Your home is meant to be your sanctuary from the world where you relax and recharge. However, your safe place may not be safe for your pet. Many common items around your home are hazardous for pets, and can prove toxic and potentially fatal in four-legged friends who ingest them. So, the Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team will help you keep your pet safe by learning to identify common toxins.
#1: Human medications
Human prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are some of the most common toxins that harm pets. Cats and dogs can ingest dropped pills, or eat the contents of a chewed pill bottle. Pets given human medications to alleviate pain, soothe anxiety, or treat gastrointestinal (GI) issues can become seriously ill. Some of the most common human medications that poison pets include:
- Cardiac medications
- ADHD medications
Never give your pet any medication that is not prescribed specifically for them. While some human medications are pet-safe, the dosage is often vastly different, or a medication that your pet is already taking will affect them adversely. Always speak to your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication.
#2: Pet medications and products
Pets can be highly sensitive to medications, or the drug itself can have a narrow safety margin. If two people in your household administer the same medication to your pet, they may accidentally cause an overdose. Or, if your four-legged friend decides they can’t get enough of their tasty calming chews or joint supplements and tears apart the bag, they can develop a toxicosis. Canine flea prevention that is mistakenly applied to a cat can result in neurologic issues. Always verify that you are giving the correct pet the correct medication, and securely store the rest away.
Many foods, whether shared, dropped, or scrounged from the trash, can be pet-toxic. Keep your pet safe—do not share the following toxic foods:
- Xylitol (i.e., a sugar substitute)
- Macadamia nuts
- Yeast dough
#4: Plants and lawn products
Popular plants and flowers can cause pets severe health problems, and may result in death. For example, true lilies (e.g., Easter lilies) are incredibly toxic to cats. Drinking the water from a vase containing lilies or grooming the pollen from their fur is enough to cause kidney failure in cats. Other common poisonous plants include:
- Azaleas and rhododendrons
- Autumn crocuses
Before planting a flower bed or bringing home a bouquet, check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants for pets.
Products that encourage plants to grow and bloom can also be dangerous. Organic fertilizers that contain blood, bone, or feather meal can tempt pets, but result in toxicity. Herbicides and chemical-based fertilizers can be hazardous until they are dry. Follow the label directions for safe use around pets to prevent toxicity.
#5: Household toxicants
Many items found in your home and garage can endanger your pet, whether ingested, inhaled, or contacted. Some of the most common toxicants your pet may run across include:
- Essential oils
- Scented candles
- Cleaning chemicals (e.g., Lysol, bleach)
- Fabric softener sheets
- Paints, stains, sealants, and varnish
- Paint thinners and cleaners
- Motor oil
- De-icing salt
Switch to pet-friendly products, when possible. Clean up spills as soon as they occur, and keep your pet from walking on the floor until the area is dry. Store all toxic products safely inside latching cabinets or high on shelves your pet cannot reach. Check all bottles regularly for leakage.
Rodenticide toxicity is difficult to treat, especially if your pet ingests one of the newer rodenticide categories. Warfarin, which causes clotting issues that can be treated relatively easily if caught early, used to be the only rodenticide available, but newer products lead to serious health issues in pets that can rapidly become fatal. These rodenticides can cause brain swelling, calcification of soft tissues, or cardiovascular collapse, and result in:
- Central nervous system depression
- Vomiting blood
- Bloody diarrhea
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory arrest
Poisoning in pets: A word of caution
Poisoning signs in pets can be vague and may not pinpoint a specific toxicity. Some toxins act more slowly, so signs may not appear for some time—often days. If you suspect your pet encountered a toxic substance, do not wait for signs to develop—seek immediate treatment to prevent a fatality.
When your pet comes in contact with a toxin, you may be unsure about what you should do, but you do not need to panic. First, call an animal poison control hotline for advice from a veterinary toxicologist on how to proceed. Then, contact our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team to let us know you are bringing in your pet, so we can prepare for their treatment.