Dangerous Foods, Plants, & Other Items

Have you ever wondered what things are dangerous for your pet? There are many common things around the house that can be dangerous to cats and dogs, including certain foods, plants, and medications.

In addition to knowing what types of things might be poisonous to your pet, it is important to know, or at least be familiar with, the common signs of poisoning and what you should and shouldn’t do.

If you believe your pet may have ingested something poisonous, there are several phone numbers you can call. You should have your main veterinarian’s office number, the number of the closest Animal Emergency Center for problems after hours, and the number for Animal Poison Control. Having these numbers ready on an “emergency call list” card made to fit in your wallet/purse, fridge, or anywhere else close at hand to you and your pet will eliminate any additional stress and frantic searching at the time of ingestion.

The first step when you believe your pet might have ingested something is to take a quick survey of the potential poisons around you. Take note of your pet’s breathing and behavior so you can describe these to the veterinarian. Symptoms such as seizures, vomiting, lethargy, painful movement, difficulty breathing, and muscle tremors are worth mentioning. If you have an idea of what the pet ingested, having the packaging or description to give to the veterinarian is very helpful.

The next step is to call one of the numbers on your emergency list. Do not attempt to induce vomiting, give home remedies, activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide, or food unless directed by a veterinary professional.

Emergency situations can be stressful and scary but when you are calm, and can give accurate and thorough information and follow through on instructions you can greatly aid in your pet’s treatment and recovery.

Listed below are some of the most common items. If you suspect your pet has ingested any of the following items, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

***This list is not meant to be all-inclusive. If you have any doubt about something your pet has ingested, please call your veterinarian.***
Harmful Food

Grapes, Raisins and Currants
These foods can cause kidney failure. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, increased thirst and urination, lethargy, and/or reduced appetite.

Caffeine can be fatal, especially in small pets. Signs of ingestion may include hyperactivity, vomiting, increased heart rate, tremors, fever, and/or seizures.

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine which is similar to caffeine. Dark chocolate is the most toxic, while white chocolate is the least toxic. Very young, geriatric, or sick pets are especially susceptible to poisoning. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal or increased heart rate, tremors, seizures, and/or death in severe cases.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in chewing gum, mints, candies, and some baked goods, and can cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or liver failure. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, collapse, and/or seizures.

Onions, Garlic, Chives and Leeks
Onions, garlic, chives, & leeks can cause red blood cell destruction which results in anemia. Cats and Japanese dog breeds (Akita, Shiba Inu, etc.) are especially susceptible to poisoning. Signs of ingestion may include lethargy, pale gums, panting, increased heart rate, vomiting, and/or hypoglycemia.

Yeast-bread Dough
Yeast-bread dough will rise while in a pet’s stomach due to the warm, moist environment. This can lead to a bowel obstruction or a bloated stomach. Alcohol poisoning is also a possibility from the fermentation process. Signs of ingestion may include unproductive vomiting, weakness, and/or collapse.

Alcohol can cause life-threatening toxicity, especially in small pets. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, low blood pressures, neurological depression, hypothermia, seizures, respiratory failure, coma, and/or death.

Fatty Foods
Fatty foods may cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), especially in dogs. Fatty foods include things such as butter, oils, meat drippings, grease, chocolate, and meat scraps. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and/or lethargy.

Corncobs can become lodged in the esophagus or intestines, causing a bowel obstruction. Signs of ingestion may include unproductive vomiting, weakness, and/or abdominal pain.

Avocado can cause mild stomach upset in dogs and cats, but can be deadly to birds.

The mushrooms you buy in the grocery store are not considered toxic for pets, but the wild varieties growing in your yard may kill them. Remove any mushrooms to remove the risk.

Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts can cause temporary hind leg weakness, paralysis, and tremors in dogs.

Harmful Plants
Members of the true lily family (Lilium, Hemerocallis) are very poisonous to cats. They can cause vomiting, kidney failure, and death. Easter lilies, day lilies, tiger lilies, and Asian lilies are the most frequent cause of toxicity for feline family members.

Spring Bulb Plants
Consumption of leaves and flowers may only cause vomiting, but ingestion of the plant bulbs can be fatal.

Sago Palm
Sago, or Cycad, palms are very poisonous to pets and can cause liver failure and death. Potted sago palms are now sold as house plants in stores nationwide – so the risk is no longer limited to warm climates.

Plants with Insoluble Calcium Oxalate
Many common houseplants such as elephant ear, philodendron, Devil’s ivy, and dumbcane contain insoluble calcium oxalates that can cause drooling, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

Holiday Plants
The toxic potential of poinsettia has become highly exaggerated. This plant is relatively harmless, causing only minor symptoms like stomach upset. However, mistletoe and holly can be toxic to pets if ingested.

Christmas Tree Water
Christmas tree water may contain fertilizer and bacteria, which if ingested can upset the stomach.

Harmful Medications & Chemicals
Ibuprofen should never be given to your pet as it can cause gastric ulcers and/or kidney failure. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, and/or abdominal pain.

Ant and roach baits
Ant and roach baits can cause gastrointestinal upset, as well as a bowel obstruction from the plastic or metal part of the container. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, and/or lethargy.

Rodenticides contain anticoagulants which inhibit blood from clotting. Signs of ingestion may include seizures and/or bleeding.

Pseudoephedrine is contained in some cold medications and can cause heart and/or nervous system stimulation. Signs of ingestion may include hyperactivity, panting, fever, increased heart rate, tremors, and/or seizures.

Fertilizer contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus and can cause gastrointestinal upset. Signs of ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, and/or lethargy.

Hydrocarbons are contained in products such as paint, varnish, engine cleaner, furniture polish, lighter fluid, lamp oil, paint remover, and fuel. Exposure can cause eye irritation and burns on the skin, respiratory distress, gastrointestinal upset, liver failure and/or kidney failure. Signs of exposure may include eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or difficulty breathing.

Liquid Potpourri
Liquid potpourri can cause gastrointestinal upset as well as eye & mouth irritation. Signs of ingestion may include eye irritation, mouth sores, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and/or neurological depression.

Hand Warmers
Many hand warmers contain iron. If ingested, it can cause vomiting and possible stomach ulcers.

Some herbicides will only cause mild stomach upset, while others can be deadly. Read and follow all label directions when using these substances in your yard.

Glo-sticks and glo-jewelry are not poisonous, but the bitter-tasting liquid inside can cause your pets to drool uncontrollably.

Human sunscreens contain aspirin-like compounds that can cause vomiting and stomach ulcers. Do not use human products directly on your pet. Look for sunscreens formulated specifically for pets.

Ethylene glycol, the ingredient that puts the “anti” in freeze, is very poisonous to pets. It can cause drunkenness, vomiting, kidney failure, seizures, and death.

Ice Melts
Ice melts used on the sidewalk and driveway can be corrosive to your pet’s paws and tongue. Always use a pet-safe product – as indicated on the label.

Batteries if punctured can cause burns in the mouth and digestive tract. Signs of ingestion may include oral ulcers, burns, and/or perforation or blockage of the gastronintestinal tract.

Mothballs can cause vomiting, lethargy, seizures, hemolytic anemia, and death. Ingestion of even one mothball in a small pet can cause serious signs.

Gasoline can irritate skin and mucous membranes. Exposure can lead to central nervous system depression, vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, and aspiration.

Glues & Adhesives
Glues & adhesives can cause upset stomach. Some types of expanding glues, if ingested may require surgery to remove obstruction and prevent death.