10 Things You Probably Have at Home that Could Poison Your Pet

Written by | Updated February 21, 2017

Whether you’re a new or seasoned pet parent, you’re dedicated to keeping your furry friend happy and healthy. Maybe you feed your pet a special diet, outfit them with a top-of-the-line GPS pet collar, or even use an interactive pet cam to check in on them when you’re away. But despite all your efforts to help ensure your pet’s well-being, you may unknowingly expose them to numerous household poison hazards.

According to WebMD, more than 100,000 cases of pet poisonings are reported each year in the United States1—many of which are caused by common household substances. Fortunately, reducing your pet’s risk of accidental poisoning is as easy as learning which household items are potentially toxic and taking a few simple precautions.

Our list of pet poisons includes some of the most common household substances that can harm your pet, but it isn’t exhaustive. Even if your pet wasn’t in contact with any of the items on this list, call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet is poisoned or are concerned about their health.

1. Rodent Poison

Products designed to kill mice and rats can also harm your pet. According to petMD, these products contain anticoagulants, which inhibit blood clotting.2 Depending on the size of your pet and how much of the product they consume, eating rodent poison can be fatal. 

Symptoms: If your pet eats rodent poison, they may experience nosebleeds, bloody gums, or labored breathing. Additional symptoms include bloody stool or urine. 

Prevention Tips: Store rodent poison in a cabinet or other secure location that your pet can’t reach and ensure your pet can’t access the poison when it’s in use. When possible, use a humane rodent trap instead of poison.

2. Artificial Sweetener

The Humane Society of the United States provides a long list of toxic foods for dogs and other pets that includes walnuts, grapes, and onions.3 But Xylitol, a common artificial sweetener found in some gum, chocolate, and candy—as well as in some toothpaste and mouthwash—can also be toxic to your pet. Xylitol causes a sudden release of insulin in your pet, which can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels, according to petMD.4

Symptoms: After eating a product containing Xylitol, your pet may vomit, seem tired, or appear uncoordinated. Signs of Xylitol poisoning typically appear within thirty minutes after consumption, but they can take up to several hours or even a few days to appear.

Prevention Tips: Read ingredient labels carefully. Make sure any items containing Xylitol are stored out of your pet’s reach.

3. Medicine

Prescription medications and over-the-counter products like ibuprofen, diet pills, and vitamins, can fatally poison your pet. Pets can also be poisoned by veterinary pharmaceuticals if they take more than the recommended dosage or consume a pet medicine not prescribed for them. 

Symptoms: Detecting medicine poisoning may be difficult because symptoms vary according to what medication your pet digested—and often they’re internal symptoms, such as stomach ulcers. If you suspect your pet ingested medication, immediately call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435. 

Prevention Tips: Replace the lid on your medication and store it in a safe place immediately after use. Never give your pet human medicine or any drug prescribed to another animal.

4. Plants

The Humane Society reports that poisonous plants for dogs, cats, and other pets include many popular varieties, like philodendron, poinsettia, and daffodils (primarily the bulb).5 Some animals are especially vulnerable to poisoning from certain plants: lilies, for example, can cause acute kidney failure in cats.

Symptoms: Signs your pet has ingested a poisonous plant include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. While this might not overly concern you, plant poisoning can be fatal—so seek treatment right away.

Prevention Tips: Search the ASPCA’s toxic plants list to find out if the greenery in your home or yard is poisonous to your pet. If it is, replace the plant or flower with a safer, nontoxic variety.

5. Essential Oils

Dr. Tina Wismer, a veterinarian, reports that while some essential oils can be beneficial to pets when diluted and used correctly, others are quite dangerous.6 She strongly recommends not using essential oils on your pet.

Symptoms: In addition to potentially irritating your pet’s skin, some essential oils can lead to kidney and liver toxicity.

Prevention Tips: If your family uses essential oils, be sure you’re diligent about keeping the oils in a secure place, like a drawer or cabinet. After applying essential oils, family members should wash their hands before touching your pet.

6. Air Fresheners

Like essential oils and liquid potpourri, air fresheners give off pleasant scents that may attract your pet. Unfortunately, petMD states that many air fresheners contain Volatile Organic Compounds that could poison your family’s best friend.7

Symptoms: Fragrance on your pet’s breath or in their vomit could indicate they’ve eaten an air freshener. Difficulty breathing, drooling, and pawing at the mouth or face are other signs of possible poisoning.

