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Your pet’s world is full of new scents, sights, and objects to explore. Along with these new experiences there come plenty of potential dangers – as a pet owner, it is important to be aware of some of the substances and materials that can be a danger to your pet. Some of these can be obvious, like household cleaners, but some are hidden dangers – even common ‘people’ foods can be toxic for pets.
This is not an exclusive list and any decision to give your pet something not specifically intended for animals should be discussed with your veterinarian.
The number one cause of pet poisonings is human medication. Whether a bottle of medication accidentally falls to the floor, and a dog quickly gobbles up pills before they can be picked up, or a well-meaning owner accidentally gives an unsafe medication, this can be a serious problem. NEVER give your dog human medication, and keep ALL drugs, vitamins, herbs, and supplements out of reach.
At PetPeople we are a group of dedicated and passionate pet people. We are so enthusiastic to engage our customers, exchange information, and work together to solve common pet problems. We hope you will continue to come to us with questions, problems or situations regarding your pets’ care. It is our goal to be a partner with you and your veterinarian in the health and well-being of your pet.
While we are happy to advise you and share our knowledge with you, we would never propose that our recommendations be used instead of consulting with your veterinarian about any concerns or issues. You know your pet better than anyone, and should always use your best judgement regarding obtaining the best care for your pet. ©2015 PetPeople Enterprises, LLC
There are some human medications that are safe for dogs, but most others can be seriously harmful. Even some veterinary drugs can be toxic if not used properly. Before medicating your pet, always contact your veterinarian for instructions – an accidental overdose can have fatal consequences. Symptoms can vary, but can include dilated pupils, vomiting/diarrhea, confusion, irregular breathing and heartbeat, seizures, coma, and death.
Symptoms: Depression, lethargy, vomiting, dark colored urine, toxic to cats & dogs
Stomach ulcers, blood in stool, toxic to cats
Vomiting, Stomach ulcers, kidney and liver damage
Stomach ulcers, blood in stool, toxic to cats
Toxic to cats
Poisonous Plants and Flowers
Many types of plants and flowers can be poisonous to pets. Effects range from mild to severe depending on the type of plant and quantity consumed. Some plants only cause slight stomach upset, while others can cause seizures, coma, or even death. It is advised not to keep toxic houseplants in your home, and remove toxic plants on your property. If you are planning to get new plants or flowers, research them ahead of time to learn whether or not they are toxic. If you find your pet has ingested an unidentified plant, follow the steps below –
1. Remove any parts not yet ingested and rinse the mouth gently with water.
2. Look for changes in the skin around the mouth, eyes, or paws, such as swelling, reddening, or blisters.
3. Watch for excessive or foamy salivation.
4. Identify the plant your pet ate.
5. Call the poison center or veterinarian.
6. Always take the suspected plant or remaining parts of the plant with you to the vet’s office or emergency clinic.
7. Never try to induce vomiting by sticking your finger down your pet’s throat.
Don’t forget! There are other toxic things involved in plants and gardening. Cocoa mulch is toxic to pets, as well as many fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides. Use caution applying any chemical where your pet may walk or lay.
Common Toxic Plant
Buckeye-Sprouts, nuts, seeds
Buttercup-Entire plant, especially leaves
Day Lily-Entire plant is toxic to cats
Delphinium (Larkspur)-Entire plant, especially sprouts
Easter Lily-Entire plant is toxic to cats
Poinsettia-Leaves, stem, flowers
Sweet smelling rat poisons that are meant to attract rodents can also attract your pet – your dog or cat can also get sick after ingesting a rodent that has eaten rodenticide. Insecticides or fertilizers can also be easily accessed nosing around in the garden.
Even things that are supposed to help protect your pet can be harmful – pets can have reactions to the insecticides that are meant to protect them from fleas and ticks. Dogs and cats can have reactions to topically applied products, as well as products they wear. Flea and tick collars can be especially dangerous if the pet chews on them – make sure it is appropriately sized and fitted. Pesticide poisoning symptoms can include fatigue, pale gums, internal bleeding, nose bleeds, blood in urine/stool, excessive drooling, breathing difficulty, muscle tremors, seizures, and death. If you notice any bad reactions, immediately wash the area the product was applied with a mild dish soap.
Antifreeze and other Chemicals
Antifreeze contains sweet tasting ethylene glycol and other dangerous chemicals, and can be highly dangerous or fatal to pets even in small quantities. Keep all chemicals out of reach of dogs and cats, and watch for leaking antifreeze, especially in the winter months. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, dilated eyes, depression, increased thirst, kidney failure, irregular heartbeat/breathing, coma, and death.
Today’s modern lifestyle involves the use of many chemicals. With substances such as cleaning agents, air fresheners, and fertilizers used as part of our daily lives, we must remember how they can affect our pets. Exposure to chemicals can harm your pet in various ways – toxins can be ingested, inhaled, or come into direct contact with your pet. The best way to protect your pet is to examine your home environment – can chemical products be swapped for non-hazardous, natural products? Since our pets are so much closer to the ground, and often lick their paws and groom themselves, they are more likely to ingest household cleaners. Though invisible once sprayed, these products can still effect your dog or cat.
Other Environmental Hazards
In addition to common chemicals, there are many plants and animals that can cause a toxic response. Bee or wasp stings can cause allergic reactions just like in people, and fire ant bites can be very dangerous. Depending on your geographical location, various species of spiders or snakes can be highly toxic.
Other environmental hazards include wild mushrooms and plants, or contaminated water. The key to keeping your pet safe is prevention – keep your pet in sight at all times. Do not allow your dog to roam free, and keep an eye on the environment and surrounding area while walking. Dogs will be dogs, and curious noses are bound to explore – but remember, it only takes a moment for a potentially fatal interaction.
