Some pets can be indiscriminate about what they ingest, and they may accidentally swallow a toxin, leading to significant health issues. Our team at MetroPet Veterinary Clinic wants to provide information about several common pet toxins and steps you can take to safeguard your pet.

Common foods are toxic to pets

Several foods that you may keep in your refrigerator or pantry are toxic to pets.

  • Chocolate — Theobromine and caffeine are ingredients in chocolate that are harmful to pets because they cause cardiovascular and central nervous system stimulation.  Signs include restlessness, panting, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, heart failure.
  • Xylitol — This sugar substitute is popular in candies, gum, and mints, and also can be found in several sugar-free products. When ingested, xylitol causes your pet’s pancreas to release an excessive amount of insulin, and their blood sugar level plummets. Signs include weakness, lack of coordination, and seizures. Liver damage is another potential consequence.
  • Allium vegetables — Vegetables such as onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives are members of the Allium family, and they contain N-propyl disulfide. This substance is toxic to pets, causing damage to their red blood cells. Initial signs include lethargy and vomiting, but as the damage progresses, anemia occurs, resulting in weakness, pale mucous membranes, and a reddish tint to the urine.
  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins contain an unknown toxin that causes kidney failure in pets.
  • Macadamia nuts — Macadamia nuts contain an unknown toxin that causes vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, and weakness in pets who ingest them. 

To protect your pet from common toxic foods, keep your garbage in sealed containers to prevent them from dumpster diving. In addition, read the labels of any food you offer your pet to ensure the ingredients are safe for them.

Common medications are toxic to pets

Many over-the-counter and prescription medications are toxic to pets.

  • Acetaminophen — Dogs and cats both can be affected by acetaminophen toxicity, but cats are especially sensitive. When ingested, the drug inhibits the ability of their red blood cells to transport oxygen. Signs include difficulty breathing, panting, and lethargy. Liver damage is another possible consequence.
  • Ibuprofen — This drug works by blocking cyclooxygenase to decrease inflammation, but some forms of this enzyme are also important for normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys. Ibuprofen ingestion can lead to gastric or intestinal ulcerations and kidney damage.
  • Heart medications — Medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions, such as beta blockers, can cause your pet’s heart rate and blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels. 
  • Antidepressants — Medications such as tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and novel antidepressants can be dangerous for pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications — ADHD medications are stimulants, and a small amount can cause significant problems for your pet. Signs include agitation, high heart rate, high body temperature, high blood pressure, and seizures.

To protect your pet, keep your medications in a secure area that your pet can’t access. In addition, go in a separate room and close the door when taking medication to ensure your pet can’t ingest a tablet or pill off the floor if you drop it.

Common plants are toxic to pets

Many plants commonly used to decorate homes are toxic to pets.

  • Lilies — Lilies can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs, but these beautiful plants can cause life-threatening kidney damage in cats. All parts of the lily plant are toxic to pets, including the water used to hydrate the plant.
  • Amaryllis — This plant contains lycorine, which can cause increased salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and tremors. The bulbs are more toxic than the flowers or stalks, but all parts can cause issues for your pet.
  • Dieffenbachia — Dieffenbachia and philodendron contain calcium oxalates, which have tiny needle-like structures that are extremely irritating. Signs include excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
  • Eucalyptus — Dried or fresh eucalyptus is toxic to pets, causing excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and seizures.
  • Ficus — Ficus plants contain irritating sap that can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.

To protect your pet, ensure you have a comprehensive list of what plants are toxic to them, and don’t bring these plants into your home. 

Common household products are toxic to pets

Many common household products are toxic to pets.

  • Fabric softener sheets — These sheets contain compounds that can be harmful if your pet chews or swallows them. Signs include oral ulcerations, vomiting, and seizures.
  • Batteries — The alkaline or acidic fluid can leak from the battery, causing corrosive damage to your pet’s mouth or gastrointestinal tract.
  • Glue — Glue, especially high-strength products, reacts with your pet’s stomach contents, resulting in a large, firm foreign body. Signs include retching and abdominal pain.
  • Antifreeze — Many antifreeze products contain ethylene glycol, which is extremely toxic to pets. Pets are attracted to ethylene glycol’s sweet taste, and, when ingested, this substance can cause fatal kidney failure. 
  • Rodenticides — Many types of rodenticide are on the market, and all are deadly for pets if ingested.

To protect your pet, keep all household products in a secure cabinet or closet that your pet can’t access.

If, despite all your precautions, your pet ingests a toxic substance, immediately contact MetroPet Veterinary Clinic or Animal Poison Control to ensure they receive the care they need.