Poison Prevention Awareness Month: Keeping Your Pet Safe

March 18, 2018

Spring is here which makes this the perfect time for Allegheny Veterinary Emergency Trauma and Specialty (Avets) to inform pet owners about safety tips when using household cleaners and the dangers of some common houseplants. Knowing the potential problems caused by common household products will help you keep your pet safe.

Foods That Are Poisonous to Pets

You probably already know that chocolate can be dangerous for your pets, but did you know that there is a long list of human foods that dogs and cats should never be given? While it isn’t surprising that these two foods should be kept away from pets, Avets is sure that some of the other foods on the list may shock you. Here is a list of the most common foods that should never be given to dogs and cats:

  • Alcohol: Most pets become drunk from eating uncooked bread dough rather than doing shots of tequila. It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and central nervous system problems, which can lead to coma and death.
  • Candy, Gum, and Xylitol: Sugar-free candy and gum often contain xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener. It can lead to acute liver failure and is extremely dangerous to pets.
  • Chives, Garlic, and Onions: Can lead to upset stomach and red blood cell damage. Cats are more prone to problems with these foods, but dogs are still affected.
  • Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine: Contain methylxanthines that can cause abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and more.
  • Citrus (Potpourri): Citric acid and oils can cause nervous system depression in large amounts.
  • Coconut/Coconut Oil: Coconut flesh and milk contain coconut oil, which can cause upset stomach and diarrhea. Coconut water is high in potassium and should be avoided.
  • Grapes/Raisins: Can cause kidney failure.
  • Hops: Used in the creation of beer, hops lead to severe electrolyte abnormalities and a rapid heart rate.
  • Mushrooms: Even though only a few species are toxic, it is best to avoid letting your dog or cat eat any kind of poisonous mushrooms that can cause acute liver failure.
  • Nuts: Nuts, particularly macadamia nuts can cause serious problems for pets including pancreatitis and hyperthermia.
  • Potato Leaves/Stems: Potato greens are poisonous to cats.
  • Raw Meat: Bacteria in raw meat and eggs can lead to Salmonella and E. coli.
  • Rhubarb: Can cause tremors, weakness, blood urine, and more in both cats and dogs.
  • Salt: Salt poisoning leads to a number of things, including seizures, coma, kidney damage, and even death. Salt is found in high amounts in cured meats (jerky) and paintballs (yes, dogs will eat paintballs!)
  • Tomato Leaves/Stems: While the fruit is safe, the greens, when eaten in large amounts, can lead to weakness, lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Yeast/Yeast Dough: Causes gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system and can lead to bloat and twist. It can also cause problems much like alcohol.

For a complete list of harmful foods, check out Pet Poison Helpline’s Poisonous Foods List.

Household Items That Are Poisonous to Pets

A lot of the cleaners, chemicals, and other products you use both inside and outside of your home can be dangerous for your pets. While you might not think twice about using these products, if you are a pet owner you should take precautions. The following list includes some of the most common household items that are dangerous to your pet:

  • Antifreeze: Even in small amounts, the ethylene glycol in antifreeze can be deadly to pets. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, acting drunk, coma, and acute kidney failure.
  • Batteries: The alkaline in batteries can cause ulcers in the mouth, stomach or intestines. Look for drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, inability to defecate, abdominal pain, and fever.
  • Bleach/Cleaners: Household cleaners can cause ulcers in the mouth, drooling, difficulty swallowing and breathing, vomiting, abdominal pain, and squinting of the eyes.
  • De-Icers: Contain chemicals that can be licked of the paws and cause illness.
  • Detergents: Dish, laundry, and other detergents can cause drooling, burns in the mouth and throat, vomiting, inappetence, lethargy, and difficulty breathing.
  • Lawn/Garden Chemicals: Fertilizers and pest sprays contain chemicals that can cause nausea, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, discolored gums, and difficulty breathing.
  • Medications: Numerous human medications can cause problems for dogs. Never give human medications to your pet or allow them to eat them as they can cause all kinds of symptoms ranging from vomiting to seizures, hyperthermia, low blood pressure, and even death.
  • Mothballs: Mothballs can be life-threatening to pets when they are consumed. They can cause lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, fluid accumulation in the body, excessive thirst, kidney damage, tremors, seizures, and coma.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of things that can harm your pets, these are some of the most commonly ingested products that you will find in your home. You can learn more about common household items that are dangerous to pets at Pet Poison Helpline’s Poisons List.

