavender and herbs, or choose a ‘Mulling Spice” potpourri, such as the one pictured above. Pretty, and everything in it is actually meant to be used as a tasty spice to be added to wine or apple cider.
Barring that, you could choose, like me, to share your home with a man who prefers the smell of a pack of small, gassy dogs to the smell of artificial air fresheners.
Update: the Aby kittens have gone to their new home (they went together – isn’t that nice? I love it when sibling kitties and puppies get to go in a pair). I’m leaving the video up, though, because who doesn’t want to look at cute kitties?