Every year, countless pets are poisoned by everyday items in their home or yard. Although these foods, plants, and products may be safe for human use and exposure, curious cats and daredevil dogs can suffer serious consequences after ingesting only minimal amounts. 

Learn how to recognize common household pet toxins, respond to toxin exposure, and take proper actions to protect your pet with this guide from Westerville Veterinary Clinic.

Room by room—identifying household pet hazards

Pets explore their world through smell and taste, and are opportunistic scavengers—meaning they’ll often eat whatever they can find. This instinctive habit can get them in trouble around the home. Let’s take a look at the hazards in each room.

  • The kitchen — The kitchen is the heart of the home for many households, and all that activity can lead to increased availability of dangerous foods. Pets may snag leftovers from the trash can, swipe ingredients from the counter, or steal directly off a plate or serving tray. Human foods that are toxic to pets include:
    • Chocolate in all forms
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Raisins, grapes, and currants
    • Onions and leeks 
    • Garlic
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Yeast dough
    • Xylitol (i.e., a sugar substitute found in sugar-free gum, candy, mints, and many snack foods)
  • The living room — Your living room, den, or lounge is a cozy space designed to provide comfort and relaxation, but many items that create that soothing ambiance can be life-threatening to your pet. Toxic pet temptations include:
    • Essential oils and potpourri — These may trigger gastrointestinal upset, nervous system problems, or liver failure, especially in cats. 
    • House plants — Many popular house plants can cause illness ranging from mild to severe.
    • Floral arrangements and bouquets — Lilies and other popular flowers are life-threatening to cats and dogs, and should not be kept in the home.
  • The bathroom — If your pet doesn’t let you “go” unsupervised, they may encounter the following hazards:
    • Medication — Over-the-counter and prescription medications can trigger a deadly overdose in pets. Never place pills on a countertop, and keep bottles, organizers, and packaging out of reach. Never give your pet medication without veterinary approval. 
    • Toothpaste and mouthwash — Pet-toxic xylitol is used in many oral health products for its antibacterial and plaque-fighting properties.
    • Hygiene products — Xylitol is also a preservative in some deodorants and cosmetics.
  • The bedroom — Peace and rest can transform to danger and anxiety if your bedroom is home to toxins, which may include:
    • Medications, supplements, or sleep aids — Placing these items on your nightstand is convenient for you, but may be deadly to the pet who mistakes them for food or toys.
  • The garage or basement — Less inhabited spaces tend to contain the most deadly threats to your pet’s health and wellbeing. If you and your pet enjoy escaping to these quieter areas, ensure you’ve cleared them of these lethal items: 
    • Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid — As little as one teaspoon or tablespoon of any product containing ethylene glycol can cause acute kidney failure. Spills should be immediately and thoroughly cleaned.
    • Rodent bait Rodents are attracted to mouse and rat poison, as are pets, who suffer the same deadly consequences, including uncontrollable bleeding and neurological dysfunction.
    • Pesticides — Bug or ant sprays are less appealing to pets, but still capable of severe consequences. 
    • Home repair and automotive products — Paint, solvents, motor oil, and cleaning chemicals should all be stored in their original containers and kept out of reach.
  • The yard — Well-manicured yards and bountiful gardens are a sight to behold, unless your dog or cat has chosen to graze on your greenery or sample your toxic supplies, including:
    • Snail or slug bait
    • Cocoa bean mulch
    • Fertilizer, especially those that contain blood or bone meal, herbicide, or insecticide
    • Toxic plants — Check your current or future landscape design with this helpful resource.

Recognizing pet toxicity

Some pets have a penchant for trouble, and you cannot always know what they’ve consumed. Depending on the ingested item and how much was eaten, your pet may experience mild to severe signs that appear rapidly (e.g., xylitol toxicity signs may begin in as little as 15 minutes) or have a delayed onset (e.g., chocolate toxicosis can take up to 12 hours to appear). General toxicity signs can vary greatly, but may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart or respiratory rate
  • Weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Changes in gum color (e.g., brown or blue)
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Death

Responding to pet toxicity

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, immediate action is necessary to prevent signs from worsening, or permanent damage. Your dedicated and compassionate Westerville Veterinary Clinic team is available 24/7/365 for emergency and critical care, ensuring your pet receives prompt decontamination treatment and hospitalization, if necessary. If you are traveling or out of town, contact the nearest veterinary emergency facility, or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for a veterinary toxicologist’s expert guidance.  

When you call, be prepared to describe what your pet ate, how much, and the approximate time of ingestion, if known. Since not all toxin encounters are poisonous, this information can help us, or any veterinary team, determine if your pet needs professional veterinary care or can be monitored at home.

Preventing pet toxicity in the home

Once you can recognize potential pet toxins in the home, removing their threat is as simple as ensuring proper storage, maintaining a clean environment, replacing items with non-toxic substitutes, and selecting pet-safe items whenever possible.  

For additional information about pet toxins, pet-friendly alternatives, or to notify us of your pet’s emergency, contact Westerville Veterinary Clinic.