Many pet owners don’t realize that their homes are full of pet toxins. Animal Poison Control (APC) can confirm this, as the organization receives more than 200,000 calls annually. Read our Colony Veterinary Hospital team’s responses to your frequently asked pet toxin questions.

Question: What common toxins affect dogs?

Answer: Many toxins affect dogs and cats differently. Many common foods and household chemicals are especially toxic to dogs, including:

  • Chocolate — Dogs just can’t seem to resist chocolate’s sweet aroma and flavor. If your dog eats chocolate, they can experience central nervous system (CNS) and cardiovascular stimulation, which results in hyperactivity, excessive panting, vomiting, increased heart and blood pressure rates, and seizures.
  • Grapes and raisins — If your dog ingests grapes or raisins, they can experience kidney failure.
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is a sugar substitute, which is commonly used in sugar-free candies and baked goods, as well as in hygiene products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant. Dogs metabolize xylitol differently than people, and the ingredient causes a dose-dependent insulin release, resulting in hypoglycemia. Xylitol ingestion signs include weakness, incoordination, vomiting, muscle tremors, and seizures.
  • Fertilizers — Fertilizers, especially those containing animal by-product meals, cocoa beans, herbicides, and pesticides, are toxic to pets. Fertilizer ingestion signs most commonly include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Q: What common toxins affect cats?

A: Some toxins affect cats more severely than they do dogs. Many common household plants and products, and medications are especially toxic to cats, including:

  • Lilies — Day, tiger, and Easter lilies are extremely toxic to cats, and if your feline friend so much as comes in contact with these plants’ pollen, they can develop kidney failure. Every part of these plants, including their stem, leaves, flowers, and pollen poses a threat to your cat. Even the water from a lily’s vase is toxic.
  • Spot-on flea and tick medications for dogs — Cats and dogs metabolize drugs differently, and medications safe for dogs aren’t always safe for cats. Many spot-on flea and tick medications for dogs contain permethrin, which can be lethal to cats. 
  • Essential oils — Many essential oils and liquid potpourri products, such as oils of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to cats. Toxicity can occur after ingestion or skin exposure.
  • Acetaminophen — Acetaminophen is commonly used to control pain and fever in people, but the medication is extremely toxic to cats, causing liver damage and decreasing their red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen throughout their bodies. Acetaminophen is also toxic to dogs, but cats develop toxicity after ingesting much lower doses.

Q: What common toxins affect dogs and cats?

A: Many common medications, foods, and household chemicals are equally toxic to all pets. Toxins that commonly affect all pets include:

  • Prescription medications intended for people — Prescription medications, such as antidepressants, vitamin D tablets and creams, and cardiac and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, are toxic to pets.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications — In addition to acetaminophen, OTC medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and decongestants, are toxic to pets.
  • Onions and garlic — These vegetables contain toxins that cause oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in anemia.
  • Rodenticides — All rodenticides are extremely toxic to pets.
  • Household cleaners and chemicals — Many household cleaning products and chemicals are toxic to pets.

Q: How do I know if my pet has been exposed to or ingested a toxin?

A: Pets are sneaky, and you may be unaware that your furry pal has ingested a toxin. Toxicity signs may include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Incoordination
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tremors
  • Seizures
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Excessive thirst and urination

Q: What should I do if my pet has been exposed to or ingested a toxin?

A: If your pet is exposed to or has ingested a toxin, the most important thing you can do is stay calm so you can ensure your furry pal receives the care they need. Follow these tips:

  • Removing the toxin — Take the toxin away from your pet to prevent them from ingesting more.
  • Calling for help — Call our Colony Veterinary Hospital team or the APC for professional advice.
  • Providing information — Be prepared to provide information such as your pet’s age, weight, and breed, the toxin they ingested, the amount they ingested, and when they ingested the toxin.
  • Keeping the product label — Keep the product label handy, so you can provide veterinary professionals with important information about the product’s active ingredients and concentration.
  • Collecting a sample — If your pet vomits, collect a sample for testing.
  • Following directions — Follow the consulting veterinarian’s instructions, and don’t induce vomiting or administer home remedies unless a veterinary professional specifically directs you to do so.

Q: How can I protect my pet from toxin exposure?

A: Although you do everything you can to prevent your pet’s poisoning, accidents happen, and they can inadvertently be exposed to or ingest a toxin. Follow these tips to help to reduce your pet’s toxicity risk:

  • Read the label — Before sharing your food with your pet, read the ingredient label to ensure the product contains no  ingredients that are harmful to your furry pal.
  • Keep countertops clear — Store food behind closed doors to ensure your pet doesn’t steal a snack from your kitchen counter.
  • Seal garbage containers — Keep your trash in sealed containers to prevent your pet from ingesting dangerous food scraps and discarded  items.
  • Use child safety locks — Some pets are crafty and can open cabinets. Use child safety locks on cabinets and drawers your pet can reach.
  • Store medications securely — Store all medications out of your pet’s reach (i.e., on a high shelf, behind a securely latched cabinet door).
  • Take medications in private — When taking your own medications, ensure your pet isn’t in the room, and close the door to keep them out. This way, if you drop a pill or spill the entire bottle, your pet can’t immediately gobble down the medication.
  • Ensure your plants are nontoxic— Ensure any floral arrangement or plant inside your house or out in your yard is pet friendly.
  • Clean spills immediately — If you spill a household cleaner or automotive product, immediately wipe up the chemical. Some products, such as antifreeze, are so toxic, your pet could experience a life-threatening illness if they lap up a small amount.
  • Prevent access — Ensure your pet can’t access an area you have treated with fertilizers, rodenticides, or pesticides. Carefully read the product’s label to determine the amount of time you should prevent your pet’s access before they can safely return to the yard or treated area.

Follow these tips to help reduce your pet’s toxin exposure risk. If your pet is exhibiting toxicity signs, contact our Colony Veterinary Hospital team, and we will determine your furry pal’s best treatment plan.