Poisons to Your Pets
Articles collected by the Dog & Cat Shelter
The ASPCA website has lists of all kinds of pet poisons (www.aspca.org, follow link to Poison Control Center, then follow links to the following):
Most common poisonous plants (plus a long list of non-toxic plants)
Many people foods that are harmful to pets
Human medications & cosmetics
Plants & trees
If you have questions about the safety of a substance or you suspect your pet may have ingested something he shouldn’t have, don’t wait – call the National Animal Poison Control Center at: 888-426-4435.
an article in ASPCA Action,Winter 2007, www.aspca.org
Beware toxic holiday plants. Lilies are often used this time of year, and all varieties can cause kidney failure in cats. Common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can also be toxic to pets. Poinsettias are low in toxicity, though they may cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet.
Place harmful decorations out of pets’ reach. Traditional decorations such as ribbons or tinsel can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction if ingested. Decorations made of glass or toxic substances such as bubbling lights can be very dangerous if they break open. Consider decorating your tree with ornaments that are less enticing to pets, such as dried non-toxic flowers, wood, fabric or pinecones.
Be cautious with Xylitol. Candies and gum containing large amounts of this sweetener can be toxic to pets, as ingestions of significant quantities can produce a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression and seizures. Keep such products out of the reach of your pets.
Keep pets away from Christmas tree water. The water may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset if ingested. Stagnant water can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria and, if ingested, a pet could end up with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Don’t give your pets holiday chocolate. Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate (bakers, semisweet, milk and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be – unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine (a substance similar to caffeine) than milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as ¼ ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog.
Avoid a sour stomach. Keep your pets on a normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your pet sever indigestion and diarrhea. Do not feed pets holiday leftovers, and be sure to keep them away from the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset; spoiled or moldy foods could cause food poisoning, tremors or seizures.
List of Common Poisons for Dogs, by Deb Eldredge, DVM,
published in Therapy Dogs Incorporated Newsmagazine, Spring/Summer 2007
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recently released a list of the ten most common poisons that dogs ingest. What is immediately striking about the list is how ordinary each of these poisons is – most of us have these products in our homes or garages. The list is a reminder that it is important to keep medications and potentially toxic materials locked up or stored safely away from our pets.
Here is a list of the toxins that you need to keep out of your pet’s reach:
Ibuprofen Ibuprofen is a widely used human non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. In dogs, this medication can cause stomach and kidney problems and even impact the nervous system, causing symptoms such as depression and seizures. If you drop a pill, be very careful to find it before your dog does. Labradors and Beagles are notorious for snarfing up dropped drugs. If this happens in your household, be sure to make your dog vomit, if you can, as soon as you suspect he ate any pills, and then call your veterinarian. Never give your dog ibuprofen for pain or discomfort.
Chocolate Chocolate contains two potent compounds – theobromine and caffeine. The amount of these substances in chocolate varies greatly, depending upon the type and brand of chocolate. The dog who indulges in chocolate containing large amounts of theobromine or caffeine may show increased heart rate and excitability leading to possible seizures. If you can make your dog vomit soon after the time of ingestion, do so. Then head to your veterinarian. It may take up to three days for the theobromine effects to wear off, and this can be dangerous to your dog’s heart.
Ant and Roach Baits Ant and roach baits may be found in motels when you travel as well as in areas around your home. Luckily the toxic substances are generally present in small amounts, but they are often mixed with tasty treats like peanut butter that your dog may find irresistible. If your dog ingests the bait, he is more likely to have a problem with the parts of the container he eats than with the ingredients, but take him to your veterinarian just the same. Better to be safe than sorry.
Rodenticides People often rely on rodenticides to destroy mice and rats when they don’t have a good cat or a skilled terrier to do the dirty work. Most of these products contain anticoagulants that induce fatal bleeding in rodents. They can also stimulate bleeding in dogs that eat the treated blocks. Paralysis, seizures and kidney failure are all possible effects of these potent drugs. Induce vomiting if you can, and then head directly to your veterinarian. Your dog may need fluids, blood tests to follow the progression of treatment, vitamin K injections, and possibly even a blood transfusion. Some versions of rodenticides contain cholecalciferol that can cause elevated blood calcium and phosphorus levels, which lead to renal failure. This may require a much different course of action for our pet. If possible, bring the container of the poison to your vet, so they can determine exactly what your dog is up against.
