Common Poisons That Can Kill Your Pet

Preventing Pet Poisoning

Things that are harmless to us but toxic to pets are plentiful in our homes. Hazards to our pets can be found throughout our homes. Dogs, in particular, are great at finding and exposing themselves to poisons wherever they might be. However, many signs of poisoning mirror common, less-serious illnesses, so your first action should be to call an animal poison center immediately if you think your pet has been exposed to a toxin (Pet Poison Helpline, 855-764-7661, 24-hours a day). The doctors there are specially trained in toxicology. To prevent accidental pet poisoning a responsible pet owner should find and secure the following health hazards before a pet does. Early intervention can make sure many pet poisonings do not become tragedies. Here are the most common toxins to pets in the home and how they affect your pet so you know what to look for and can help your pet in an emergency or prevent one from occurring in the first place.



What we humans find delicious can be harmful to our canine and feline companions. If you have a counter surfing cat or a dog that likes trash can scavenger hunts, your pet can encounter and eat something dangerous to them so properly disposing of food waste and storing pet unfriendly foods in places a pet cannot access them is important.


Chocolate is one of the happy foods of humans but it can be lethal to a dog and is one of the 20 most-reported poisonings. Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, which causes heart arrhythmias and can be toxic in even small amounts. Unfortunately, that compound is also why humans get go much pleasure from chocolate. Dark chocolate, Baking chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powders are the most harmful and milk and white chocolate are the least but are still dangerous. Common signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness. Treatment for canine chocolate ingestion normally requires induced vomiting, and administering activated charcoal to bind the poison and IV fluids. Even a miniature chocolate bar can result in a large pet hospital bill. 

Garlic and Other Alliums

This popular vegetable and it’s family members onion, leeks, and shallots are very dangerous to cats and dogs. Alliums are toxic when fresh, cooked or dried. It causes red blood cell damage called anemia in cats. Signs of allium toxicity are lethargy, reddish urine, diarrhea and vomiting. For severe cases, your pet will need IV fluids and to be hospitalized in an oxygen tent.  Even onion or garlic powder is dangerous to season a pet’s food with.

Grapes/raisins and currants

This fruit is a convenient snack and it’s deadly for dogs. A single grape can cause renal (kidney) failure. A dog especially, that has eaten raisins, grapes currents or sultanas will show symptoms of lethargy, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. A dog could even require kidney dialysis after eating this fruit. It’s best to always store them up high where a curious hungry canine cannot find them or in the refrigerator.


This artificial sweetener used in gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, peanut butter and baking products can cause dangerous levels of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs. Check product labels for xylitol and keep items stored safely away from your animals. Signs include collapsing, seizures and vomiting. Treatment requires induced vomiting and IV fluids.

Unbaked yeast bread dough

Fresh home baked bread is a wonderful treat, but the dough is a source of serious illness for pets. The yeast in raw dough rises even in your pet’s stomach and can cause it to distend dangerously. If that dough reaches the intestines and starts to ferment, alcohol toxicity also can occur. Fatal cardiac arrest is another possibility. If your pet has eaten raw rising dough, look for a distended abdomen and retching followed by loss of coordination and slowed breathing. Keep pets away from yeast baked goods until they are out of the oven and fully cooled.



If you have pets, you need to pay close attention to the houseplants and what you plant in your gardens.


This red flower is a winter holiday tradition and strikes terror in the heart of pet owners; however, the poinsettia is not as toxic as people claim. The plants sap can cause diarrhea, skin irritation and slobbering, but the plant does not deserve the bad reputation as a pet killer that it has.  It’s hazardous still and can cause illness.


Daffodils deserve the bad reputation as a pet killer that the not even half a toxic poinsettia has earned. Various chemical compounds found in daffodils (also known as narcissus and jonquils) can sicken dogs, cats and horses.  The bulbs of these plants are particularly poisonous. Signs include severe vomiting, drooling and diarrhea. Daffodil bulb ingestion can cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors and cardiac arrhythmia. Immediate veterinary care is required if your pet ingests any part of daffodils, including the essential oil.


Lilies are popular gifts on Easter and Mother’s Day but they are extremely poisonous to cats, and eating just 1-2 leaves, biting a stem or ingesting pollen or vase water can kill your cat. Tiger, Day, Asiatic and Easter lilies can cause severe kidney damage.  Treating a cat for lily ingestions is incredibly time-sensitive and requires aggressive treatment to save the cat. Lilies also happen to the flower that most commonly causes allergic symptoms in humans so reconsidering lilies in your garden and as gifts may warrant reconsideration.


American Holly contains saponins, which are poisonous to dogs, cats and horses if they eat the leaves or berries, but the toxicity level is low. Signs include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and moods of depression. A pet may show signs of mouth irritation from eating the spiny leaves.

