Pets can accidentally be exposed to toxic substances commonly kept in and around your home. Unfortunately, many pets are exposed to harmful foods or toxins that are everyday items in their homes. While these substances may not be toxic to people, our furry friends systems cannot handle exposure to the same substances. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team wants to help by answering frequently asked questions about pet toxins.
Question: What foods are toxic to pets?
Answer: Many foods that you commonly keep in your pantry and refrigerator are toxic to pets. The most common culprits include:
- Chocolate — Chocolate ingestion stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) in pets and results in gastrointestinal (GI) upset, and possibly cardiovascular and neurologic signs. Dark chocolate contains more pet toxic ingredients than milk chocolate.
- Grapes — Grapes, raisins, and currants cause severe kidney injury in pets. The likely causative agent is tartaric acid, and signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive thirst and urination.
- Xylitol — Xylitol is commonly used in sugar free baked goods, candy, and gum and can cause hypoglycemia and liver damage in pets. Signs include vomiting, weakness, incoordination, and seizures.
- Allium vegetables — Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives cause anemia in pets, resulting from oxidative damage to the pet’s red blood cells. Signs include GI upset, pale mucous membranes, weakness, and blood tinged urine.
- Macadamia nut — Macadamia nuts ingestion can lead to muscle weakness, depression, vomiting, and hyperthermia.
If your pet has ingested any of these toxic foods, contact your local veterinarian or take them to the nearest emergency hospital for evaluation.
Q: What medications are toxic to pets?
A: Many human medications are toxic to pets. The top offenders include:
- Ibuprofen — Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that in pets causes GI ulceration and, at higher doses, kidney failure. Signs include vomiting, dark, tarry stool, lethargy, and inappetence.
- Acetaminophen — Acetaminophen can cause liver failure in pets, and especially in cats, who are sensitive to toxicity. Signs include inappetence, lethargy, vomiting, and respiratory distress.
- Antidepressants — Many antidepressant medications are prescribed for humans, with many toxic to pets. Signs include lethargy, agitation, abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, and seizures, depending on the particular medication.
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs — ADHD medications are stimulants that cause signs including agitation, hyperactivity, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hyperthermia, tremors, and seizures
For more information, check out this list of common toxic medications from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Q: What plants are toxic to pets?
A: Many indoor and outdoor plants can pose a threat to your four-legged friend. Poisonous plants include:
- Autumn crocuses — Autumn crocuses contain a toxin called colchicine that can cause GI irritation and ulceration, liver and kidney damage, respiratory failure, and neurologic signs.
- Dieffenbachia — Dieffenbachia contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that can irritate the mouth and GI tract. In rare cases, upper airway swelling can inhibit the pet’s ability to breathe.
- Lilies — In dogs, lilies cause only GI upset, but in cats, they can cause severe kidney failure. Every lily part, including the pollen and water used to hydrate the plant, is toxic. Signs include inappetence, drooling, vomiting, and lethargy.
- Tulips — Tulips contain allergenic lactones, which are extremely concentrated in the bulb. When chewed or ingested, the mouth and esophagus tissue can be irritated, causing signs that include profuse drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. More severe signs, such as increased heart rate and difficulty breathing, may also occur if your pet consumes large amounts.
Before adding plants to your house or garden, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants.
Q: What household products are toxic to pets?
A: Household products that can potentially pose a danger to your pet include:
- Rat poisoning — All rat poisoning products, such as anticoagulants, bromethalin, and cholecalciferol, are toxic to pets. Signs depend on the product ingested.
- Antifreeze — Many antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, which causes severe kidney failure in pets. Signs include lethargy, inappetence, incoordination, vomiting, seizures, and coma.
- De-icers — De-icers commonly contain salts, which can cause GI upset and dehydration.
Q: What must I do if my pet ingests a toxin?
A: Steps to take if you know or suspect your pet ingested a toxin include:
- Remove the source — Ensure your pet can’t continue ingesting the toxin.
- Seek help — Call Neighborhood Veterinary Centers or Animal Poison Control to get advice on how to care for your pet.
- Provide information — You will be asked to provide your pet’s weight, breed, and age, when they ingested the toxin, and how much they ingested.
- Collect the label — If possible, bring the product label to the veterinary clinic, so our team knows the toxin’s ingredients and concentration.
Q: How can I prevent my pet from ingesting a toxin?
A: Not every pet toxicity can be prevented, but you can take steps to decrease your pet’s risk, including:
- Clear your counters — Don’t keep food on your counter to prevent your pet from sneaking an off-limits snack.
- Contain your garbage — Keep your garbage in sealed containers to prevent dumpster diving.
- Read labels — Before offering your pet a new food or supplement, read the label carefully to ensure the product contains no harmful ingredients.
- Secure your medications — Keep your medications in a safe place inaccessible to your pet.
- Take medications carefully — Take your medication in a separate room, so your pet can’t grab a dropped pill.
- Choose pet safe plants — Ensure that any indoor or outdoor plant that you bring home is pet safe.
- Wipe your pet’s paws — After your pet has been outside on a cold day, wipe their paws to remove toxic de-icer particles.
This information can help you protect your pet from toxicity. However, if your pet is accidentally exposed to a toxin, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team, so we can provide the care they need.