Acetaminophen Acetaminophen is an extremely common pain medication for people. Unfortunately, in dogs, this drug can cause liver failure, swelling of the face and paws, a problem with oxygen transport in the blood, and even a decrease in tear production. N-acetylcysteine is an antidote for acetaminophen poisoning, but administration needs to be repeated until all signs of poisoning have cleared up. Supportive treatment for the liver and dry eyes is recommended. If your dog ingests acetaminophen, he will probably need to be hospitalized.
Pseudoephedrine Contained in Cold Medications Numerous over-the-counter cold medications contain pseudoephedrine. In dogs, this drug causes panting, excitement, elevated temperature and increased heart rate. Sedation and even general anesthesia may be required to settle your dog down, while fluid therapy will help to flush this substance from your dog’s system.
Thyroid Hormones Thyroid hormones are used to treat both people and dogs with low thyroid levels. Luckily, most dogs handle an overdose of these medications quite well. An increased heart rate and a hyperactive dog that is bouncing off the walls are common signs that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t.
Bleach Most bleach products used at home are fairly dilute. Commercial bleaches, however, can be very strong and cause irritation to your dog’s eyes or skin. A quick bath is ideal if bleach is on your dog’s skin or coat. If your dog inhales bleach, especially any bleach mixed with ammonia products, he could develop a deadly chemical pneumonitis. This can affect you, too, so don’t breathe deeply yourself. Get your dog out into fresh air as quickly as possible and then to your veterinarian.
Fertilizer, including plant “foods” Fertilizer can be very attractive to dogs. Additives, such as bone meal, are enticing. While the basic fertilizer formulas of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are generally not highly toxic, additives such as fungicides can be. Most dogs that ingest fertilizer show gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, but they do recover on their own. In some cases, however, they need fluids for hydration and medication to settle and soothe the stomach and intestines. Consult with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment when your dog has ingested fertilizer.
Hydrocarbon compounds present in paints, polishes and fuel oils Rounding out the list of poisons are hydrocarbons. These products can be found in pints, polishes and fuel oils—including kerosene, acetone and gasoline. Dogs that swallow these products tend to have gastrointestinal upsets. The skin can also be irritated form contact. If your dog simply breathes in fumes or aspirates these products, he may suffer from depression or hyperexcitability along with secondary pneumonia and liver or kidney damage. Dogs that have inhaled or ingested hydrocarbons should not be made to vomit as the risk of aspiration is too high. Instead, they need symptomatic treatment and supportive care such as fluids to flush their systems, baths to remove any residue, and saline flushing of the eyes if any residue splashed into them.
Take Care All of the products on n the ASPCA list can be found in most of our households. To keep your pet safe, be proactive. Store goods safely in locked cupboards, use secure non-breakable containers, and always keep careful track of all medications in the household. Taking some basic precautions can go a long way toward avoiding a catastrophe for your dog.
Columns by Dr. Ed Jordan, Pet Vet, Billings Gazette, various dates
Painkillers for people may kill pets. When your pet has a pain of some sort, like a limp or small wound, the tendency is to try and relieve the pain like you would if you had a pain. In every medicine cabinet there are several choices of painkillers. You might be tempted to give your pet an aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen or any number of popular painkillers. This is a really bad idea. My advice is: stop — and don’t do it.
Here is why. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the worst. If your dog happens to have a liver problem or even has a short-term liver stress, then Tylenol can suddenly cause severe liver damage. You have no way of knowing if your dog has a stressed or healthy liver unless blood tests are done before you give the Tylenol.
Tylenol kills cats. The Tylenol causes the blood to form methemoglobin which does not carry oxygen as it should. The gums turn a brown color, and the cat cannot get enough oxygen into his tissues to survive. Never give any cat any amount of Tylenol.