Many ‘people’ foods sound delicious to you, but could be harmful or even fatal to your pets! Here is a list of common foods to avoid feeding your pets. If you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the type of food and amount ingested, and keep the label if possible.
Alcohol – Even a drop of alcohol can cause intoxication in a small pet. Alcohol poisoning doesn’t just come from alcoholic beverages – it can also be accidentally ingested from vanilla extract or raw bread dough. Symptoms include disorientation, vomiting/diarrhea, seizure, coma, and death.
Avocado – All products of avocados can be toxic to dogs, including avocado fruit and guacamole dip. It may cause the destruction of the heart muscle and other tissues including the lungs. Signs of toxicity include difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, seizures, coma, and death.
Baby Food - May contain onion powder, which can be toxic to dogs.
Bones from fish, poultry, pork, or meat – Never give your dog cooked bones. Chicken bones can be especially dangerous, and when ingested may splinter and cause severe damage to the digestive tract.
Caffeine - Stimulates the central nervous and cardiac systems, and can cause tremors, heart arrhythmia, and seizures.
Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which cannot be metabolized by animals. Just one square of baker’s chocolate can be fatal to a 15 lb dog. Signs of toxicity include vomiting/diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, hyperactivity, seizures, and death.
Coffee/Coffee Grounds - Contains caffeine, which stimulates the central nervous and cardiac systems, causing tremors, heart arrhythmia, and seizures.
Fat Trimmings – Excess fat can cause digestive upset including vomiting and diarrhea, and may also cause pancreatitis. Symptoms of pancreatitis include fever, painful abdomen, vomiting and diarrhea.
Grapes/Raisins – An unknown toxic component of grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure. The toxic dose is unknown and can vary. Just a few can cause death in small dogs. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, then signs of kidney failure within 24 hours.
Hops – An unknown toxic component can cause panting, increased heart rate, elevated temperature, seizures, and death.
Iron – Vitamin supplements containing iron have been known to damage the digestive system. Excess quantities of iron can also be toxic to other organs including the liver and kidneys.
Liver – Excess quantities of raw or cooked liver (more than three servings a week) can lead to Vitamin A toxicity. This toxicity can cause deformed bones, excessive bone growth of the elbows and spine, weight loss, and anorexia.
Macadamia Nuts – Contain an unknown toxin which affects the nervous system and muscles, causing temporary paralysis in a dog’s hind legs.
Marijuana – Ingestion of this drug can depress the nervous system, causing digestive upset, changes in heart rate, breathing, and even death.
Milk/Dairy products – May cause digestive upset including vomiting and diarrhea. Milk and other dairy products contain a sugar called lactose – beyond their puppy or kitten stage, dogs and cats don’t have the enzyme lactase which is required to digest this sugar.
Mushrooms – Certain varieties can be very toxic to pets. Mild symptoms include excessive salivation and vomiting, and more toxic varieties can cause severe liver disease and neurologic disorders.
Onions and Garlic – Dogs and cats can develop hemolytic anemia if they eat enough onions. Symptoms include lethargy and collapse. Because garlic is in the same family as onions, it can cause the same symptoms, though it is generally considered less toxic. Some supplements contain garlic - are they safe? Read more.
Peach Pits – These hard objects are not digestible and can cause blockages of the digestive tract.
Raw Egg Whites – Fed in large quantities, the enzyme avidin, present in egg whites, can decrease the absorption of biotin, leading to a decrease in skin and coat quality.
Raw Fish – Fed in large quantities, raw fish can cause a deficiency of thiamine, leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and even death. Raw salmon can cause a specific problem called Salmon Poisoning Disease. A parasite found in raw salmon can effect dogs, causing lethargy, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. If left untreated, SPD has a mortality rate of up to 90%. This disease is completely preventable by cooking salmon - cooking kills the disease causing parasite.
Salt – Toxic in large quantities, excess salt can lead to electrolyte imbalances or pancreatitis.
Sugary Foods – Can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly contribute to diabetes
Table Scraps – Excess people food is not nutritionally balanced, and fatty foods can cause digestive upset or pancreatitis.
Tobacco – Contains nicotine, which affects the digestive and nervous systems. Ingestion can cause rapid heart beat, collapse, coma, and death.
Tomatoes – This fruit contains atropine, which can cause dilated pupils, tremors, and irregular heartbeat. The highest concentration is found in the leaves and stems of the plants, green tomatoes, and a lesser quantity in ripe tomatoes.
Xylitol – This artificial sweetener is found in sugarless candy and gum and can be potentially deadly for pets. It causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, and symptoms can include fatigue, collapse, irregular heartbeat, restlessness, kidney failure, and death.
This is not a complete list of toxic foods or substances, and remember - most anything can be toxic in the right quantities. There are many sources of information available with additional information and more complete lists. Pet Poison List/Pet Poison Hotline
What to Do
Prevention is key – do your best to eliminate all sources of toxicity. However, exposure to potential dangers is still possible, and it is important to recognize the signs of toxicity and act immediately – your pet’s life could depend on it.
Call your vet! If in doubt, call anyway! Your veterinarian can advise you on the next step, such as whether or not to induce vomiting – sometimes bringing it back up can actually cause more harm. Try to gather as much information as possible regarding the potential poison (as quickly as possible), and obtain the packaging with a sample of the ingested material.
In case of toxin exposure, keep a list of important numbers in a visible, easily accessible location. You don’t want to be searching for it when you need it! These should include –
1. Your Veterinary Clinic
2. Local 24 Hour Emergency Veterinary Clinic
3. ASPCA Poison Control (888) 426-4435 ($65 fee)
4. Pet Poison Hotline (855) 764-7661 ($49 fee)