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Common Household Toxins to Pets

by Dr. Rachel Addleman, DVM, DiplABVP, CVA
Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr. Addleman has advanced training and Board Certification in feline medicine. She practices in Houston, Texas and can be found at AnimalFixer.com

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center telephone number is (888) 426-4435

ASCP Animal Poison Control Center

Common Household Toxins to PetsDo you know the sound made just before your pet throws up? That sound often wakes an owner up from a sound sleep, or causes one to lunge across the floor to push the dog out the door. The learning curve for hearing this sound is generally much faster for mothers than fathers (mothers usually having the responsibility of cleaning the mess out of the carpet).

My standard poodle Alex once ate a whole bowl of Hershey’s chocolate kisses. He threw up the chocolate on the white carpet, but passed the wrappers.

Chocolate is a very common household toxin. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate has much more of the toxin, methylxanthine, than milk chocolate. A 50 lb. dog who eats only a few ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips can be expected to have vomiting and diarrhea. Chocolate toxicity can cause panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and death.

Here is a short list of common household toxins: Grapes and raisins can be toxic to some dogs, causing vomiting, and in a few cases, kidney failure. The mechanism for this is unknown. The exact toxic amount is unknown, but dogs can be affected by eating a large number of grapes to as little as a single serving of raisins.

The sugar sweetener found in some sugar-free chewing gum and candies, Xylitol, causes a sudden drop in blood sugar leading to lethargy or seizures. Xylitol poisoning can cause liver failure and death.

Onions can cause gastrointestinal irritation and can lead to red blood cell damage. Cats are much more susceptible than dogs.

Milk can cause diarrhea. Pets lack enough lactase enzyme to digest milk properly. A milk substitute found in the pet department can be given instead.

Large amounts of salt can cause vomiting or diarrhea, in addition to increased thirst. Very large amounts can be toxic enough to cause seizures.

Macadamia nuts can cause lethargy, vomiting, and tremors. The avocado fruit and seed contain Persin which can causes vomiting and diarrhea. Birds are especially at risk.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and should never be given to cats, and dogs only with a prescription. This drug is lethal to cats because it damages the red blood cells. In dogs, it can cause liver damage.

If your dog likes to go out in the yard and eat landscaping mulch, avoid using cocoa bean mulch. It contains theobromine and can cause vomiting, a high heart rate, tremors and sometimes death.

Many plants cause irritation to the stomach but are not generally toxic. A good idea is to identify which plants your pet is exposed to and check to see they are toxic. Most lily plants, however, are very toxic to cats and lead to severe kidney damage. The Peace Lily can lead to drooling, vomiting and painful swallowing.

Dogs sometimes eat from the Sago Palm tree, and even one or two seeds can cause liver failure and death. Toxic plants include Azaleas, Oleander, and Tulips bulbs which can cause significant stomach irritation, tremors, and lead to heart problems. Chrysanthemums can also cause vomiting. Check your household plants because this is not a complete list.

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center telephone number is (888) 426-4435. Have the package of the product on hand if available. There is a small fee for this service. If your pet is having difficulty breathing, tremoring, or lethargic, take him to your veterinarian right away. For more information visit www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control.