Pet Poison Alert: Liquid Potpourri Packs a Painful Punch

Want a fresh and fragrant home? Before setting out that delicious-smelling potpourri simmer pot, please take heed. Many liquid potpourris contain essential oils and detergents that could prove hazardous to your furry companions, based on an analysis of calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.
According to the ASPCA’s Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president, 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.
Although 10 percent of the liquid potpourri poisoning cases managed by the ASPCA since 2001 have included life-threatening effects, most animals make a full recovery if treated promptly. “However, it is important to note that treatment can be very extensive and may involve a lengthy hospitalization,” says Hansen.
And feline caretakers, please take note—cats are more likely to be at risk than dogs. “This is most likely because cats have greater access to the simmer pots, which are usually kept on countertops or other high-level surfaces,” explains Hansen. Most exposures occur when cats lap up heated liquid from the simmer pot, or when liquid spills on their fur from a leaky container.
To avoid exposing your pet to the dangers of liquid potpourri, ASPCA experts offer the following tips: - Place potpourri simmer pots and unused liquid in rooms where pets cannot gain access. - Consider using relatively safer alternatives, such as plug-in or solid air fresheners. (Do take care to use these in out-of-reach locations as well.) - If you suspect your pet has been exposed to liquid potpourri, please call your veterinarian or the APCC's emergency hotline at (888) 426-4435 for round-the-clock telephone assistance.
For more information on poison prevention, visit
APCC online.