List of 10 common household pet toxins

10 Common Household Pet Toxins

3/1/2018 Written by Samantha Randall, editor-in-chief - top dog tips

It’s a well-known fact that pets, dogs especially, will eat almost anything. Unfortunately, many common household substances that you normally wouldn’t even give a second thought can be seriously harmful for animals. Since I’ve been rescuing dogs and cats for years, I’ve had to take a close look at some of the things that pose danger to my furry family members, and pet proof my home. Here are some of the most dangerous household toxins that you need to consider and keep away from your companions if you’re about to become a pet owner.

Human medication

When you think that your pet might be sick, always take him a vet clinic, or at the very least – call your veterinarian for a brief consultation. Pet owners often find themselves without appropriate meds, but treating an animal with human medication, for instance, painkillers, can be extremely harmful, and in some cases even fatal.

Unfortunately, even if you know this already, animals (especially dogs) may sometimes get in contact with your medication by accident, usually by playing with it. Human painkillers cause ulcers, kidney failure or even irreversible liver damage in animals. Many other human meds will often cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, seizures and death. Both prescription and over the counter medication is dangerous for pets. Surprisingly, even herbal meds and other supplements can be harmful. Bear in mind that even the smallest doses can have grave consequences, so always keep your medication out of reach, and pick up any pills you accidentally drop.

Pet medication

Pet meds are what you must use for your sick dogs and cats in almost any case. That said, when it comes to medication, dosage is key. If your pooch gets into the medicine cabinet and consumes larger than normal quantities of his own medication, he could get poisoned and even die. Sadly, this happens often, and according to AVMA the most common types of medication that are to blame are dewormers and painkillers.

Chocolate and Coffee

Chocolate, coffee, and caffeinated drinks such as tea and sodas are common to have around the house, but they all contain substances called methylxanthines. These substances cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, abnormal heart beats, and even death in canines, depending on the amount your dog has ingested. While dark chocolate has the highest amounts of methylxanthines, they are present in white and milk chocolate as well. Larger breeds have a higher tolerance, but even for them, 4 oz or more could pose a very dangerous problem.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, most notably xylitol, can cause blood sugar levels to drop sharply. In some cases, this toxicosis can even bring about liver failure. It’s known that some companies have been adding xylitol into peanut butter, and since PB is one of the most popular treats among dogs, be careful and always read the ingredients label before feeding it to your Fido. Xylitol can also be found in some brands of human toothpaste. For that reason, it’s vital that you NEVER use human toothpaste when you brush your pup’s teeth.

House plants

Toxicity of house plants is not something many people think about, but animals – especially dogs – often chew them. Even some plants that are normally considered harmless are toxic, for instance aloe vera or tulips. If you already have plenty of house plants in your home, or are considering getting a new one, but are unsure about its status, check out this list on the ASPCA website (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Ideally, avoid any plants that may be toxic to your dog, even if you believe you can keep your pets away from them.

Lilies are commonly brought into homes as spring decorations. If you have pets, you should NOT have lilies inside your home or growing in your garden. Most plants in the lily family are toxic to cats, and some species of this plant are toxic to dogs too. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so keep the lilies out of your home.

Alcoholic beverages

Some of us may enjoy a good drink, and when the mood strikes, there have been cases where pet owners were curious if their pets would get tipsy from a drink as well. The answer is – yes, they will. However, your pet has a much lower alcohol tolerance, and even very small amounts can cause alcohol poisoning in both dogs and cats. The symptoms are very similar to alcohol poisoning in humans – bad coordination, vomiting, sleepiness. But when given to pets, alcoholic beverages can also cause difficulty breathing, tremors, kidney and liver damage, high blood acidity and eventually death.

Some fruits and veggies

There are many fruits and vegetables that are healthy to dogs, and even advisable to include in their diet, according to research. Some others, however, must be avoided at all costs. Grapes (and their dried counterpart – raisins) can cause grape toxicity and renal failure, for example.

Some nuts are dangerous, too. It is not entirely known why macadamia nuts for dogs are so harmful – the most common guess is that the nut’s high fat content is the culprit. Even a tiny amount of these tasty nuts can cause an abnormally elevated temperature and weakness. They are a common ingredient in cookies, so read the ingredient list before you share. Other nuts should be avoided as well – they have been known to cause pancreatitis – an inflammation of the pancreas.

Onions, leeks and chives should also be avoided. Some dog treats contain a small amount of garlic, which is alright, but ingesting a lot of garlic can also be dangerous for your pooch. Eating these vegetables can cause the destruction of red blood cells in your pet’s body. This will lead to anemia. In large quantities, these vegetables can be toxic to both dogs and cats.

Food containers

Some dog water bowls and food containers that contain Bisphenol A (BPA) could be harmful if ingested by dogs. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, BPA can disrupt hormones in human's and may be linked to heart disease, diabetes and infertility, and just as harmful for pets. Plastic pet bowls and pet food bowls in general have also been found to be one of the dirtiest items in pet owners' homes, often covered in bacteria, which can result in a sick dog. 

Household chemicals

Household chemicals, such as cleaning solutions, antifreeze, and fertilizers are one of the leading causes of poisoning in pets. Fertilizers contain a poisonous mix of nitrogen and phosphorus. Cocoa mulch has the added threat of chocolate, which makes it even worse. All cleaning solutions and other chemicals, like bleach and paint thinner, which are poisonous to humans, are poisonous to animals as well.

Always read the label on all these products and store them accordingly. Bear in mind that animals may lick or even chew through the packaging. That’s why these are best kept well out of reach, preferably somewhere higher up, or in a locked cabinet. Common symptoms include chemical burns and an upset stomach.

Insect and rodent poisons

Insect and rodent poisons are meant to kill other, smaller animals, so it’s no wonder they can be poisonous to your pet as well. This, unfortunately, includes even tick and flea products. While these are not dangerous when handled properly, if your dog ingests them he could get poisoned. The same can happen if a small pet gets a dosage that is too high. Rodent poison is particularly dangerous because it commonly contains phosphorus and anticoagulants, which can lead to death.

Unfortunately, statistics show that every year there are over 100,000 cases of pet poisoning in the US alone. Always remember that dogs and cats are, in many respects, similar to children. Many times, they can’t tell that something is harmful. That’s why it’s up to you to pet-proof your home, and always keep an eye on them. If you suspect that your pet has, indeed, been poisoned, act quickly. You should keep the contact information for the Pet Poison Helpline readily available. Call your vet’s emergency line immediately. If possible, bring the remaining poison with you (carefully, you don’t want to be exposed, if it’s something poisonous to humans too). This will help your vet determine the damage and decide on the course of action.


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