The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experienced a 22% increase in call volume in 2021, including many calls about common household substances. Knowing what items in your home pose a danger to your pet is important to safeguard them from a potentially life-threatening situation. Our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team wants to help by providing tips to protect your pet from common toxins.

#1: Keep your counters free from food items, and ensure your garbage is inaccessible to pets

Given the opportunity, many pets will counter surf to appease their appetite between meals, or investigate your unsealed garbage for a tasty treat. Foods that can cause problems for your pet include:

  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins contain a toxin, potentially tartaric acid, that causes kidney damage in pets. Common early signs, including vomiting, decreased appetite, and lethargy, are typically seen in the first 24 hours. More severe signs, such as abdominal pain, excessive thirst and urination, and diarrhea, usually occur about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion.
  • Onions — Some vegetables, including onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives, contain N-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to a pet’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, pale gums, and reddish urine, and typically manifest in 24 hours.
  • Chocolate — Caffeine and theobromine are ingredients in chocolate that cause central nervous system stimulant effects in pets. Signs usually occur in about 6 to 12 hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, panting, restlessness, and increased heart rate.

#2: Read food labels before feeding your pet

Check food labels carefully to ensure no ingredients are toxic to your pet. Potential problematic substances include:

  • Xylitol — Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in sugar-free foods that can cause hypoglycemia and liver damage in pets. Hypoglycemia usually develops in six hours, and signs include vomiting, lethargy, incoordination, tremors, and seizures. In pets with liver damage, blood work typically shows changes in 12 to 48 hours.
  • Macadamia nuts — Macadamia nuts contain an unknown toxin that causes diarrhea, vomiting, hind limb weakness, and tremors. 

#3: Ensure your pet cannot access your medications

Secure your medicine cabinet, and take your pills in another room with a closed door to ensure your pet can’t retrieve a dropped medication. Dangerous prescription medications include:

  • Antidepressants — Several types of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, are prescribed for humans, and ingestion by pets can lead to serious health complications. Signs will depend on the antidepressant type, but can include sedation, incoordination, tremors, seizures, elevated heart rate, and hyperthermia.
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs — ADHD medications are stimulants, and can cause signs including agitation, vocalization, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, hyperthermia, and seizures.
  • Sleep aids — Anti-anxiety and sleep assistance medications can cause signs such as agitation, severe lethargy, and incoordination, and some pets may experience liver failure. 
  • Blood pressure medications — Some human medications for high blood pressure treatment can cause life-threatening decreases in a pet’s blood pressure and an extremely slow heart rate.

#4: Ensure your pet cannot access your guests’ belongings

Many people carry medications in their purse or pocket, and you should ensure your pet can’t access these items when you have guests. Dangerous over the counter medications include:

  • Ibuprofen — Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) that can cause gastrointestinal ulceration and kidney failure in pets. Signs include vomiting, inappetence, lethargy, decreased mentation, coma, and seizures.
  • Acetaminophen — Acetaminophen is a common human pain reliever that can cause liver disease in pets. Cats are less able to metabolize the drug and are especially sensitive. Signs include inappetence, lethargy, vomiting, respiratory distress, and swelling in the face and paws.
  • Nasal decongestants — Pseudoephedrine, commonly found in nasal decongestants, can cause nervous and cardiovascular system stimulation in pets. Signs include restlessness, agitation, increased heart rate, hyperthermia, panting, and tremors.

#5: Ensure plants in and around your home are pet safe

Pets love to investigate with their mouth, and if they encounter a poisonous plant, the results can be serious. Plants toxic to pets include:

  • Sago palm — Sago palms are commonly planted around swimming pools because they look like mini palm trees. The seeds or nuts contain the largest amount of toxin, which causes signs that include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, liver failure, and potentially death.
  • Lilies — All lily parts, plus the vase water, are toxic to pets, and especially to cats. Dogs who eat lilies typically have only GI upset, but cats can develop severe kidney failure.
  • Autumn crocus — The autumn crocus contains colchicine, which can cause bone marrow suppression and liver failure in pets. 

#6: Ensure your pet is not exposed to household toxicants

Several products used around your home are toxic to pets, including:

  • Rodenticides — Several rodenticide types are on the market, and all are toxic to pets. Ensure your pet can’t access areas where these products are used. 
  • Antifreeze — Many antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, which causes severe kidney failure in pets. Signs include lethargy, vomiting, incoordination, excessive thirst and urination, seizures, and coma.

Following these tips should help protect your pet from encountering a toxin. However, if your pet ingests a poisonous substance, contact our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team, so we can provide the care they need.