Aspirin is much less harmful but still needs to be given at a correct dose. Short-term use in a dog is helpful, but cats are very sensitive to aspirin. Aspirin is so common we tend to think it has no danger to it. Actually, every time you take an aspirin, there is some bleeding in the stomach as it is absorbed. Long-term use can cause stomach ulcers and blood changes that can cause death. (Billings Gazette, no date given)
Even a small amount of antifreeze proves deadly for cats and dogs. Antifreeze is one of the most dangerous of all the toxins. Antifreeze is ethylene glycol, and its worst property is that it tastes good. Dogs and cats will lap it up if it is available. Small mounts in the body are enough to cause death. And it is not a pretty death either.
The ethylene glycol is changed in the body to tiny oxalate crystals. These crystals are collected by the kidneys but cannot filter through the kidneys into the urine to be eliminated. Once the filter of the kidney is plugged up, there is total kidney failure.
This all takes only hours to happen. First the animal starts to feel nauseated and lethargic, and then the vomiting starts. There seems to be a lot of discomfort and pain as the kidneys fail. In just a short day or two – no, a very long day or two for the animal – death occurs.
Treatment involves giving alcohol intravenously right after the antifreeze is ingested. The alcohol blocks the oxalate crystals from forming and can make survival possible. The key thing to remember is that, if you even think your pet has ingested antifreeze, you need to seek immediate veterinary help. If you wait for the symptoms to appear, it probably is way too late for your pet.
Therefore, be careful with antifreeze.
There are about three ways the poisoning occurs. You may change your antifreeze, leave a bucket of the old antifreeze sitting around and your pets find it and drink it. Another problem could be that you are wise to the danger and would never leave an open bucket of antifreeze sitting around, but your neighbor who has no pets is not so wise –your pets visit his yard and find it there.
The third scenario is that the colder weather changes what you do with your dog and cat. Now, at night you bring them into the garage for a warmer place to sleep. Unknown to you, your car that is also in the garage has a small leak of antifreeze. It may only be a small drip, but your pets will lap it up just the same.
Some animals do survive an antifreeze-ingestion episode. Lots of intravenous fluids to flush open the kidneys and other medications can help if given in time and the amount of antifreeze is not too great.
The answer to the problem is to be extremely careful about your antifreeze and keep all pets away. Another easy thing to do would be for the antifreeze makers to add some terribly tasting ingredient to the antifreeze so animals would not enjoy the taste, but then that has not happened yet. (Billings Gazette, 9/30/06)
Inducing Vomiting at Home When Pet Ingests Poison If your dog ingests poison, you can induce vomiting at home by taking a handful of salt and throwing it into the back of his throat. He will gag on the salt and immediately throw up. Pouring some hydrogen peroxide down his throat also will induce vomiting. Don’t stop there, though. Your pet will still need veterinary treatment. (Billings Gazette, 1/7/06)
When Table Scraps Are Toxic, Better Homes & Gardens, June 2005
Some foods that are good for you may be deadly for your dog. Memorize this list and let your children know that slipping Bowser one of these items can make him very sick.
- Raisins Both grapes and raisins can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney failure. “If a dog eats a small number it isn’t likely to be a problem,” says Steven Hansen, DVM, executive director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ poison control center in Urbana, Illinois. “But we don’t know what the minimum safe dose is, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.”
- Chocolate Chocolate contains a caffeine-like substance that can be toxic to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more the effect. “Just one quarter of an ounce of baking chocolate can cause serious problems in a small dog, whereas it will take two ounces of milk chocolate to produce the same effects,” says Hansen. Consumption may cause excitement, increased urination, muscle tremors, seizures, and rapid heart rate.
- Sugarless Gum Dogs will eat a pack of gum, wrappers and all, any chance they get. Sugarless gum, and candies for that matter, often contain xylitol, a sugar alcohol that can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar for dogs. So keep your purse out of your dog’s reach.
- Onions A chemical in onions damages dogs’ blood cells and can cause anemia. One small whole onion may be fatal.
- Macadamia Nuts Never leave these nuts unattended on your coffee table. A compound in them may leave your dog with temporary paralysis in his hind legs. The good news: “Dogs who eat too many macadamia nuts fully recover with no treatment at all, and no long-term effects,” says Hansen.