Insoluble calcium oxalate-containing plants

Some common garden and decorative houseplants like including Elephant’s Ear, Philodendron and Chinese evergreen are poisonous to cats and dogs.  A pet that has ingested these will be drooling, have mouth pain, be agitated and exhibit pawing at the mouth, or be vomiting. Treatment includes a calcium-containing neutralizer, such as milk, or a vet-prescribed antihistamine, anti-inflammatory and/or antacid.


Household Items

Many household staples can make your pet ill or pose a more serious danger, Storing household items safely and away from pets prevents pet poisoning.


Dogs often eat batteries. This is incredibly dangerous for dogs. A dog can suffer severe corrosive injuries to the mouth and esophagus. Do not let your dog play with battery-operated toys to mitigate risk of a dog accessing the batteries. Immediately flush out your dog’s mouth and take him to a veterinary emergency room. Never induce vomiting if your dog has eaten batteries. Surgery may be needed.


Diisocyanate containing glues such as superglue and wood glue like gorilla glue are dangerous to dogs and cats if eaten.  These glues rapidly expand in the stomach. Gastrointestinal distress indicates pet glue ingestion. Surgery is often needed.


Some household cleaners and fabric softeners contain corrosive substances that can irritate or even eat away at the pet’s mouth and stomach. Clean up any spills immediately and keep all used fabric softener sheets away from cats. Signs of trouble include drooling, lack of appetite, mouth sores or pawing at their mouths, vomiting, lethargy, and difficulty breathing. Prompt veterinary care is required. Whenever possible bring the product to the vet with you as different corrosives need different treatments.


Most automotive and other types of antifreeze contain ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol causes acute and fatal kidney failure in dogs and cats. Even small amounts ate poisonous and dogs and cats are attracted to the sweet scent of antifreeze. Symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, appearing to be drunk, seizures, excessive thirst, and urination followed by dehydration, elevated heart rate and difficulty breathing.  Early and aggressive treatment and dialysis is required for any chance of survival. Keep antifreeze in areas a pet never has access to if you must have it in your home or keep it stored in your car trunk ideally.


Pet poisonings from products used to kill rats and mice are common. Dogs and cats can easily ingest these toxins in the home, garage, yard or parks. Rodenticides employ many different active ingredients and come in various forms (pellets, grains, baits) and colors (blue, green, tan, red).  Accurately identifying the active ingredient is imperative to proper treatment. Anti-coagulant pest poisons will cause internal bleeding. Signs include bruising and bleeding. Finding emergency vet care is required if your pet has ingested a poisonous product, Induced vomiting (within 1-3 hours of consumption) and observation can treat most mild cases, but severe cases will require plasma and red blood cell transfusions.



Human medications can pose a serious health risk to our pets. Not only should be store human medications safely away from where our poets can find them but we need to realize our pets curiosity will lead them to access human medications from our purses and backpacks and not just those carelessly left on the night table where a dog or cat can have access them and eat them just by jumping up on the bed when unattended.

NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)

These common painkillers and anti-fever medications can be lethal to your pet. They should never be given to a sick pet without your vet. Acetaminophen causes liver damage and failure in domestic animals. Ibuprofen and naproxen can cause stomach irritation, ulcers and kidney failure. If your pet has ingested these, call your vet or the Pet Poison control center promptly so your dog or cat can get treatment and IV fluid support or other care as needed as soon as possible.

Cough medicines

Dextromethorphan is the common ingredient in OTC cough medicine that causes nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and drowsiness. These medicines are only safe if given under your vet’s direction. Never give your pet any human cold or cough medicines as they may also contain other toxic ingredients such as acetaminophen/NSAIDS, alcohol, caffeine or antihistamines.

ADHD and Antidepressant medications

There is no shame in needing medication to treat a neurological or mental health condition but be sure your beloved pet does not have access to your medication. Medications to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) contain stimulants can harm your pet in any amount. Signs of pet ADHD medication poisoning are tremors, agitation, panting, seizures and elevated heart rate. . Symptoms of antidepressant ingestion are often not severe but high doses such as a dog eating several pills can cause seizures and changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Treatment for these requires IV fluids, sedation, heart and blood pressure monitoring. Human anti-depressants can cause dangerous sedation and “drunkenness” in pets, or paradoxical agitation and aggression. Treatment for antidepressant ingestion in pets is the same as ADHD medication poisoning treatment.

Topical Medications

Our dogs and cats lick us to show affection. However, our dog or cat can also lick any medications in lotion, ointment or patch form along with our skin. If you spill any lotions or topical products, clean them up and prevent your pet from licking them. Ingestion can cause stomach upset. Keep all topical items stored away from pets, as they often are scented and can stir a pet’s interest and never let your pet lick skin that is treated with topical products. Even cocoa butter or coconut oil used as a moisturizer can be a bad pet experience as it lubricates their digestive system causing GI distress and diarrhea.



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