Common Pet Poisons Guide

We’ve assembled a fairly comprehensive list of the top foods, medications, plants, household products, and other items toxic to dogs and cats.

Prevention is key! Please keep these items away from your animal and call us if you think your pet has consumed anything in this guide.

Human Medicine Poisonous to Pets: 

Just because a medication is safe for you does not mean it is safe for your pet! Over-the-counter (OTC) medications were once again the most common group of toxicants pets ingested this year. Here are some of the more common OTC and prescription medications that are considered harmful to pets: 

  • Aspirin
  • ADD and ADHD medications (including Adderall® and Ritalin®)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
  • Allergy/Decongestant medications (including Mucinex-D®, Claritin-D®, and Allegra-D®)
  • Antidepressants (including Effexor®, Lexapro®, and Prozac®)
    Antidepressants can cause vomiting and, in more serious instances, serotonin syndrome — a dangerous condition that raises temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and may cause seizures. Veterinarians do use certain antidepressant medications, such as Prozac, in pets. However, it is done only in certain circumstances at specific doses with close monitoring.
  • Blood pressure medications (including Toprol® and Lopressor®)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs/NSAIDs (including Motrin®, Advil® and Aleve®)
  • Sleep aids (including Ambien® and Lunesta®)

Human Foods Poisonous to Pets: 

Although your pet shouldn’t really have any human food, with the exception of maybe some occasional baked chicken or sweet potato, pumpkin, and rice for an upset stomach, here’s a list of the top foods that can cause serious harm to your dog or cat.

Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death

Avocados: You might think of them as healthy, but avocados have a substance called persin that can act as a dog poison, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine: Chocolate can be lethal for cats and dogs. It can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Candy: Especially watch out for sugar-tree versions of candy that contain xylitol. 

Cherries: These pitted fruits are toxic to dogs and cats and cause dilated pupils, breathing problems, and, in extreme cases, shock or even death.

Citrus: The stems, leaves, peels, fruit, and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant quantities. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.

Fruit with pits: Beware of fruits with pits. They can cause your pet to choke or obstruct their intestines, particularly plum and peach pits, which contain poisonous cyanide.

Gum: Due to its properties, gum can cause blockages. Also, as with candy, sugar-free gum can contain dangerous levels of xylitol.

Grapes and Raisins: Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause acute kidney failure. 

Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts are among the top human foods to avoid giving your dog. Macadamia nuts are often found in baked goods and trail mix. The consequences of dogs eating macadamia nuts include vomiting, ataxia, weakness, and hyperthermia. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 24-48 hours.

Milk and Dairy: Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products can cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Mushrooms: Remove any wild mushrooms if your dog or cat can roam your yard. The wild variety typically causes the most harm, as opposed to grocery store mushrooms. Even a few bites can cause seizures and vomiting.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg can cause tremors and seizures in your pet.

Nuts: Nuts contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.

Onions, Chives & Leeks: These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. 

Garlic: Garlic is considered to be about five times as potent as onion. Certain breeds and species are more sensitive, including cats and Japanese breeds of dogs (e.g., Akita, Shiba Inu). Toxic doses of onion and garlic can cause oxidative damage to the red blood cells and gastroenteritis (e.g., nausea, oral irritation, drooling, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea). Onion and garlic poisoning may have a delayed onset, and clinical signs may not be apparent for several days.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs, and Bones: Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets and humans. Raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Salt: Salt poisoning in dogs and cats results in signs of vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst, or urination. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible.

Salty Snack Foods-(potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn): Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures, and even death.

Xylitol: Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. 

Yeast Dough: Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life-threatening emergency.

Common Household Plants That Are Toxic For Animals:

Aloe Vera: When ingested, it can result in vomiting and diarrhea. Other clinical signs seen with aloe vera ingestion include depression, anorexia, changes in urine color, and rarely, tremors. Toxicity level in cats is mild to moderate. 

Amaryllis: Common signs to watch for in your pet include:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Hypotension (drop in blood pressure)
  • Respiratory depression
  • Abdominal discomfort

Azaleas and rhododendrons: These pretty flowering plants contain toxins that may cause vomiting, diarrhea, coma, and potentially even death.

Baby’s Breath: This may cause irritation to your pet’s gastrointestinal tract following ingestion. Ingestion can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and lethargy in your cat. 

Daffodils and Tulips: Contact your vet if you suspect your dog has consumed a daffodil bulb.

Daphne Plant: When ingested by animals, ulceration or blistering of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach may occur. Other signs may include drooling, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Following significant ingestion of this plant, seizures, coma, and death are possible.

English Ivy: English ivy’s foliage is more toxic than its berries. If your pup consumes it, they may experience vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, and abdominal pain.