Pretty but Dangerous
From In the Garden, by Scott Hininger, The Sheridan Press, 12/7/07
The Delphinium, or larkspur, families are poisonous not only to humans but also animals – particularly livestock… Some bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils, autumn crocus and day lilies can cause problems for pets if they eat them. The houseplants schefflera or philodendron can cause real problems for pets. Onions can cause nausea and anemia to pets – especially cats. Do not use cocoa bean mulch around pets as this too can cause problems. The bark or flower buds from hydrangeas are poisonous to dogs. Two common houseplants which are very toxic to people and pets are Dieffenbachia and lilies. Children and most pets are smaller, so it takes less plant material ingested to cause poisoning. Also a factor in any poisoning or health risk are the age, weight and health condition of the individual.
There are … several books and sources on the Internet which will discuss the various toxicity of plants, including many university publications such as those from Vermont, Montana and Cornell Extension services.
All of these plants can be planted either in the house or outdoors, but certain precautions should be considered in the placement of the plants. Certainly, in public places – including front yards – one should be prudent in the placement of these plants and in allowing pets or children to roam unsupervised. Placing other plants or physical barriers in front of these plants may help prevent accidental poisoning.
Top 10 Household Threats (to cats) by Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM
from Catnip magazine, December 2007
They’re lurking – in your garden, on your nightstand, in your kitchen, in your closet and in your medicine cabinet.
Substances potentially toxic to your cat exist everywhere.
Cats may be sensitive to some toxic agents simply because of their unique metabolism… In addition, because of their grooming behavior, cats who experience dermal (skin) exposure to toxins are lively to receive an oral dose as well.
Liquid potpourris are popular household items, especially during the holidays… Potpourri solutions are simmered in pots that are heated, usually by a candle or electric heat. As the water containing the liquid potpourri heats up, fragrance is released. The fragrance is pretty harmless to cats, but the water containing the potpourri is not.
Liquid potpourris may contain cationic detergents and essential oils, both of which are toxic to cats. Cats may be exposed by ingesting the liquid potpourri right from the simmer pot, or lap it up from a spill… Cationic detergents are often used as fabric softeners, germicides and sanitizers. Skin, when exposed to cationic detergents, may become red, swollen, ulcerated and painful. Ocular (eye) exposure can lead to severe corneal injury. Oral ingestion can cause terrible inflammation of the mouth, tongue and esophagus…
Glow sticks and glow jewelry (bracelets, necklaces) are plastic items that contain a liquid that glows in the dark. They are frequently purchased at fairs, festivals and summertime events. The main ingredient in glow sticks and glow jewelry is dibutyl phthalate. Although the chemical may have the potential to cause death by respiratory paralysis, the jewelry usually has only a small amount of the chemical, and ingesting the contents of a piece of glow jewelry should not cause any serious effects. The chemical has an extremely unpleasant taste, and most cats barely ingest any more than a tiny amount.
During play, a cat may sink his teeth into the glow jewelry and then display a strong reaction such as profuse drooling and agitation. Some may vomit. The signs of exposure are often very alarming to owners; however, the response usually lasts only a few minutes, and occurs only as a response to the repulsive taste of the liquid.
The only treatment necessary is diluting the taste of the chemical with milk, tuna juice or canned cat food. To avoid further ingestion from any of the content that may have gotten on the hair coat, a mild soap and water can be used to wash it off. Unsure if any spilled on the hair coat? Take the cat into a darkened room! The glow will be your clue.
Molluscicides are products used to kill snails and slugs. The active ingredient, metaldehyde, is toxic to cats. Slug and snail baits are usually formulated as blue or green colored pellets, powder, granules or liquid… Metaldehyde toxicity causes neurological symptoms fairly rapidly – usually within one to four hours of exposure. Cats may show panting, excitement, anxiety, disorientation, drooling, vomiting diarrhea, extreme sensitivity to touch and sound, lack of coordination and muscle tremors that can progress to outright seizures. Repeated seizures due to metaldehyde poisoning can cause dangerously high body temperatures. If untreated, the neurological symptoms of metaldehyde toxicity can be fatal.
