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what's your poison? 15 common household toxins to pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan

Protecting your pet from accidental poisonings can be a difficult task with so many hidden hazards around your house. Here are the top ones you'll want to watch out for - and keep far away from curious paws!

What’s cooking? 

Kitchens are rife with potentially toxic things for our pets to ingest, starting with food meant for human consumption. Several foods that we enjoy can be deadly to our furry companions. The most common include:

1. Coffee grounds

2. Chocolate

3. Yeast dough

4. Macadamia nuts

5. Grapes and raisins

6. Onions and garlic

7. Alcohol

8. Sugar free gums and candies containing xylitol

You may also keep your cleaning products under the cabinet in the kitchen. Be sure these items are kept safely from your pets as they can cause harm from ingestion, skin contact or inhalation. 


In the bathroom 

Human medications are one of the top reasons veterinarians see pets for accidental poisonings.

9. Many medications we take, like Tylenol or Advil, are deadly to our pets.

10. Be sure to keep any other medications (anti-depressants, diet pills, cold medication and even inhalers for asthma) out of the reach of your pets. Don’t assume that because your pill bottle is childproof that it is also pet-proof. A determined dog can get into just about anything! 


In the garage 

Potential hazards abound in the garage.

11. Insecticides are commonly used on our pets to control parasites like fleas and ticks and around the house to control ants, spiders, and other creepy crawlies. Be sure to follow the instructions on the flea prevention packaging (many products that are safe for dogs are not safe for cats) and prevent your pets from contacting insecticides you have applied around the house.  

12. Rodenticides are generally grain based to attract rodents, but they can also be tasty for our pets. Rodenticides are as effective at their job in our pets as they are in the rodents themselves, so please keep these items well out of reach of dogs and cats. 

13. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) is sweet tasting to our pets and just a small amount can cause fatal kidney failure. Check your vehicle for leaks, especially if your pets have access to the garage.


Around the house 

You would be surprised at the things that pets will ingest.

14. What about a dime looks tasty? Nothing! Yet, I have had to surgically remove one from a cat’s stomach. I have no idea what led to that cat eating that dime, but it did teach me that pets will eat ANYTHING (and exemplifies why having a pet insurance policy from Petplan, which covers accidents like foreign body ingestion, can provide real peace of mind). Mothballs, coins, batteries, and other small items like buttons, hair bands and children’s toys can all be ingested. Some are toxic, while others can cause life threatening intestinal blockages.


15. Ingestion of tobacco and recreational drugs can cause illness, and ingestion of some species of house plants can be deadly to your pet.  Lilies are especially dangerous to cats, so keep this year’s Easter lily well out of reach of kitty.  

The Costs of Caring

Did you know Petplan has reimbursed as much as $10,000 for a poison claim? Check out the average reimbursement for veterinary bills related to accidental poisonings: $929 for antifreeze, $750 for illegal drugs including marijuana, $700 for prescription drugs, $545 for unknown causes, $501 for poisonous plants and $465 for food or additives.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can be foiled by a curious pet, so keep a 24-hour animal poison control hotline number handy, such as the Animal Poison Control Center number (1-888-4ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435). And always have the number of your regular veterinarian and emergency veterinarian handy in case of emergency.

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on March 27 2017 13:21

My 4 month old Schnoodle found someone's discarded "chew" (yuck), while on a quick outside walk. On an empty stomach, this almost proved fatal. Pups are so quick to eat anything. The vet and Poison Control saved our D'oji. Thank you Petplan for your quick response also!

Posted by Ariana
on March 20 2017 13:40

Odd you should mention cats and dimes?! I thought I was the only one with a feline with a penchant for loose change. The $1300 surgery (which took me over two years to pay off--big thanks to understanding vets) actually motivated me to get pet insurance in the first place!

Posted by Nancy Boddy
on December 03 2013 17:46

I rescued a 20-lb Terrier mix and in less than two months he was at the emergency vet clinic, first for MAYBE ingesting Dramamine from a pill bottle he chewed the bottom off and the second time for POSITIVELY ingesting 1/3 of a batch of chocolate chip pan cookies--lots of semi-sweet chocolate! The first visit was not too bad--$150 for a few hours and finding out that he had not ingested any pills. However, the 2nd time his heart rate was up to 230, considered tachycardia, so to monitor his heart and keep it from stopping I had to leave him overnight. He had a very large ball of chocolate in his stomach which they "removed" before it did more damage to his heart. That visit was $385! Right after that second visit I got a policy with PetPlan for him and also started seeing things through the eyes of a little Terrier who is into everything. He's sure not like my German Shepherd was, she didn't get into things like he does, but she would have eaten chocolate if left in her reach--she just wouldn't have gotten on top of something (his kennel) and onto the kitchen countertop to get the cookies! But he's a love and I'm glad I rescued him the night before he was to be euthanized in Los Angeles and brought him to Seattle! Everyone should be as lucky as he and I are to have found each other! :o)

Posted by rachel hayden
on January 03 2012 17:43

i would like more info on bitter freeze for animals please u could email it to me or mail it to me 10554 saltana way rancho cordova ca 95670 i take my cats health seriously . sincerely yours rachel hayden

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