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Pet Poison Prevention: 10 Common Toxins for Cats and Dogs

Mar 12, 2024 | Cat, Dog, Pet Safety

Toxins Blog 01March is Pet Poison Prevention Month, and at AZPetVet we understand ensuring the safety and well-being of your beloved companions is a top priority for every pet parent. While your home may seem like the safest place for your pets, common household items can pose serious health risks. In this blog, we’ll explore 10 common toxins for cats and dogs, shedding light on potential dangers and providing insights on how to keep our beloved pets safe. 

  1. Chocolate

While a delicious treat for us, chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that can be toxic to dogs and cats. Dark chocolate is particularly potent. While ingesting very minor amounts is not often fatal, the ingestion of chocolate can result in very significant illness. To ensure your pet is not at risk of accidental ingestion, keep all forms of chocolate, including baking ingredients, out of reach. 

  1. Plants

Certain houseplants, like lilies, philodendrons, and pothos, pose a potential danger to pets if ingested. Moreover, it’s essential to be cautious of plants in outdoor flower beds, vegetable gardens, and indoor planters, as they can also be toxic to your pet. Cats, in particular, have a tendency to nibble on greenery and are sensitive to various plant types, but dogs can also be at risk. To identify potential threats, you can refer to the ASPCA’s website for a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants. Some of the most common toxic plants include: 

  • Autumn crocus 
  • Azalea 
  • Cyclamen 
  • Daffodils 
  • Dieffenbachia 
  • Hyacinth 
  • Kalanchoe 
  • Lily of the valley 
  • Lilies 
  • Oleander 
  • Sago palm 
  • Tulips 

Common symptoms to tell if your dog or cat has ingested a toxic plant include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and nausea

Check the toxicity of your plants and either move them to pet-free zones or opt for pet friendly alternatives. For expanded information on this topic, as well as options for pet safe house plants, see our blog about toxic plants for pets.  

  1. Medications

Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can pose potential harm to pets. Examples of medications in this category include iIbuprofen, acetaminophen, and cold and flu medications. The ASPCA also cites certain vitamins and supplements that can be toxic.  

It is recommended to store all medications securely, and refrain from administering any medication to your pet without consulting your veterinarian. This precautionary measure ensures the well-being of your furry friend and prevents accidental ingestion of substances that could be harmful. 

  1. Foods with Xylitol

Xylitol, a sugar substitute found in some sugar-free gum, candies, and baked goods, is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause rapid insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia. Check ingredient labels and avoid sharing such treats with your pets. 

  1. Rodenticide

Commonly used to control rodents, rodenticides can pose a severe threat to pets as they may attempt to eat the flavored pellets, granules, or bricks left out for rodents. The ASPCA lists the following types of rodenticides to be aware of:  

  • Anticoagulants 
  • Bromethalin  
  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) 
  • Corn Gluten 
  • Zinc Phosphide 

The chemicals used in these products are highly toxic for your pet and can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure, seizures, organ damage, and even death. Place them in areas inaccessible to your furry friends and consider pet-safe alternatives or professional pest control services. 

  1. Antifreeze

Antifreeze is a commonly used automotive product. The active ingredient in antifreeze products is ethylene glycol, a sweet-tasting odorless liquid, which is a highly toxic substance for pets. Due to its sweet taste, many pets may voluntarily drink ethylene glycol if they come across spills in garages or driveways. Ensure that any spills or leaks are immediately cleaned, and store antifreeze containers out of reach.  

Ethylene glycol is a very potent substance, meaning that even minor amounts of consumption can result in severe reactions. If your pet consumes this substance, bring them to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible.  

  1. Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic – whether raw, cooked, or in powdered form – can damage your pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia (reduced number of circulating red blood cells). Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, pale gums, weakness, and increased heart rate. Avoid feeding pets food containing these ingredients and be cautious with table scraps. 

  1. Cleaning Products

Many household cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to pets if ingested or inhaled. Products such as: bleach, carpet fresheners, carpet shampoos, essential oils, fabric softener sheets, toilet cleaning tablets can all be toxic. See the ASPCA’s blog for expanded information about these products and their dangers. Keep cleaning supplies in secure cabinets and use pet-safe cleaning alternatives when possible. 

  1. Insecticides

According to the Pet Poison Help Line, most insecticides are considered mild irritants to dogs and cats. Ingestion of these products typically leads to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although ingesting small amounts of insecticides may not pose a major poisoning concern, it becomes a serious issue if symptoms persist or if the substance is consumed directly from the container. It’s important to note that some insecticides are mixed with other dangerous chemicals, and their ingestion can be life-threatening.  

Therefore, even seemingly minor exposures should be treated seriously, and seeking immediate veterinary attention is crucial to ensure the well-being of your pet. 

  1. Fertilizers

Garden products, including fertilizers, may contain chemicals harmful to pets. If you feel that your pet was exposed to fertilizers, be on the lookout for: drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Follow usage instructions carefully and keep pets away from treated areas until it’s safe for them.

Ensuring Pet Safety: Prevention and Action Steps 

By being aware of these common toxins and taking proactive measures, we can create a safe and pet-friendly environment for our four-legged family members. Regularly pet-proofing your home, staying informed, and consulting your AZPetVet veterinarian when in doubt will go a long way in ensuring the health and happiness of your beloved pets. 

Be vigilant in watching for symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, extreme salivation, loss of appetite, weakness or lethargy, and nausea, as these could indicate ingestion of harmful substances. 

In the event that you suspect your pet might have ingested a potentially harmful substance, reach out to your nearest AZPetVet location or contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.  

Disclaimer: Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.