Household Hazards for Pets

Help keep your pet safe by being aware of these household hazards:

Prescription Drugs and Over-the-Counter Medications

Accidental ingestion of drugs is the most common cause of animal poisoning. Store all medications securely and out of reach. Do not give your pet any over-the-counter medications meant for human consumption without your veterinarian's permission. Never give acetaminophen to a dog or a cat; just two extra-strength tablets in 24 hours will most likely kill a small pet.

Tobacco (Nicotine)

Tobacco products can cause excitement, salivation, vomiting, muscle weakness, and coma or death, and toxic effects can develop within minutes. Keep cigarettes, ashtrays, nicotine gum and patches out of reach of pets. The new e-cigarette liquids are also toxic.

Marijuana

While it’s extremely rare for pets to ingest enough marijuana to cause death, medical treatment may still be needed, depending on how much was consumed and in what form (for instance, if baked with chocolate it may be more toxic). Signs of marijuana poisoning in dogs and cats include glassy eyes, stumbling, incoordination, dilated pupils, vomiting, coma, and urinary incontinence.

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Household Cleaning Products

Products containing bleach can burn your pet's skin upon contact; many cleaners can be poisonous if ingested. Close cleaning product containers tightly when not in use and store securely. Keep toilet lids closed to prevent pets from drinking treated toilet water.

Fertilizers, Insecticides, Pesticides, Baits, Traps

Keep pets away from areas treated with fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides for 3-4 days. Pets who walk on treated surfaces and then lick their paws can be poisoned. Baits and traps for ants, rodents, snails and slugs are also toxic and should be placed only where they are inaccessible to pets. You may want to read more about outdoor hazards.

Food

Xylitol

Keep gum, candy or breath fresheners containing the sweetener xylitol away from your dog. When a dog eats even a small amount of xylitol, it causes a surge of insulin, and the animal's blood sugar may drop quickly and dangerously. Cases of liver damage have also been associated with ingestion of xylitol. If your dog ingest xylitol, contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately.

Chocolate

Unsweetened, dark, bittersweet and baking chocolate can be toxic to pets, especially dogs, who are more prone to eat it. If your dog eats chocolate, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately, as treatment may need to be rendered immediately. Symptoms of toxicity include excitement, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, muscle spasms and seizures.

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Other foods

Potentially harmful foods include: coffee grounds, tea, alcohol, hops, salt, onions and onion powder, grapes and raisins, avocado, garlic, and macadamia nuts.

Garbage

Also, keep pets away from garbage, as rotting food contains molds and bacteria that could be harmful.

Antifreeze

As little as one-half teaspoon can be toxic to a cat and just a quarter cup can kill a medium-size dog. Do not leave antifreeze unattended or allow it to spill in the garage or street. Use non-toxic antifreeze with a bittering agent to discourage pet consumption.

Flea Products

Use only products specifically designed for your dog or cat and make sure you administer the proper dosage. Flea treatments meant for dogs can be deadly if given to cats instead.

Other Hazards

These items can be harmful if swallowed or chewed on: pennies, buttons, alkaline batteries, mothballs, paints, solvents, electrical cords, and pet crate bolts made of zinc.

Poisonous Plants

The following plants are highly toxic to pets: foxglove, lily (any type, particularly to cats), yew, sago palm, rhododendron, azalea, oleander, castor bean, kalanchoe and rhubarb (leaves). If your pet ingests any of these, seek immediate medical care as these can be harmful or fatal to a pet. A list of other poisonous plants is available here.

Symptoms of plant poisoning include:

  • Irritation to skin and/or mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting (Please note that vomiting is common after cats or dogs ingest plant material. Seek veterinary care especially if vomiting accompanies other symptoms.)

Poison Control & Emergency Veterinary Care

It's always a good idea to have on hand the phone numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary hospital, and poison control. If you suspect poisoning, call the ASPCA's Poison Control Hotline (1-888-426-4435, fee) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680, fee) or your veterinarian immediately.

Published: March 9, 2009;    Updated: March 3, 2014

Filed Under: Safety, Companion Animals, Cats, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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