Pets are curious creatures who explore their world using all five senses. Unfortunately, some mischievous dogs and cats rely too heavily on “taste,” and find themselves in a world of trouble. Each year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handles more than 200,000 calls about known or suspected pet toxin exposures, many involving a pet who has already ingested a toxin.

Poisonous substances are readily found throughout most homes, their risks unknown to pet owners. LaGrange Veterinary Hospital wants you to be informed about the top pet toxins, to ensure your four-footed explorer stays safe.

Pet toxin #1—Over-the-counter and prescription medications

For three years running, over-the-counter (OTC) medications have been the number one reason for calls to the APCC. Mischievous pets often find ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, vitamins, and supplements in purses and backpacks, or on countertops. Owners sometimes treat their pet’s pain at home with ibuprofen or naproxen, resulting in acute kidney failure and gastric ulcers. Never give your pet any medication without contacting your veterinarian.

Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and heart and blood pressure medications are the most common prescription medication toxicities. Pets who consume these powerful medications may suffer dangerous neurologic and circulatory side effects, and require hospitalization.    

Pet toxin #2—Human foods

Most pets have never met a snack they didn’t like, but many common foods can spell disaster for dogs and cats. The following human foods are toxic to pets:

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic 
  • Macadamia nuts 
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast dough
  • Xylitol

Despite chocolate’s well-known toxic status, the APPC reported an average of 76 calls per day in 2020 for chocolate toxicity. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which stimulate the cardiovascular and nervous system. Baking chocolate and dark chocolate are the most toxic,  but keep all forms of chocolate out of your pet’s reach. 

Pets commonly ingest sugar-free gum and peanut butter that contain xylitol, a popular artificial sweetener found in sugar-free foods. Always check the label before feeding anything to your pet. 

Pet toxin #3: Plants and flowers

Houseplants have recently surged in popularity, and so have cases of pets ingesting toxic plants. Cats and dogs are vulnerable to dangerous side effects from a number of indoor and outdoor plants. Before heading to the garden center or florist, check the ASPCA Toxic and Non Toxic Plant List to determine the plants that are safe should your pet take a bite. If you do have toxic plants, keep them out of your pet’s reach, or in a greenhouse, a dedicated room, or a fenced area in your garden.

All lily varieties, including the stems, leaves, petals, pollen, and the water in the vase, are extremely toxic for cats. Only a small amount of any lily part can trigger potentially fatal kidney failure, so always carefully check floral bouquets for true lilies and keep them from your cat.

Pet toxin #4: Veterinary products

Veterinary medications and supplements are often flavored to increase palatability and appeal, but sometimes they appeal too much. Pets commonly chew through packaging to access prescription chewables such as flavored tablets, oral preventives, and joint supplement chews, and consume excessive amounts of medication. Pet medications should be kept off counters, or in a drawer or cabinet inaccessible to nosy pets.

Pet toxin #5: Rodenticides

Rat and mouse poisons can be found in many homes, but pet owners tend to forget about them, because they are stored in out-of-sight, out-of-mind locations, such as garages, basements, and infrequently used vacation homes. Curious dogs and cats may be attracted to the flavored pellets, blocks, and soft baits, and suffer tragic consequences. Rodenticides contain active ingredients that cause bleeding disorders, brain swelling, kidney failure, and toxic calcium levels. 

Take special care when storing rodenticides, and ensure your pets do not have access. Keep pets confined to prevent accidental ingestion from neighboring homes or garages.

Pet toxin #6: Household products

Many everyday products can be troublesome for pets. In the garage, pets may be exposed to toxic antifreeze, paint thinner, paint, spackle, Gorilla Glue, and adhesives. Household cleaners and beauty products can also pose a threat to pets. Keep household products stored in their original containers, with tight-fitting lids, in a closed cabinet, and clean up spills immediately.

Pet toxin #7: Garden products

Pets cannot resist the sight of a human digging in the dirt, and they love to do their part when you are planting in or caring for your garden. Unfortunately, their part may lead to problems—in addition to toxic plants, fertilizers, especially those made of blood or bone meal, lawn chemicals, compost piles, and cocoa bean mulch, are dangerous for pets. For safety, do not allow pets in the garden unsupervised, and store all supplies out of reach in your shed or garage. 

Now that you are aware of the most common pet toxins, check your home and yard from your pet’s point of view—what looks appealing? What could they easily chew open and consume? Prevent possible tragedy by ensuring all potential toxins are properly stored. 

A pet who has ingested a known or suspected toxin ingestion is an emergency situation, and time is of the essence—call LaGrange Veterinary Hospital or the ASPCA Poison Control Center immediately.