Plants That Are Poisonous to Pets

Plants create oxygen and make our homes and yards look beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also cause problems for our furry family members. The following common plants are toxic to pets:

  • Aloe Vera: While the gel is edible, the plant is not. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
  • Amaryllis: Causes vomiting, diarrhea, depression, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, and tremors.
  • American Holly: Contains saponins, which lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
  • Azalea: Leads to vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and cardiac failure.
  • Bird of Paradise: All plants called Bird of Paradise are considered toxic, but they aren’t all the same. Caesalpinia or Poinciana gilliesii can both lead to oral irritation, burning and irritation of the mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and more. Strelitzia reginae can cause mild nausea, drowsiness, and vomiting.
  • Chamomile: Can cause contact dermatitis, anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Chrysanthemum: Contains numerous toxins that lead to vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, incoordination, and dermatitis.
  • Daffodil: Can cause gastrointestinal problems, convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias. The bulbs contain the highest concentration of toxins.
  • Dahlia: Causes mild dermatitis and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Daisy: Leads to hypersalivation, incoordination, dermatitis, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Gardenia: Can cause hives as well as mild diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Geranium: Contains toxins that lead to vomiting, anorexia, dermatitis, and depression.
  • Hemp/Marijuana (CBD): May cause prolonged depression, incoordination, sleepiness or excitement, hypersalivation, vomiting, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, coma, seizure, and death—even though deaths are rare.
  • Hyacinth: Can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea that can be accompanied by blood. May also cause depression and tremors.
  • Hydrangea: Contains cyanide, which could cause major problems for your pets in large quantities but generally just leads to gastrointestinal distress.
  • Lilies: Lilies are extremely dangerous to cats and ingestion of any part of the plant can lead to kidney failure. Almost any type of lily can be harmful.
  • Mint: Contains essential oils that can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Nightshade: Contains numerous toxins that cause intense gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, CNS depression, hypersalivation, confusion, weakness, dilated pupils, behavioral change, inappetence and slow heart rate.
  • Peony: May cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.
  • Poinsettia: Causes irritation of the mouth and stomach that may lead to vomiting.
  • Rhododendron: Contains grayanotoxin, which leads to many symptoms ranging from weakness and vomiting to coma and death. Nerve, cardiac and skeletal muscle function can all be affected.
  • Sago Palm: Can cause vomiting, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, liver damage, liver failure, and death.
  • Tulips: May cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, and depression. The bulbs contain a higher concentration of the toxins.

For a full list of plants that are harmful to cats and dogs, check out ASPCA’s Poisonous Plants List.

Preventing Accidental Poisonings in Pets

Preventing pet poisonings requires knowledge of possible problem items. Before bringing a plant into your home, check to make sure it is safe for your animals. Monitoring your pet when you have holiday parties or food from the list in your home can keep them from getting sick. Protecting pets from household items can be difficult but keep your pet out of your garage and keep chemicals and other dangerous substances out of reach.

When you are in an area that may have potentially hazardous substances or plants, keep your pet leashed and watch them carefully. It can also benefit your pet to know a “Leave It” command that will keep them from ingesting items that they come across while you are with them.

If you believe your pet has ingested a poisonous substance, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Hotline at 855-764-7661. In the event that the substance is harmful to your pet, call Avets at 412-373-4200 for 24-hour emergency care.

For pet owners in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, you can bring your dog into Avets’ emergency facility in Monroeville. The emergency team at Avets is dedicated to providing quality emergency care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays. The Emergency and Critical Care Specialty Doctors at AVETS are experts in caring for pets that have ingested toxic substances.  The emergency veterinarians can help treat your dog or cat for poisonings and get them back on their feet as soon as possible. Call Avets at 412-373-4200 in the event of an emergency to let the veterinarians know that you are on your way.