Helpful Articles For Pet Owners

Beware! Pets & The Household Poisons They May Encounter

Paul Cunningham, DVM, MANZCVS (ECC)
February 11, 2024
5 min read
A black cat sitting dangerously close to a toxic lily flower

Our beloved pets bring immeasurable joy and companionship into our lives, but amidst the cozy confines of our homes lurk potential dangers that pose serious risks to their health.

From everyday household items to seemingly harmless plants, there are several toxins that can harm our furry friends. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the common household toxins for dogs and cats, equipping pet owners with the knowledge needed to keep their companions safe.

1. Human Medications:

One of the most significant threats to pets is the ingestion of human medications. Medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and antidepressants can be toxic to dogs and cats. Even seemingly harmless over-the-counter drugs can cause severe harm, including liver damage, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal issues. Always store medications securely and keep them out of reach of pets.

2. Chocolate and Caffeine:

Most pet owners are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but caffeine poses a similar risk. These substances contain methylxanthines, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, seizures, and even death in severe cases. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are particularly dangerous due to their higher concentration of methylxanthines. Keep all chocolate and caffeinated products safely stored away from pets.

3. Household Cleaners:

Common household cleaners, such as bleach, ammonia, and disinfectants, contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. Ingestion or inhalation of these substances can cause irritation to the mouth, throat, and stomach, as well as respiratory issues. Opt for pet-safe cleaning products or ensure that cleaning agents are stored securely out of reach of curious pets. Additionally, always allow adequate ventilation when using these products.

4. Plants:

Many plants commonly found in households are toxic to dogs and cats if ingested. Examples include lilies, azaleas, tulips, and sago palms. Symptoms of plant toxicity can range from mild gastrointestinal upset to organ failure, depending on the plant and the amount ingested. Educate yourself on the plants in your home and garden, and remove any that pose a threat to your pets. Consider using pet-safe alternatives for indoor greenery.

5. Rodenticides and Insecticides:

Rodenticides and insecticides are designed to kill pests, such as rats, ants, spiders, slugs, snails & others - but they can also harm pets if ingested. These products often contain toxic chemicals such as anticoagulants, organophosphates, metaldehyde, and pyrethrins. Even indirect exposure to these substances, such as through grooming contaminated fur, can be dangerous. Use pet-safe methods for pest control, and if using chemical products, follow the instructions carefully and keep pets away from treated areas.

The Best Advice: When In Doubt, Seek Vet Attention Early

As responsible pet owners, it's our duty to create a safe environment for our furry companions. By being aware of the common household toxins that pose a threat to dogs and cats, we can take proactive measures to prevent accidental exposure and keep our pets healthy and happy. Remember to store medications, cleaning products, and hazardous substances securely, research the toxicity of plants, and use pet-safe alternatives whenever possible. With vigilance and care, we can minimize the risk of toxin-related emergencies and provide our pets with the loving, safe homes they deserve.