Highly toxic products, like pest killers, have always been known to be an obvious poison to both humans and their pets. But, did you know that there are several common household items in your cabinets that can prove toxic to your cat or dog? To ensure your pet remains safe, happy and healthy, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 most common toxins for our furry friends.
1) PAIN RELIEVERS/HEADACHE MEDICATION — Especially dangerous for felines, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and aspirin can lead to severe side effects, like ulcers, liver damage or failure, deoxygenation of red blood cells and stomach problems in pets.
2) ANTI-DEPRESSANTS — Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications like alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor) can lower an animal’s blood pressure, leading to weakness or collapse. Symptoms of illness may include agitation, vocalization, tremors and lack of coordination or trouble standing
3) CAFFEINE — There is no antidote to a caffeine overdose in a pet, which can cause restlessness, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, fits and bleeding, often leading to death. If your pet has had a few laps of soda, coffee, or tea, it is probably not enough to hurt him, but moderate amounts of coffee grounds or tea bags, and especially a single diet pill, can prove fatal.
4) CHOCOLATE — Theobromine, the primary alkaloid found in chocolate, is poisonous to dogs, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperactivity and/or seizures. Theobromine is stronger in dark chocolate and semisweet baking chocolate than it is in milk chocolate.
5) XYLITOL — Xylitol is a substitute sugar often used in commercial products like toothpaste and sugar-free gum and is said to be 100 times more toxic to dogs than chocolate. The intake of Xylitol can cause an upsurge of insulin in the bloodstream and lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms of poisoning include weakness, vomiting, incoordination or difficulty standing, lethargy, tremors, seizures, and even coma. In severe cases, dogs may develop liver failure.
6) TOPICAL FLEA MEDICINE — Despite EPA reprimands, many companies still produce flea and tick medicines containing organophosphate insecticides (OPs) that are harmful if applied or ingested. Hair loss, skin irritation, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trembling and respiratory problems are among the side effects of these medicines. Cats are particularly at risk since they lack the ability to metabolize or detoxify OPs. To learn more visit the Humane Society website.
7) COLD, FLU AND ALLERGY MEDICINE — Animals do not develop illnesses in the same manner as humans, so if your cat or dog gets sick, OTC medicines will not help and could be harmful to the pet. Poisoning symptoms include vomiting, pale gums, disorientation and confusion, diarrhea and sudden collapse. Owners are urged to induce vomiting in their pets and call the vet immediately. The ASPCA has a great resource regarding dog and cat flu, here.
8) ADHD MEDICINE — For unknown reasons, Adderall, the country’s most common ADHD medication, appeals to cats’ taste buds more than any other drugs. A single 20mg pill can kill the average-sized cat. Early signs of intoxication include anxiety, disorientation and distress, with unusual disturbance from light and sound and an increased heart rate or body temperature. If your cat has ingested an amphetamine, you should immediately induce vomiting and call your veterinarian.
9) NSAIDS — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are among the ten most common poisoning cases reported to the National Animal Poison Control Center. NSAIDS, including naproxen (Aleve) and Flurbiprofen, can cause gastrointestinal/stomach problems and kidney failure. For more information on what common medications can harm your pet, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
10) VITAMINS AND MINERALS — There are some vitamin supplements that dogs can safely consume, but large amounts of any “healthy” item will make your dog sick. Vitamin A overdose leads to limping, anorexia/weight loss, lethargy, stiffness of limbs, and constipation. Animals that have taken in too much Vitamin B-6 might experience neurotoxicity symptoms and sensitivity to light, while a Vitamin C overdose will cause diarrhea and abdominal bloating. Dogs who have consumed an excessive amount of Vitamin D will exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, excessive drinking and urination, abnormal heartbeat, limping and, in some cases, bleeding.
11) GLOW STICKS — Children love glow sticks and glow jewelry, especially in the summer months, but if a cat ingests its chemical base [dibutyl phthalate (DBP)], it may experience drooling, vomiting, skin and eye irritation, and a burning or stinging sensation. Since cats are excellent groomers, this toxin can spread quickly during a cat’s natural attempt to clean itself.
12) HOUSEHOLD ITEMS — Bleach, fertilizer, insecticide, road salt, antifreeze, detergent, chlorine and ammonia are all common chemicals that can cause serious problems for your pet. While direct ingestion can lead to death, pets can access these toxins through other means, such as licking the toilet bowl while it still has remnants of a chemical, or breathing in toxic fumes after the product is sprayed. Among the risks are cancer, liver failure, anemia, tremors, kidney failure, lymphoma, neurological disorders and irritation to the gastrointestinal system. For a list of pet-friendly alternatives to these household chemicals, click here.
13) CANINE HEART MEDICATIONS — Used to treat congestive heart failure in dogs, Digoxin can be fatal when administered incorrectly, or if left in an area where your dog can get to it while you aren’t watching. The first symptoms of myocardial toxicity are depression, diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia or disinterest in food. The toxicity can progress quickly, potentially causing the pet to experience seizures or become comatose. If your dog has been poisoned, rush it to the veterinarian for an immediate checkup.
14) CERTAIN FLOWERS — Lilies, philodendrons, morning glory, tulips, hyacinth, poinsettias (the holiday flower), oleander, amaryllis and azaleas are all toxic to cats. Ingestion of any part of these flowers can lead to kidney damage and bladder problems. For a list of all potentially dangerous plants, click here.
15) COMMON FRUITS AND VEGGIES —Man’s best friend loves to scramble when their owners drop scraps while cooking or eating, but you should be careful about what foods your pet can access. Grapes and raisins can lead to kidney failure and onions and garlic can damage red blood cells and are more potent in powdered form, such as in a soup mix packet. Avocado leaves, fruit and seeds contain persin, while cyanide is found in apple seeds. It will typically take up to three days for the toxins to kick in. Affected dogs will appear weak and may have dark orange/red colored urine. Visit the ASPCA website for a full list of foods that are dangerous for dogs.