Ficus: Following ingestion, irritation of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract may occur. Dermal irritation is also possible if the sap gets on the pet’s skin.

Fiddle Leaf: Chewing or biting into this plant will release crystals, causing tissue penetration and irritation of the mouth and GI tract. VERY rarely, swelling of the upper airway occurs, making it difficult to breathe.

Iris: Common signs to watch for if a pet eats this plant:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

Lilies (such as peace lily, calla lily, Easter lily, and Tiger lily): Lilies are highly toxic and potentially fatal to cats. Some types are also toxic to dogs. Even small ingestions such as 1-2 petals or leaves, or even the pollen or water from the vase may result in severe, acute kidney failure in cats. If you suspect your cat has ingested any part of one of these lilies, bring them immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. The sooner treatment, the better the prognosis.

Peony: This plant contains the toxin paeonol, which is concentrated in the bark. When ingested in large amounts, it can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Poinsettia: This plant is very popular around the holidays, but when ingested, your pet can exhibit mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or diarrhea.

Sago Palm: Found on porches, decks, or in the house, the sago palm has toxins concentrated in the nuts or seeds, and just 1–2 seeds can be fatal to a medium-sized dog.

Poisonous Household Products and Other Environmental Hazards

Almost any household product can be dangerous to your pet, even those labeled “safe” or “natural” (including homemade products). Here are the top poisonous products to keep safely stored away from your pets: 

  • Antifreeze, deicer
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach or bleach-based cleaners
  • Carpet or rug cleaner/shampoo/deodorizer
  • De-icing salts (which pets may walk through, then lick from their pads)
  • Essential oils
  • Plant fertilizer
  • Glue, other adhesives
  • Laundry or dishwasher detergent
  • Paint, solvents, spackle
  • Rat/mouse/slug bait or other insecticides/Rodenticides. Unfortunately, many baits used to lure and kill rodents can also look tasty to our pets. If ingested by dogs, they can cause severe problems.
  • Vinegar 

Fertilizers: Fertilizers may also contain herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides which increases the risk of poisoning. While small ingestions of fertilizer may only result in mild stomach upset, larger ingestions can result in severe poisoning from iron, nitrogen, and other chemicals.

Common signs to watch for:

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (acute or delayed onset)
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal posture due to abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • “Muddy” colored gums

Saltwater: Drinking large amounts of salt water can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, and toxic amounts of salt can be fatal to your dog, also known as salt toxicity in dogs. When a dog ingests salt water, the excess salt draws water from the blood into the intestines, leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Certain Flea & Tick Medications: Some flea and tick medications still contain permethrin or pyrethrin-based insecticides that can cause severe distress, particularly to your cat. Signs of poisoning from such flea medications include profuse drooling, vomiting, tremoring, hyperexcitability, agitation, seizures, weakness, and difficulty breathing. If left untreated, it can be fatal. These signs are rarely seen in dogs. In dogs, signs of paresthesia (a tingling sensation), scratching, or drooling may rarely be seen. Treatment includes promptly removing the product by bathing with a liquid dish soap to remove the greasy substance. When flea and tick collars are accidentally ingested or applied to pets inappropriately, they can result in severe clinical signs of the central nervous system. Please check with your veterinarian before using a new flea and tick medication for your pet, especially if this medication is available over-the-counter, and watch your pet for these signs if using new medications. 

Poison Prevention Guide, Harmony Animal Hospital
Download Harmony’s Poison Prevention Guide

Top Toxins for Pets

Top Pet Poisons

What to do for suspected pet poisoning:

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, acting quickly is essential. Try to keep your pet calm and call your veterinarian. Harmony Animal Hospital’s number in Apex NC is (919)303-3456, or you can reach the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888)426-4435. Experts at the APCC are available to answer questions and provide guidance 24 hours a day for a consultation fee. Another option is the Pet Poison Hotline at (855)764-7661.

Top 4 Toxins for Pets

According to the  ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), Here Are The Top 4 Toxins for Pets: 

  1. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications were once again the most common group of toxicants pets ingested this year, making up 19.7% of APCC calls.  Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, joint rubs, and herbal supplements all fall within this category. These items are commonly found in homes and are often stored in purses and backpacks.
  2. Human prescription medications remained number two this year, accounting for 17.2% of cases. Cardiac, ADHD, thyroid, and antidepressant medications make up a significant amount of these cases. Always make sure your prescription medications are safely locked away, out of paws’ reach.
  3. Food is number three, making up 12.1% of cases. Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and protein bars make up most of these cases.
  4. Chocolate remains at number four with 10.7% of APCC cases concerning this sweet treat. That works out to over 67 cases a day! Dogs especially love chocolate and can eat enough to get themselves into trouble.