Prevention Tips: Instead of using air fresheners, open the windows and doors to naturally ventilate your home. An air purifier can also help rid your home of unwanted odors, while offering the added benefit of removing pet dander.

7. Drugs

It’s dangerous for your pet to ingest even a small amount of nicotine—the chemical commonly found in tobacco products like cigarettes, according to Pet Poison Helpline.8 Similarly, caffeine and alcohol can be toxic to your pet. 

Symptoms: Nicotine poisoning can induce vomiting, increase your pet’s heartrate, and even lead to muscle weakness and death.

Prevention Tips: Storing tobacco products in a drawer or cabinet can help reduce the risk of accidental poisoning. Never allow your dog to have caffeine or alcohol.

8. Antifreeze

Antifreeze has a pleasant aroma and sweet flavor, making it dangerously attractive to pets. Though the Humane Society of the United States reports that the product is more bitter now, it’s still important to recognize the danger.9 Unfortunately, ingesting even a few tablespoons of antifreeze may be fatal to your pet.

Symptoms: About thirty to sixty minutes after consuming antifreeze, your pet may appear disoriented, groggy, and uncoordinated. Left untreated, they may go into a coma and suffer from gastric ulcers or kidney failure.

Prevention Tips: Don’t buy antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol. Instead, opt for brands containing propylene glycol—a less toxic chemical. No matter which kind you buy, store antifreeze well away from pets and clean up any spills immediately.

9. Batteries

All batteries—whether they’re alkaline dry cell, lithium, or disc shaped—are potential pet hazards, states the Pet Poison Helpline.10 If chewed or ingested, the chemicals inside the batteries can not only cause severe corrosive injuries, they can also poison your pet.

Symptoms: Abdominal pain, mouth ulcers, vomiting, and pawing at the mouth are just a few indications your pet may be poisoned.

Prevention Tips: Never leave batteries where your pet can reach them. Some dogs are prone to chewing remote controls and other small devices that use batteries—so store these items in a secure place, too.

10. Cocoa Mulch

It has a nice scent and dresses up your landscaping, but Poison Control warns that cocoa mulch can be very dangerous to your pet.11 This type of mulch contains the toxin theobromine and may also include fertilizer, as well as a host of chemicals to control weeds.

Symptoms: Theobromine can cause vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, hyperactivity, and seizures. 

Prevention Tips: Use a safer material for mulch, like smooth rocks, dried leaves, or pine straw.

Be Prepared for an Accidental Pet Poisoning

Some of the most common signs of pet poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and blood in the stool. SafeWise hopes your pet is never poisoned, but if they are it’s critical to get help right away. Here are a few tips to prepare for your pet’s medical emergency.

Post Phone Numbers. Post your veterinarian’s phone number and the Animal Poison Control Center hotline number in a noticeable location, and program both numbers into your cellphone.

Write Down Details. Write your pet’s breed, age, weight, any illnesses they have, and the name and dosage of any medications they take. Keep this near the emergency phone numbers.

Compile a First Aid Kit. Put together a pet first aid kit or buy a pre-made one, and store it in a quickly accessible location.

Track Symptoms. As soon as you suspect poisoning, start documenting your pet’s symptoms. Look for clues that may indicate what poisoned your pet—like an empty medicine bottle or knocked over plant—so you can report this information to your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center.

Stay Calm. Your pet is a cherished member of your family, so it’s natural to be upset and worried when they’re ill. But try to remain calm so you can get your pet the help they need.

We hope you’ll share this information with other pet owners and use our prevention tips to help reduce the chance your pet is accidentally poisoned. If you have a puppy or are thinking of getting one, keep in mind that they’re naturally very curious. Help keep your little furry friend safe by following these poison control tips and puppy proofing your home.

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend tips. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen tips.

1. WebMD, Top 10 Dog Poisons
2. petMD, Anticoagulant Poisoning in Dogs
3. The Humane Society of the United States, Foods That Can Be Poisonous to Pets
4. petMD, Toxicity from Gum, Candy, and Toothpaste in Dogs
5. The Humane Society of the United States, Plants Potentially Poisonous to Pets
6. Vetstreet, Do Essential Oils Pose a Risk to Pets?
7. petMD, How Air Fresheners Can Affect Your Pet’s Health
8. Pet Poison Helpline, Nicotine
9. The Humane Society of the United States, Antifreeze Is a Sweet but Deadly Poison for Pets
10. Pet Poison Helpline, Batteries
11. Poison Control, Cocoa Bean Mulch Can Poison Dogs

Written by Alexia Chianis

Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more

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