Your pet is curious, and they feel compelled to sniff, paw, and chew any new object they encounter. However, many common household items can pose a danger to your pet. To help you avoid an emergency situation, our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team shares important information about what items are toxic to pets.

Human medications can be toxic to your pets

Over-the-counter medications are at the top of the 2020 toxins list composed by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), and human prescription medications are second on that list. Such medications include:

  • Ibuprofen — This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is thought to work by inhibiting COX-2 enzymes, which reduce production of inflammatory mediators. However, the drug also inhibits COX-1 enzymes, reducing the production of substances responsible for maintaining normal gastric mucosal barriers, renal blood flow, and platelet aggregation. Pets are sensitive to ibuprofen’s toxic effects, and signs include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. At high doses, renal failure can occur.
  • Pseudoephedrine — This ingredient commonly found in human decongestant medications causes stimulation to the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Signs include restlessness, tremors, increased heart rate, panting, and dilated pupils. Liquids and immediate release pills can cause the rapid onset of signs, but extended release formulations can take up to six hours to produce signs, prolonging the time before your pet receives treatment.
  • Antidepressants — Prescription medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are toxic to pets. Signs depend on which drug your pet has ingested but can include lethargy, lack of coordination, vomiting, and seizures.
  • Cardiac medications — Prescription heart medications, such as calcium channel blockers and beta blockers, can be dangerous for your pet. If your pet ingests a large dose, their blood pressure can drop dangerously low, and their heart rate can slow to an unsafe level.

Human foods can be toxic to your pet

Your pet may beg to have a taste off your plate, but several human foods should be off limits to them.

  • Chocolate — Your favorite sweet treat contains caffeine and theobromine, and pets can’t metabolize these ingredients as well as humans. These chemicals stimulate their heart and central nervous system. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic the treat is to your pet. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and excessive urination.
  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins contain a toxin, potentially tartaric acid, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, and acute renal failure.
  • Onions — Members of the Allium family, including onions, chives, garlic, leeks, and shallots, contain N-propyl disulfide, a toxin that breaks down your pet’s red blood cells, causing anemia. Signs include lethargy, pale gums, reddish urine, and fainting.
  • Sugar-free candy and gum — Many sugar-free products contain xylitol, an ingredient that can cause a sudden, drastic drop in your pet’s blood sugar level. Signs include vomiting, lack of coordination, weakness, collapse, and seizures.

Plants can be toxic to your pet

Plants can be a beautiful addition to your home, but many flowers and plants are harmful to pets.

  • Lilies — These colorful flowers are extremely toxic to pets, especially cats. The entire plant is poisonous, including the stem, leaves, flower, pollen, and the water in the vase. Eating a small amount of a flower petal, licking pollen off their fur, or drinking the vase water can cause kidney failure.
  • Tulips — These flowers contain allergenic lactones, which are most concentrated in the plant’s bulb. The toxin causes irritation to your pet’s mouth and esophagus. Signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Azaleas — These plants contain grayanotoxins, which disrupt sodium channels in your pet’s skeletal and cardiac muscles. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness, tremors, seizures, and coma.
  • Chrysanthemums — These plants contain pyrethrins and other potential irritants that cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and lack of coordination.

Home repair products can be toxic to your pet

If you are working on home improvement projects, be careful with the products you use because some of them can pose a threat to your pet.

  • Lead paint — If your home was built before 1978, test for lead paint before scraping or sanding the walls. The paint flakes can adhere to your pet’s coat, and if they ingest them during grooming, the lead can poison them. Signs include lack of coordination, muscle tremors, and seizures. 
  • Paint — Current-day paint, varnish, and stain products are mostly water-based, and will cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. If your pet gets a product on their fur, use dish soap and water to remove the substance. 
  • Spackle — Pets are attracted to spackle and may eat the substance, resulting in vomiting. In addition, spackle can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction, requiring surgery to remove.

Rodenticides can be toxic to your pet

Products used to eradicate pests, such as rodents, can be harmful to your pet. Many types of rodenticides are on the market, and they are all potentially lethal.

  • Phosphides — Zinc, calcium, and aluminum phosphides kill by releasing phosphide gases inside the pest or your pet, causing intense abdominal pain and liver damage.
  • Bromethalin — This product causes swelling in the brain, quickly leading to death. Cats are especially susceptible.
  • Cholecalciferol — This highly toxic compound works by increasing calcium and phosphorus levels, causing acute kidney failure. 
  • Anticoagulants — These products prevent blood from clotting, causing the affected pest or your pet to bleed out.

If your pet ingests a toxic substance, they will need emergency veterinary attention. You should immediately contact Gentle Touch Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control to ensure the right steps are taken to save your pet.