Every home contains a variety of everyday items and substances that can be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by dogs and cats. You can protect your pet’s health by becoming aware of the most common health hazards found in many pet-owning households.
Foods: Many foods are perfectly safe for humans, but could be harmful or potentially deadly to pets. To be safe, keep the following food items out of your pet’s menu:
- Coffee grounds
- Chocolate (although some types of chocolate are not as toxic as others, it’s safer to keep your pet away from all types of chocolate)
- Yeast dough
- Macadamia nuts
- Any products containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener)
Always keep garbage out of a pet’s reach, as rotting food contains molds or bacteria that could cause food poisoning.
Cleaning Products: Many household cleaners can be used safely around pets. However, the key to safe use lies in reading and following product directions for proper use and storage.
For instance, if the label states “keep pets and children away from the area until dry”, follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used properly but can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns. Some detergents can produce a similar reaction and cats can be particularly sensitive to certain ingredients such as phenols.
As a general rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging, or in a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.
Insecticides/Rodenticides: As with household cleaners, read and follow label instructions before using any type of pesticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as serious or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.
If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some of the newer rodenticides have no known antidote, and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.
Plants: Inside or Around the House: There are many household and yard plants that can sicken your pet. Some of the most commonly grown greenery that should be kept away from pets includes:
- Certain types of lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis species) are highly toxic to cats, resulting in kidney failure — even if only small amounts are ingested.
- Lily of the Valley, oleander, yew, foxglove, and kalanchoe may cause heart problems if ingested
- Sago palms (Cycas species) can cause severe intestinal problems, seizures and liver damage, especially if the nut portion of the plant is consumed
- Azaleas, rhododendrons and tulip/narcissus bulbs can cause intestinal upset, weakness, depression, heart problems, coma and death
- Castor bean can cause severe intestinal problems, seizures, coma, and death. Other plants that can cause intestinal upset include cyclamen, amaryllis, chrysanthemums, pothos, English ivy, philodendron, corn plant, mother-in-law’s tongue, hibiscus, hydrangea, peace lily and schefflera/scheffleria
- Rhubarb leaves and shamrock contain substances that can produce kidney failure
- Additionally, fungi (such as certain varieties of mushrooms) can cause liver damage or other illnesses
A few other potentially harmful plants include the yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant (Brunfelsia species), autumn crocus (Colchicum species), and glory lily (Gloriosa species)
What to do if your pet is poisoned? Don’t wait! Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call us right away! If we are closed, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may apply) or a local emergency room. Be prepared to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight, and any symptoms. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.