Ah, home sweet home. At the end of a long day, there’s nothing like playing in the yard with your dog or snuggling up on the couch with your cat, surrounded on all sides by potential poisons.

Wait. What?

Did you know there are countless pet toxins in your home, garage, and yard right now? And your pet, with their powerful nose and innate curiosity, will probably uncover them before you do—unless you learn to recognize them with this guide from Columbia Pike Animal Hospital

How to respond to a pet poisoning

Toxin exposures in pets are common, as many pet owners don’t realize how many everyday items are dangerous to pets. Unfortunately, unless these pets are caught in the act or leave evidence of their adventure (i.e., packaging, spills), recognizing a toxicity on clinical signs alone can be challenging. Depending on what the pet ingests or encounters, their signs may be obvious or subtle, and have a rapid or delayed onset. This guesswork and uncertainty make proactive poison prevention the most effective way to protect your pet.

General toxicity signs in pets can appear hours or days after exposure and can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Collapse, unresponsiveness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Rapid heart or respiratory rate
  • Agitation
  • Dullness
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Pale gums

If you notice any signs that suggest poisoning, transport your pet to Columbia Pike Animal Hospital for emergency care and decontamination treatment. Bring any wrappers or product information with you, if available. Do not wait to see if signs improve, as time is of the essence for these pets, and their outcome depends on how quickly they receive treatment. 

Common household pet toxins

Your home is only as safe as you make it. Let’s secure your castle by identifying the most common pet poisons and where you’re most likely to find them.

Pet toxins in your purse, pockets, or work bag — Not only are these locations easy for pets to access, but the small items they contain are often the biggest toxins, including:

  • Medication and supplements — Prescription medications, including ADHD medication, antidepressants, heart, blood pressure, and pain medicine, are particularly dangerous, as are over-the-counter medications, including ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, vitamins, and supplements. 
  • Sugar-free gum and mints — These items contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that causes severe low blood sugar and acute liver failure in dogs. 
  • Nicotine products — These products, including cigarettes, tobacco, and nicotine gum, may also include xylitol. Small amounts may result in vomiting, while larger quantities create rapid toxicity with cardiac and neurological effects.
  • Cosmetics — Some makeup and personal hygiene products contain xylitol.

Protect your pet by keeping bags out of reach and emptying pockets before placing your clothes in the laundry. Ensure all medications are kept in their original container and stored out of reach.

Pet toxins in the kitchen

If you’re cooking up some memories in the kitchen, ensure your pet isn’t taste-testing something toxic, including:

  • Chocolate — Unsweetened, bitter, and dark chocolates act like stimulants on the heart and nervous system. Dangerous chemicals called theobromines can recirculate in your pet’s system for up to 72 hours.
  • Grapes and raisins — These kidney-failure-inducing foods are often found in energy bars, cookies, granolas, grape juice, and wine. Only a small amount is needed for a toxic effect.
  • Garlic and onion — These foods damage red blood cells, causing life-threatening anemia.
  • Sugar-free snacks — Some peanut butters, puddings, and sugar-free baked goods are made with xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Protect your pet by checking the label on snack foods and using only xylitol-free peanut butter in your dog’s treats. Store dangerous foods out of reach in closed containers, and keep trash cans closed or inaccessible.

Pet toxins around the home

As you make your home cozy and comfortable, you may be creating a hotbed of pet health hazards, including:

  • Houseplants and floral arrangements — Lilies are highly toxic and can be life-threatening for cats, while many other common houseplants can cause a range of clinical signs.
  • Essential oils and potpourri — Birds and cats can experience respiratory distress and kidney damage from these fragrances.

Swap harmful plants and fragrances for pet-safe options, so everyone in the home can breathe easy.

Pet toxins in the garage and yard

Although these areas may be a safe harbor from household drama for human family members, they are home to many notable pet toxins, including:

  • Antifreeze, windshield de-icer, radiator coolant — The ethylene glycol in these products has a sweet smell that appeals to pets, but as little as one teaspoon for cats and one tablespoon for large dogs can result in acute kidney failure and death.
  • Cleaning supplies — Various chemical cleaners can be toxic if ingested, or irritating if inhaled. Keep animals away from the area you are cleaning, and ensure proper ventilation.
  • Rat and mouse bait — These literal poisons are extremely dangerous, and the ingredients that attract and kill rodents can also attract and kill pets. Pets can also be poisoned if they consume rodents that have ingested the bait. 
  • Fertilizers and mulch — Fertilizers may contain toxic bone or blood meal, pesticides, or highly concentrated minerals or nutrients. 

Despite your best efforts, accidents do happen, and pets do get into trouble. If you know or suspect your pet has encountered a toxin, immediately contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital, so our emergency services team can advise you on how to proceed. If your pet is unresponsive, seizing, or has an altered mental status, immediately transport them to the hospital.