Owners who suspect that their cat might have ingested slug or snail bait should alert their veterinarian immediately, as the signs of metaldehyde poisoning mimic symptoms of other disorders. Take remnants of packages or containers for identification of the ingredients in the poison with you to the veterinary clinic. Knowing that the cat might have been exposed to metaldehyde reduces the need for extensive tests and allows more rapid, specific treatment…
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 most frequent feline exposures reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Some of this information was adapted from Veterinary Medicine Magazine (June 2006).
1. Canine permethrin insecticides. Accidentally applying (or deliberately ignoring the warnings on the label) insecticides containing permethrin can be dangerous, or even deadly. In some instances, cats can be poisoned simply by sleeping near or grooming a dog recently treated with a topical permethrin product.
2. Other topical insecticides. In general, topical application of flea control products, if done according to label directions, will not cause systemic effects in cats. Dermal irritation or a dermal hypersensitivity reaction, however, is a common complaint received by poison control centers when cats receive topical insecticides designed for dogs.
Cats who lick a topically applied product may experience a taste reaction (drooling, vomiting and agitation) that can be quite dramatic in some cases. Fortunately, the ingredients in most of these products have low oral and dermal toxic potential.
3. Venlafaxine. This is an anti-depressant known by the brand name Effexor or Effexor WR (Wyeth). It comes in tablets and capsules of varying strength. Cats seem to like the taste of the capsules. Signs of toxicosis may include agitation, dilated pupils, rapid breathing and heart rate and lack of coordination, beginning one to eight hours after ingestion. Hospitalization is required for most cats. Generally, prognosis is good.
4. Glow jewelry and sticks. (mentioned earlier in article)
5. Lilies. Ingestion of lilies can cause renal failure in cats. Many plants are called “lilies,” however, renal failure has been seen only with Easter lilies, Stargazer lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies and day lilies. All parts of the plant are toxic. Prompt, aggressive treatment is necessary for a successful outcome.
6. Liquid potpourri. (mentioned earlier in article)
7. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Cats, with their unique metabolic pathways, have a low tolerance to NSAIDs. Although deliberate ingestion of NSAIDs is possible (especially with chewable formulations), most cases of NSAID toxicity are due to the deliberate administration of these drugs by well-meaning cat owners.
Commonly administered NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. These drugs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and gastric ulcers. At higher doses, acute renal failure can occur… Prognosis depends on the specific drug, the amount ingested, and how quickly treatment was begun.
8. Acetaminophen The main ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, is frequently combined with several other drugs in common over-the-counter cold and flu preparations, such as Nyquil. Cats rarely ingest this drug on their own. Instead, it is often administered to cats by well-intentioned owners. Acetaminophen is a very dangerous drug in cats. One regular (325 milligrams) or extra-strength (500 mg) tablet can be lethal. Signs of poisoning may include vomiting, labored breathing, swelling of the face and paws and brown discoloration of the mucous membranes… The prognosis of acetaminophen toxicity is guarded and is dependent on the amount ingested and how quickly treatment was administered.
9. Anticoagulant rodenticides. These rat and mice poisons work by inhibiting the activity of vitamin K. This blocks the synthesis of important clotting factors, causing rodents to bleed to death internally. Ingestions of these poisons by a cat can result in a bleeding disorder.
Clinical signs can vary, depending on where the bleeding occurs. The lungs are a common place for bleeding to occur, so coughing or labored breathing may be seen. Lameness may develop if bleeding occurs in a joint, and neurological signs may develop if hemorrhage occurs in the spinal cord or brain.
Treatment with vitamin K can reverse the effects of the anticoagulant. Most animals do well, especially if treatment is begun before significant hemorrhage occurs. If the patient is already bleeding, the prognosis becomes guarded, although many cats recover with aggressive supportive care.
10. Amphetamines. Often prescribed for people for many purposes, such as appetite suppression and attention deficit disorder, amphetamines are also found in illegal drugs such as methamphetamine (street name: crystal meth) and MDMA (on the streets, it is known as ecstasy). Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system, and cats who are exposed to amphetamines often show clinical signs such as tremors, agitation, high blood pressure, fast heart rate, heart rhythm disturbances, high body temperature and possibly, coma… In most cases, the prognosis is good with aggressive support.