Pet Poisons

(source: David the Dogman) 

Our pets are marvelous beings.  We provide food, attention, training, medical care and love. In exchange, they offer companionship, protection, enjoyment and their own love for us. For all that they have to offer, though, they must rely on us for protection from harm. We need to look at our homes through the eyes of our pets, seeking out "toys" and "entertainments" that may be harmful for them.

Dogs and cats of all ages, and especially kittens and puppies, explore with their mouths. Dogs like to mouth and chew things. Cats may start to taste something and be unable to spit it out because of their rough tongues. Both may simply "dive in" when they see us doing something new or unfamiliar. These behaviors often land them in trouble. But we can do a lot to improve the odds.

Our homes can contain a wide variety of potentially harmful compounds. The following is not a complete list, but indicates some of the most common problems.

Foods to Avoid
  • Onions
  • Chocolate
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Yeast dough
  • Coffee (grounds, beans)
  • Tea (caffeine)
  • Salt
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Tomato leaves and stems
  • Potato leaves and stems
  • Avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats)


Because they are so much smaller than we are, our companion animals need to be kept away from all medications. Cats, in particular, have a body chemistry quite different from ours in several important ways. Do not give any of your medications to a pet. That includes over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, cough or cold medicines and decongestants. And do not give your dog's medicine to your cat.

Be careful where you take your own medications. Make sure a pill does not drop within reach of a playful paw or quick, slurping tongue. Do not put your medications out on a table or counter to take later. They may not be there when later arrives.

Store medications for all family members and pets in high cabinets, out of reach. With their curiosity and strong teeth, dogs can crack open a pill bottle and swallow the entire contents in a very short time. Even if a medicine prescribed for your pet, too large a dose could cause problems.

Medications that come in tubes may also pose a large risk. Most pets have sharp teeth and can chew into a tube within seconds. Creams and ointments that may be quite safe when applied to the skin can cause serious problems when eaten.

Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills are all examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals, even in small doses.


Some house plants can be quite harmful if ingested by an animal. The ingestion of azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, Easter lily or yew plant material by an animal can be fatal. Chewing on some plants may result in severe irritation to the mouth and throat. Others, while not quite so deadly, may cause a severe intestinal upset. You should know the names of all your plants, and keep any potentially toxic plants out of areas accessible to your animal companions.

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Flea Control Products and Other Insecticides

For many pets, fleas are a problem that make life miserable. When you treat a house to kill fleas or other insects, read the product label and follow all directions carefully. This is particularly important if a flea control product is to be applied directly to the pet. Before buying a flea product, consult your veterinarian, especially when treating sick, debilitated or pregnant pets. If you put out ant or roach baits, make sure they are in a spot inaccessible to your pet. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed. Record on a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name of the bait used. This will be needed if your dog eats an entire bait container or if there was no label on the container and you need to tell your veterinarian what your pet ingested.

Mouse and Rat Poisons

If you put out mouse or rat baits, make sure they are in a spot that your pet cannot reach. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of them when they are no longer needed. Record on a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name of the bait used. This will be needed if your dog eats an entire bait container or if there was no label on the container and you need to tell your veterinarian what your pet ingested.

Household Chemicals

Many household chemicals can be harmful if consumed by a companion animal. Most cleansing materials can cause stomach upset and vomiting if they are eaten. Dishwasher detergent can produce burns in the mouth. When using household chemicals, special care should be taken to make sure your pets cannot get into them. This may mean keeping your pet out of the room where you are using such materials. Common household items that can be lethal to an animal are mothballs, potpourri oils, coffee grounds, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, batteries, cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

Outdoor Plants

Outdoor plants can also be quite hazardous to your pets. Many plants, such as oleander, azalea, rhododendrons and Japanese yew, can affect the heart rhythm, possibly even causing it to stop. Some plants can cause considerable stomach upset with vomiting or diarrhea. Others can produce mental disturbances or confusion.

Gardening and Lawn Care Supplies

Please do not use garden or lawn care chemicals in the presence of your pet. For your animal's safety, please read and follow label directions carefully. Your pets should be kept off of a lawn treated with an insecticide or a weed killer at least until the lawn is completely dry. Your pet must be kept out of an area where snail or slug bait has been applied. Always store such products in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals. Contact the manufacturer for information concerning product usage around your pets.

Automobile Care Supplies

Like indoor cleaners, car cleaning compounds can cause stomach upset and vomiting. Some car cleaning agents are stronger than those used indoors. Car cleaning products should be kept away from your pet, who will be safer if he or she is not allowed to "help" you clean your automobile.

Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid can be harmful to your pet. Your pet should not be allowed to drink water from a car radiator. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon can be deadly to a 10-pound dog. Safer antifreeze products are now available and should be used.

Miscellaneous Chemicals

While performing construction, remodeling or repair work, keep pets out of the area until all equipment and materials have been put away. Keep pets away from fresh paint, varnish, or stains until these finishes have dried completely. If a pet comes in contact with paint or other finishes, DO NOT use paint thinners or paint removers to clean the animal. Contact your local veterinarian for removal instructions.

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