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Jan 23, 2019

Poison Prevention for Pets

A lady holding a cat at a veterinary hospital.

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As a pet owner, it is important to know and understand the items that are considered poisonous for pets. While there are literally hundreds of things that could cause problems for our beloved pets, there are a few common foods, household items, and plants that are known trouble-makers. We believe that you should know about these items so that you can do your best to protect your pet from accidental poisoning.

Foods Considered Poisonous to Pets

You’ve probably heard of a few different foods that are problematic for pets, such as chocolate and grapes. However, there is a fairly large list of foods that shouldn’t be given to pets. Here is a list of common foods that should never be given to dogs and cats:
Dog with sign of poisons foods for animals

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  • Alcohol: Alcohol, which can also be consumed in the form of yeast in uncooked bread dough, can cause intoxication in pets. Common alcohol poisoning symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and central nervous problems that can lead to coma and death.
  • Candy, Gum, and Xylitol: Xylitol is often found in sugar-free candy and gum. This artificial sweetener can lead to acute liver failure and is considered toxic to pets.
  • Chives, Garlic, and Onions: These foods, which are all part of the Allium family, are known to cause upset stomach and red blood cell damage. Cats are more prone to issues with these food items, but dogs can still encounter problems.
  • Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine: These foods contain methylxanthines that can lead to tremors, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and more. 
  • Coconut and Coconut Oil: Coconut oil can cause upset stomach and diarrhea. Coconut water should also be avoided because it is high in potassium.
  • Grapes and Raisins: Both of these foods can lead to kidney failure.
  • Mushrooms: Only a few different kinds of mushrooms are toxic to pets, but it is best to prevent your pet from eating any mushrooms so that they are safe. Poisonous mushrooms can lead to liver failure in pets.
  • Nuts: Nuts, especially macadamia nuts, can lead to serious health problems for pets including hyperthermia and pancreatitis.
  • Potato Leaves and Stems: Potato greens are toxic to cats.
  • Raw Meat: While many people believe that animals can eat raw meat, the bacteria in raw meat can lead to salmonella and E. coli.
  • Rhubarb: In pets, rhubarb can cause weakness, tremors, bloody urine, and more.
  • Salt: Excess amounts of salt can lead to salt poisoning. Symptoms of salt poisoning include seizures, coma, kidney damage, and death. Salt is generally found in high concentrations in cured meats and paintballs.
  • Tomato Leaves and Stems: Tomatoes are safe for dog and cat consumption, but the leaves and stems can lead to weakness, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Yeast and Yeast Dough: Yeast can cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s system. This can lead to bloat and twist, as well as intoxication.

Common Household Items Considered Poisonous to Pets

You probably have a variety of chemicals and cleaners around your home that you don’t think much about. However, many of these products could be extremely dangerous to your pet. Here are a few of the most dangerous household items for pets:
A cat holding a bucket of cleaning supplies and mop.

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  • Antifreeze: Antifreeze, even in small amounts, can be deadly to pets. It contains ethylene glycol, which can cause vomiting, intoxication, lethargy, coma, and acute kidney failure.
  • Batteries: Many batteries contain alkaline, which can cause ulcers in the mouth, stomach, or intestines. Signs of alkaline poisoning including drooling, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and inability to defecate.
  • Bleach and Cleaners: Household cleaners can lead to mouth ulcers, drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and squinting of the eyes.
  • Citrus Acid and Oil: Citrus oil is a common ingredient found in potpourri. Both citrus acid and oil can lead to nervous system depression in large quantities.
  • Deicers: Deicers contain chemicals that your pet may lick off of their paws. These chemicals can cause illness. 
  • Detergents: Household detergents may cause drooling, vomiting, burns in the mouth and throat, inappetence, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. 
  • Lawn and Garden Chemicals: Both fertilizers and pest sprays contain chemicals that could lead to drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, discolored gums, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing.
  • Medications: Many human medications can cause problems for our pets. Pets should never be given human medications without prior consent from your veterinarian. Symptoms could include vomiting, seizures, hyperthermia, low blood pressure, and death.
  • Mothballs: Mothballs can lead to life-threatening symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, fluid accumulation in the body, tremors, seizures, kidney damage, and coma.

Plants Considered Poisonous to Pets

Many people love having plants in and around their homes because they are pretty and help clean the air. Some of your favorite plants could be hazardous to your pet, however. Here are a few of the most common poisonous plants to pets:
A bulldog snuffing a daffodils.

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  • Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera gel is edible, but the plant itself is not. It can lead to lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Azalea: Azaleas can lead to weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and cardiac failure.
  • Chamomile: While humans consume things like chamomile tea, the plant is dangerous for pets. It can cause dermatitis, anorexia, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemums contain a variety of toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, dermatitis, and incoordination.
  • Daffodil: These flowers can cause gastrointestinal problems, convulsions, tremors, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrhythmias. While the whole plant can cause problems, the bulbs contain the highest concentration of toxins.
  • Daisy: Daisies can lead to dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, and incoordination.
  • Geranium: These plants contain toxins that can cause vomiting, dermatitis, depression, and anorexia.
  • Hydrangea: These flowers contain cyanide, which can be problematic in large quantities.
  • Lilies: Most dangerous to cats, lilies can lead to kidney failure. All parts of the plant are considered dangerous, and almost all varieties of lilies are harmful.
  • Poinsettia: These plants can irritate the mouth and stomach, which can cause vomiting.
  • Sago Palm: These palms can lead to vomiting, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, liver damage, liver failure, and death.
  • Tulips: Tulips can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and hypersalivation. Remember that the bulbs contain a higher concentration of the toxins that cause problems for pets.

Preventing Accidental Poisonings

While it is impossible to prevent all cases of accidental poisonings, you can do your best by knowing the items that could be a cause for concern and keeping them away from your pet. If you believe that your pet has gotten into a toxic substance or item, you should immediately contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian.

None of the above lists are exhaustive, but the items listed are some of the most common poisonings that veterinarians see. To see a full list of items that are harmful to pets, check out Pet Poison Helpline’s Poisonous List.

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