Keep Your Pet Safe During National Animal Poison Prevention Week

March 2019

For many of us, our pets are ou babies and we do everything we can to keep them happy and healthy. Yet, despite our best efforts, we can end up exposing our pets to potential dangers throughout our homes.

While the safety of our pets is a year-round responsibility, we think National Animal Poison Prevention Week is the perfect time to remind pet parents about the dangers of human drugs, poisonous foods, dangerous plants, and toxic household items that can lead to accidental poisoning.


Poisonous Medications

Human Prescriptions

Human prescription drugs topped the list of most common pet toxins of 2017 at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, accounting for 17.5% of APCC poisoning cases. Most of the time these were eaten by accident after being dropped on the floor and found by pets. In some cases, dogs also mistook daily pill reminder containers as chew toys, eating up the pills inside. There were also a few instances of owners giving their own pills to their dog or cat when the drugs were stored together in the medicine cabinet.

The most dangerous human prescription drugs for pets are in pain medications, antidepressants, and heart medications. ADD/ADHD medications also are problems because they contain powerful stimulants that can be deadly for both dogs and cats.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Coming in a close second at 17.4% of poison cases at the ASPCA were over-the-counter medications that included vitamins, pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve), probiotics, antihistamines, cold and flu medication, and herbal supplements. Most cases resulted from pets eating dropped pills found on the floor. It’s important to note that many of these drugs can be poisonous or even lethal in very small doses.

Poisonous Human Foods

  • Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats. Small amounts, especially of dark chocolate, can cause diarrhea or vomiting. Large amounts of chocolate can lead to seizures, heart problems, and even death.

  • It doesn’t take much alcohol to cause life-threatening toxicity in pets, especially small dogs and cats. Ingesting alcohol can cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar, body temperature, and blood pressure. Some pets may also experience seizures or stop breathing.

  • While macadamia nuts are a great source of fat and protein for humans, these nuts are very bad for dogs, causing weakness, vomiting, fever, tremors, and then collapse.

  • Grapes are highly toxic for dogs and can result in kidney failure. Grapes or raisins baked into foods can also be toxic.

  • Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks can sometimes be toxic for dogs and cats, especially in large quantities. Eating these foods can lead to stomach upset and blood problems.

  • Xylitol, a sweetener, often found in gum, sugar-free baked goods, candy, peanut butter, and even toothpaste, can be poisonous to pets. Pets that have eaten too much Xylitol can get very sick and even develop liver failure.

  • Too much salt can cause poisoning in both dogs and cats. Symptoms include stomach upset, decreased appetite, wobbly gait, drinking more and urinating more. Severe symptoms include seizures, coma, or even death. Sources of too much salt include salty snacks, homemade play dough, salt-based ornaments, paintballs, enema solutions that contain sodium phosphate, sea water, and rock salt.

  • Avocados contain persin, which often results in diarrhea and vomiting. Persin can also cause heart congestion in dogs. The most dangerous part of an avocado is the pit since it contains the most persin and can also be a choking hazard.

Poisonous Plants

While we don’t tend to think of plants and flowers as poisonous, many varieties of plants, flowers and even essential oils are toxic to both dogs and cats. Back in December, we published a blog post highlighting the most toxic plants your pet is likely to encounter during the holiday season. A printable list of toxic plants for both cats and dogs is available from the ASPCA.

Essential Oils

Many essential oils can be toxic to cats whether ingested orally, applied to the skin, or inhaled in the air. Exposure to these oils can lead to seizures, liver damage or failure, and even death. Higher concentrations of essential oils pose greater risks.

The most dangerous essential oils are:

  • Wintergreen oil

  • Peppermint oil

  • Citrus oil (including lemon oil)

  • Tea tree oil (melaleuca oil)

  • Pine oil

  • Eucalyptus oil

  • Cinnamon oil

  • Pennyroyal oil

  • Sweet birch oil

  • Clove oil

  • Ylang ylang oil

Dangerous Chemicals and Household Items

You probably have many potentially harmful chemicals in your garage, basement, or cabinets from household cleaners and insecticides, to paint, solvents, or drain cleaners. Remember that if the chemical in question is harmful to humans, it can harm your pet as well. And, toxic chemicals tend to affect pets more than people since they weigh less and have smaller bodies. That’s why it’s so important to keep dangerous substances away from pets by storing them in high or locked areas.

  • Antifreeze products can be extremely poisonous to both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, the sweet smell and taste attract pets. Most newer antifreeze products are safer but it’s still best to clean up spills immediately to prevent problems.

  • Dogs like the taste of certain fertilizers, especially those containing bone meal or blood meal. However, fertilizers also have ingredients that can be harmful when ingested. While small amounts of fertilizer can cause mild stomach upset, large amounts can lead to major medical problems.

Other common household items that can result in poisoning include:

  • Insecticides

  • Foam insulation

  • Paint

  • Glue

  • Paint thinner

  • Pool chemicals

  • Rat poison

  • Drain cleaner

If you suspect your pet has consumed any of the items listed here, we urge you to contact your primary care veterinarian, or call the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-429-4435.

While our list of potential dangers is a long one, it helps to remember that most accidental poisonings are easy to prevent by simply being more aware. Keep a close eye on your cat or dog to catch signs of trouble early and seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. If you have questions about potential toxins, contact your primary care veterinarian. 


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