Your home is your sanctuary, your safe haven, and a refuge from the risks and hazards of life beyond your door. But for your pet, home is their entire world, and despite locking the door and setting the alarm, you’re probably overlooking the most obvious threats to your furry pal’s health and safetyhousehold toxins. Follow our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team’s guide to everyday household hazards and take protective measures to help prevent your pet from experiencing a heartbreaking poisoning emergency.

What to do if your pet encounters a toxin

Accidents happen, so you should learn to recognize toxicity signs in dogs and cats, which can vary based on the poison they have ingested. Remember, your pet’s poisoning signs may not appear immediately. For example, some pets may not be visibly ill for hours or days after toxin exposure or consumption. If you see your pet ingesting a toxin, immediately contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital or call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center. However, if you don’t catch your pet in the act or find telltale evidence (e.g., wrappers, empty containers), knowing whether your pet has been poisoned can be difficult. Safe is always better than sorry, so don’t delay your pet’s care. Columbia Pike Animal Hospital offers 24 hours per day, seven days per week emergency services for all of your pet’s unexpected veterinary care needs. Call us immediately if your pet exhibits any of these potential toxicity signs:

  • Recurring vomiting or diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • High heart or respiratory rate
  • Incoordination 
  • Excessive weakness
  • Inappetence
  • Muscle tremors or shaking
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Mental dullness
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Pale gums

Toxins among us—top household items that are poisonous to pets

Pet toxins are likely hiding in plain sight in your home. Start sleuthing! How many pet poisons can you find? To help protect your pet from being poisoned and potentially losing their life, consider the following list:

  • Medications, vitamins, and supplements According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the most commonly reported pet toxicities for the past 10 years have been the ingestion of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and dietary supplements. Medications are exceptionally hazardous to pets because of their ubiquitous nature. For example, a pet can easily find pills or capsules in purses or pockets, or on nightstands. In addition, human medications’ high dose concentration make them especially poisonous to pets who gobble down these small pills, thinking they might be tasty treats. Many owners have inadvertently given their pet OTC painkillers, such as ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories, which results in their furry pal experiencing serious or life-threatening harm.
  • Foods Pets aren’t known for their discerning palates (e.g., not opposed to eating wildlife scat or dead worms), so you must protect your furry pal from dangerous toxic treats. Never give any pet the following:
    • Chocolate in any form
    • Onions, garlic, leeks, and chives
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Unbaked bread dough
    • Xylitol—a natural sweetener often included in sugar-free candies, gums, desserts, and snacks.

During family gatherings, such as holidays, you must be especially vigilant about food toxins, because these ingredients are often in prepared dishes. In addition, be mindful of unattended food items left on countertops and forgotten plates, glasses, and cups. In addition, ensure discarded foods are placed in secure trash cans. Always keep foods securely out of your pet’s reach.

  • Plants — If you have any of the severall popular houseplant varieties that are harmful to pets, you may have trouble in paradise. Cats are especially sensitive to every part of some plants and can experience life-threatening complications if they ingest them. Don’t take any chances if your pet has a penchant for plants. Place harmful flowers and foliage out of your pet’s reach or replace them with pet-safe alternatives such those made of silk. Protect your pet from poisoning by keeping these dangerous plants out of your house:
    • Lilies
    • Azaleas
    • Autumn crocuses
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Daffodils
    • Dieffenbachias
    • Oleanders
    • Sago palms
    • Yews
    • Tulip bulbs
  • Household and automotive chemicals You likely believe household and automotive chemicals are unappealing to your pet, but curious dogs and cats routinely ingest these dangerous everyday items, suffering life-threatening renal (i.e., kidney) and gastrointestinal (GI) emergencies. Keep your pet safe by preventing them from coming in contact with these household and automotive chemicals, which include:
    • Ethylene glycol products (e.g., antifreeze, radiator coolant, windshield wiper fluid)
    • Construction, wood, or high-strength glues
    • Cleaning chemicals
    • Paints, sealants, stains, and paint thinners

  • Rodenticides and insecticides — Poisons, such as rodent-, mouse-, and insect-killing agents, have equally devastating effects on a pet’s health and life. These products contain extremely toxic active ingredients that work by interrupting the nervous system, damaging the kidneys, or preventing normal blood clotting. If your pet ingests an insecticide, their poisoning signs may appear within hours. However, if your pet ingests rodenticide, their poisoning signs can take days to appear—potentially affecting their outcome.

Preventing pet toxicity at home

Despite poisoning’s terrifying potential, pet toxicity is often preventable. By recognizing potential hazards, you can minimize or eliminate your pet’s exposure risks. Follow these pet poisoning prevention tips:

  • Store items out of your pet’s reach — Store hazardous materials in closed cabinets, on high shelves, or in pet-proof containers.
  • Use pet-safe alternatives By swapping harmful products for pet-friendly options, you create a healthier home environment.
  • Clean spills — Immediately clean liquid household chemical spills and dispose of any saturated cloths or paper towels.
  • Never give your pet medication intended for humans — Never give your pet any medication intended for human use unless your veterinarian recommends it and explains the correct dosing. Human medication is too strong for pets, and they metabolize these drugs poorly.
  • Know how to respond to pet poisoning — Post emergency phone numbers where you can easily see them (e.g., on your refrigerator) and store them in your phone. If your pet ingests a toxin, have the item or any remaining packaging ready, so you can provide the veterinary team with relevant product information.

Pet toxin exposure is a growing problem—with national call centers experiencing record-breaking increases every year. Our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team encourages you to stay vigilant and attentive to potential pet threats—especially the ones within your own home. If you know or suspect your pet has been exposed to or ingested something harmful, immediately contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital 24 hours per day, seven days per week or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center