Common Household Pet Poisons

Written by Small Door's medical experts

It can feel daunting to keep your furry friends happy and healthy with so many toxic things around – especially in the household. With so many of them right under your nose, use this list to pet-proof your home and learn what to do if your pet has ingested any poisonous products.

1. Human pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications

Even if a medicine doesn’t require a prescription, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your pet. Some of the most commonly ingested human medications include painkillers like Advil and Tylenol, heart and blood pressure medications, amphetamines, antidepressants, decongestants and birth control pills.

The toxic effects of these medications can include anything from mild gastrointestinal upset to kidney and liver failure. Always check with your vet before giving your pet any medications you have at home.

2. Household cleaners and detergent

Most surface cleaners are benign, causing minor GI upset if ingested. However, certain cleaners can be toxic or corrosive to the esophagus and stomach including Lysol products, toilet bowl and oven cleaner, Purell hand sanitizer, and bleach.

Pet-proofing by keeping toilet bowl lids closed and securing cleaners in cabinets will help to keep your pet safe from these dangers.

3. Chocolate, coffee, and caffeine

What puts a pep in your step can be really harmful for your dog or cat. Though cats may not go out of their way to eat chocolate or coffee products like dogs do, it is still dangerous for them. The theobromine in chocolate, along with the caffeine, puts it high up on the list of toxic products.

Cocoa, cooking chocolate, and dark chocolate pose the greatest threat, while semisweet and milk chocolate are less toxic. Thankfully, white chocolate isn’t toxic, though it may cause a slight upset stomach.

Using this chocolate toxicity calculator, you can enter your pet’s weight along with the type of chocolate and amount ingested to see the expected symptoms and recommended treatment.

4. Products with xylitol

This sugar substitute, also known as sugar alcohol, is found in countless products from sugar-free gum to toothpaste. You can also find it in sugar-free baked goods, flavored liquid medications, mouthwash, and even in deodorant.

When eaten, it causes dogs to become hypoglycemic and their blood sugar levels become dangerously low. As little as three pieces of chewing gum with xylitol can be fatal for a small Yorkie or Chihuahua.

Cats, on the other hand, are not affected by xylitol like dogs are.

As little as three pieces of chewing gum with xylitol can be fatal for a small Yorkie or Chihuahua.

5. Avocados

High in fat with a choking hazard in the center, avocados are not good for your pets. The pit is especially dangerous, because if ingested, it won’t break down and could cause an obstruction.

6. Grapes, raisins, and currants

Fruit can be a healthy treat for your pet, but grapes, raisins, and currants should not be one of them. Your dog or cat could develop gastrointestinal upset and serious kidney issues. Individual sensitivities vary – some pets can consume them without any negative consequences, while others can ingest small amounts and go into kidney failure.

We recommend contacting your vet as soon as possible after any grape or raisin ingestion. The sooner it’s addressed, the better the chances are of less intensive treatment.

7. Onions and garlic

These veggies make our dishes tasty and fragrant, but they can be fatal to pets in large amounts by causing a breakdown of red blood cells leading to severe anemia. As onion and garlic powder are a more concentrated version, these are even more toxic.

8. Rodent poisons

The rat bait for the unwanted little critters in your home will not fare well for your pets. A wide range of symptoms from spontaneous bleeding to kidney failure may occur. Store these in a high place, locked in a cupboard where your inquisitive cat or dog can’t find them.

9. Pyrethrins and pesticides

Although you may not recognize the name, pyrethrins are commonly found in sprays to control mosquitos, fleas, moths, and more. They are also found in your dog’s topical flea and tick medication.

While safe for use on dogs in the appropriate dosage, they should not be used on cats. If cats groom the product off a dog, or if you mistakenly give your dog’s preventative to your cat, he could have serious tremors.

10. Lilies

These pretty flowers are highly toxic to cats. If you are a cat owner, leave lilies out of your home. The whole plant, from the stem to the pollen to the leaves can end in fatal symptoms when consumed.

Chewing on a leaf or two, brushing against the pollen, or even drinking the water at the base of a lily plant can cause severe poisoning in the form of acute renal failure, very rapidly.

11. Silica packs

Keep a close eye on these small gel packs that protect your items from moisture damage and rust. When eaten, they can cause a range of gastrointestinal upset.

The more pressing risk is that the packet can cause an obstruction in your pet’s intestines when swallowed whole.

12. Anti-freeze

Anti-freeze, when ingested, can cause kidney failure even in small quantities. If your pet has been exposed, go to your vet or an emergency hospital immediately.

It is commonly leaked from cars, and if your pet steps in a puddle and licks his paws, fatal symptoms could occur.

13. Inhalers

The little devices designed to save your life can do the opposite to your cat or dog. A puncture to an inhaler can release 200 concentrated dosages of the medication contained inside. This leads to severe elevation in heart rate and subsequent medical problems from this.

14. Marijuana

Regardless if it’s used for medical or recreational reasons, ingesting marijuana is not a good idea for your cat or dog.

Although it’s not fatal, your pet will look and act intoxicated, confused, tired, and may exhibit urinary incontinence. Double the toxicity can occur in edible forms like brownies.

Treatment is mostly supportive, with fluids and hydration, until the high wears off.

15. Batteries

Batteries can be an appealing chew toy, especially for dogs. They are dangerously corrosive when chewed. The alkaline contents are exposed to the esophagus and stomach, causing deep ulcers. Keep your batteries stored away, along with the other toxic products on this list.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you are ever unsure about the toxicity of a product for your pet, speak to your veterinarian.

What To Do In Cases of Suspected Pet Poisoning

If you suspect your pet may have ingested something toxic, here’s what you should do:

  • Assess the situation. Figure out everything you can about what your cat or dog ate – when did they eat it, what was it exactly, and how much of the toxin did they consume? The answers to these questions can help you figure out next steps. Make sure you keep hold of the packaging to show your veterinarian.

  • Watch for clinical signs. Is your pet bright, alert, and responsive? Is he or she acting normally? Look out for signs of lethargy, inappetance, and gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Call your veterinarian. If your veterinary practice is open, give them a call and tell them everything you know. If your pet ate a toxin recently, don’t be surprised if they want to make your pet throw up. This will help rid your pet’s body of the toxin and its poisonous impacts.

  • Bring your pet to an emergency facility. If you are concerned and your go-to vet cannot help, take a trip to the nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic.

  • If you need advice, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. The Pet Poison Helpline is a 24/7 animal poison control center, always available to answer your questions. Each call is $59.

As a Small Door member, if you ever need immediate advice for your pets, we are available 24/7 via the Small Door app. It can be scary when your cat or dog gets into something possibly harmful, and we are always here to help.

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