Vet Blog

Tangling with Toxins: Common Pet Toxins to Avoid

March 23, 2023

Cats and dogs follow their noses in search of delicious snacks, but that keen sense of smell can prove troublesome if they sniff out a tasty toxin.

Many substances in your home, garage, and yard can be hazardous and potentially fatal for your pet, especially if they do not receive immediate treatment. Learn about the hidden dangers that lurk in your home, so you can keep your four-legged friend safe from toxicity.

Human Medication Hazards for Pets

Human medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) products are one of the top contenders for most common pet toxins found in homes. Medications pets regularly ingest include:

  • Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (i.e., Advil) and naproxen (i.e., Aleve)
  • Antidepressants
  • Cold and flu medications
  • Prescription pain medications
  • ADHD medications
  • Cardiac medications
  • Vitamins and supplements

Pets can also lick cream, salve, and ointments from the skin, be affected by topical hormonal therapy, or be poisoned by joint pain relief and other products.

Avoid administering any medication to your pet that is not their prescription. Pet owners are often tempted to medicate their pets to clear up diarrhea or soothe a limp, but pets do not metabolize drugs the same way as people. Overdoses can easily occur, as most pets require much less medication or fatal toxicity can develop, as is the case with acetaminophen ingestion in cats. Store your pill bottles securely in a latched cabinet, and keep your pet out from underfoot when you take your medication to prevent them from gulping down a dropped pill.

Veterinary Product Dangers for Pets

Human medications aren't the only ones that cause problems for pets-their own products can cause toxicity, too. Some of the most common veterinary products that lead to pet toxicity include:

  • Prescription medications - Many medications for pets have a narrow safety margin, so too much can be toxic. No matter how tempted you may be to give your pet more pain medication to improve their arthritic limping, for example, always speak to your veterinarian before changing their dose.
  • Parasite preventives - A flea infestation can have you grabbing the nearest flea preventive you see for your indoor cat, but this can cause serious neurologic issues if you accidentally put your dog's flea prevention on your cat. Avoid parasite and toxicity problems by keeping all your pets, including indoor-only cats, on year-round, species-specific parasite prevention.
  • Chewable supplements - Cats commonly overindulge in calming products and joint supplements. Chewable supplements are soft and meaty, and seem like a delicious treat to an unsuspecting pet, who may sniff out and devour the whole package.
  • Flavored liquids - Compounded liquid medication typically has an appealing flavor-chicken marshmallow is popular with cats-that may entice your pet into lapping up the contents of a spilled bottle.

Food and Beverage Toxins for Pets

Many food items are dangerous for pets or contain ingredients that can be toxic. The most commonly encountered pet-toxic foods and drinks include:

  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions and garlic
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol (i.e., a sugar substitute)
  • Sugar-free foods (e.g., peanut butter, candy, gum, mints)

While ingesting inappropriate foods often leads to vomiting and diarrhea in pets, kidney failure, anemia, liver damage, and hypoglycemia may also develop. Keep your pet safe from food toxicity by reading labels carefully, storing food in latched cabinets, and throwing scraps in a locking trash can.

Household Product Poisons for Pets

A variety of household products can poison pets, whether your pet ingests the product or inhales the fumes. A few products you should be wary of include:

  • Cleaning products (e.g., bleach, ammonia, toilet bowl cleaners)
  • Insecticides and rodenticides
  • Paints and solvents
  • Pool and hot tub chemicals
  • Antifreeze

These products can prove fatal for pets, especially if they do not receive treatment soon after exposure. Search for pet-friendly alternatives, like traps instead of mouse poison, to help protect your pet. Also, ensure you clean up spills quickly, and store products safely and securely in latched cabinets or closets.

Plant Perils for Pets

A large number of plants have pet-poisonous properties, whether the leaves, petals, stem, roots, or pollen are ingested. In the case of lily toxicity, even the water from a vase containing a bouquet of Easter lilies can be fatal to cats. Other common toxic plants include:

  • Azaleas and rhododendrons
  • Tulips and daffodils
  • Oleander
  • Marijuana
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Autumn crocuses
  • Yew
  • Pothos
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Hyacinths

Toxic plants cause problems ranging from drooling and mild gastrointestinal (GI) upset, to cardiac arrest and acute kidney failure. Always check a plant's toxicity status before planting in your garden or flower bed, or bringing a bouquet in your home.

If your pet comes in contact with a suspected toxin, contact animal poison control immediately. Their expert veterinary toxicologists will let you know if you need to make your pet vomit, and the steps you should take at home before heading to the nearest veterinary hospital. After talking to these experts, contact our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center & Pet Resort team, so we can prepare for your pet's arrival and administer immediate treatment.