Toxins to avoid for household pets

Household substances that seem harmless to humans can be dangerous for pets, especially dogs who will eat almost anything. To keep your furry companions safe, it's important to be aware of common household toxins and take steps to keep them away from your pets. Here are 10 dangerous household toxins to watch out for as a pet owner. 


When your pet is sick, it's important to take them to a veterinarian for proper treatment. Treating an animal with human medication, such as painkillers, can be extremely harmful and even fatal. Even if you know the risks, it's easy for animals to accidentally ingest medication through playing. Human painkillers can cause ulcers, kidney failure, or irreversible liver damage in animals. Many other human meds can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid heart rate, seizures, and death. Both prescription and over-the-counter medication is dangerous for pets, and even herbal meds and supplements can be harmful. Keep all medication out of reach and pick up any pills that are accidentally dropped. 


While pet medication is necessary for treating sick animals, it's important to be aware that improper dosage can also be harmful. Consuming larger than normal quantities of medication can lead to poisoning and death. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the most common types of medication that are to blame are dewormers and painkillers. 


Chocolate, coffee, and caffeinated drinks contain substances called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, abnormal heartbeats, and death in canines. Dark chocolate has the highest amounts of methylxanthines, but they are also present in white and milk chocolate. Even small amounts can be dangerous for dogs, with 4 oz or more posing a serious problem for larger breeds. 


Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, can cause blood sugar levels in dogs to drop sharply. In some cases, it can even lead to liver failure. Be aware that some companies add xylitol to peanut butter, a popular treat among dogs, so always read the ingredients label before feeding it to your pet. Xylitol can also be found in some brands of human toothpaste, so never use human toothpaste when brushing your dog's teeth. 


Many people don't think about the toxicity of house plants, but animals, especially dogs, often chew on them. Even plants that are normally considered harmless can be toxic, such as aloe vera or tulips. If you're unsure about a plant's status, check out the ASPCA website (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Ideally, avoid any plants that may be toxic to your dog, even if you think you can keep them away from them. 

Lilies are a common spring decoration, but they should not be brought into homes with pets. Most plants in the lily family are toxic to cats, and some species are toxic to dogs as well. To keep your pets safe, avoid having lilies inside your home or in your garden. 


It may be tempting to give your pet a sip of an alcoholic beverage but remember that their tolerance for alcohol is much lower than humans. Even small amounts can cause alcohol poisoning in both dogs and cats, leading to symptoms such as bad coordination, vomiting, sleepiness, difficulty breathing, tremors, kidney and liver damage, high blood acidity and eventually death. 


When it comes to feeding our canine companions, it's important to know which foods are healthy and which should be avoided. While many fruits and vegetables can be beneficial for dogs, some can be harmful if consumed in large quantities. 

Grapes (and their dried counterpart – raisins) must be avoided at all costs as they can cause grape toxicity and renal failure. Some nuts, such as macadamia nuts, are also harmful to dogs. The reason why macadamia nuts are so dangerous is not entirely known, but it is believed that the nut's high fat content is the culprit. Even a small amount of these nuts can cause an abnormally elevated temperature and weakness. They are often found in cookies, so it's important to read the ingredient list before sharing any treats with your dog. Other nuts should also be avoided as they can cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. 

Onions, leeks, and chives should also be avoided as they can cause the destruction of red blood cells in your pet's body, leading to anaemia. In large quantities, these vegetables can be toxic to both dogs and cats. Garlic should also be avoided in large quantities as it can be dangerous for your pooch. 


Citric acid, commonly found in citrus fruits, is a powerful irritant. Ingesting certain amounts of it can cause stomach aches, while larger quantities can cause significant irritation or even central nervous system depression. While small dogs can consume a small amount of citric fruits, it's best to avoid giving your pets more than a small slice of lemons, oranges, grapefruit, or tangerines. 


Household chemicals, such as cleaning solutions, antifreeze, and fertilizers, are a leading cause of poisoning in pets. Fertilizers contain a dangerous mix of nitrogen and phosphorus. Cocoa mulch, which contains chocolate, is especially harmful. All cleaning solutions, bleach, and paint thinner can be poisonous to animals as well. To keep your pets safe, always read the labels of these products and store them in a secure location. Remember that animals may lick or chew through packaging, so it's best to keep them out of reach and in a locked cabinet. Common symptoms of poisoning include chemical burns and an upset stomach. 


It's important to note that even products that are intended for outdoor use, such as insect and rodent poisons, can be dangerous for your pets. This includes tick and flea products. While these products are not harmful when used properly, if your pet ingests them, they can become poisoned. Rodent poison is particularly dangerous because it often contains phosphorus and anticoagulants, which can lead to death. 

To prevent your pets from being exposed to these dangerous products, it's essential to pet-proof your home. Keep an eye on your pets, especially when they're in areas where you store these products. If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, act quickly. Keep the contact information for the Pet Poison Helpline readily available and call your vet's emergency line immediately. If possible, bring the remaining poison with you to the vet. This will help the vet determine the damage and decide on the appropriate course of action. 

Unfortunately, statistics show that every year there are over 100,000 cases of pet poisoning in the US alone. It's crucial to remember that dogs and cats are, in many respects, similar to children. They cannot always tell that something is harmful, and it's up to you to keep them safe. By taking the necessary precautions and being aware of the potential dangers, you can help prevent pet poisoning and keep your furry friends healthy and happy. 

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