HAZARDOUS HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
Each year, thousands of pets suffer from accidental ingestion of household poisons. Pet owners should be aware of household items such as, foods, medications, chemicals, and plants that can harm pets.
The list below includes common household items that are harmful to pets. Note that this list is not all inclusive. Any items in and around your house can pose a threat to pets, if ingested. For a comprehensive list of pet toxins, visit Pet Poison Helpline.
- Alcohol – Alcohol poising can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can potentially experience seizures and respiratory failure.
- Antifreeze – Often containing ethylene glycol, as little as a tablespoon can result in severe acute kidney failure in dogs, while as little as 1 teaspoon can be fatal to cats.
- Batteries – Toxic to pets, leading to ulcers in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
- Caffeine – Ingestion of unused coffee grounds or beans, tea bags, or supplements could cause serious toxicity in dogs and cats. In severe cases, seizures, collapse, and death are possible.
- Coins – Some coins contain large amounts of zinc and can lead to zinc poisoning. Zinc poisoning can lead to destruction of red blood cells, liver damage, kidney failure, and heart failure.
- Decongestants – When accidentally ingested, decongestants can be deadly to pets as they result in vomiting, dilated pupils, severe blood pressure changes, abnormal heart rates, tremors, and seizures.
- Detergents – Ingestion can cause corrosive injury, particularly to cats. Prompt veterinary attention is necessary.
- Fabric Softener Sheets – Fabric softeners contain cationic detergents which have the potential to cause significant signs of drooling, vomiting, oral and esophageal ulcers, and fever. Ingestion of fabric sheets can also cause intestinal blockage.
- Fertilizers – Products generally contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. Ingesting small amounts may result in mild stomach upset but larger ingestions can result in severe poisoning from chemicals, which can lead to bowl obstruction or pancreatitis.
- Gasoline – Deadly to pets.
- Glue – Certain types of glues can result in irritation to the gastrointestinal tract, including stomach obstruction. Often requires surgery to remove the foreign body.
- Hand Sanitizer – Containing alcohol, a large ingestion can cause lethargy, vomiting, incoordination, weak respirations, and dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
- Ibuprofen – Ingesting small doses could result in severe stomach ulcers, causing vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, abdominal pain, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Larger ingestions can result in kidney failure, liver failure, and neurological problems can develop.
- Insecticides – Typically contain organophosphates and carbonates, which are highly toxic to dogs. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, muscle tremors, and seizures.
- Kerosene – Hydrocarbons include liquid fuels such as kerosene, engine oil, tiki-torch fuels, lighter fluids, gasoline, wood stains and strippers, etc. If ingested, never induce vomiting, as it can make the pet worse. Signs of hydrocarbon poisoning include vomiting, drooling, increased breathing, skin irritation, eye irritation, walking drunk, and coma.
- Lead – Lead poisoning can come from car batteries, lead shot, fishing sinkers, solder, etc. Signs of chronic, low level lead poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, anorexia and diarrhea. More severe signs include convulsions, blindness, and tremors.
- Marijuana – Small ingestions of THC pose great risk for pets. Pets can be poisoned by marijuana from smoke exposure, highly concentrated THC oil products, or eating any type of marijuana/THC plant or laced baked foods. Signs of poisoning include a dazed expression, glassy eyes, incoordination, slow response, dribbling urine, vomiting, drooling, changes in heart rate, vocalization, neurological stimulation, hyperactivity, or coma.
- Matches – Contains hazardous chemicals such as potassium nitrate, an oxidizing agent, charcoal or sulfur, and coloring agents. When ingested pets can develop gastrointestinal issues and can suffer tremors or seizures, along with kidney failure, bone marrow changes, shallow breathing and jaundice.
- Mothballs – The chemicals in mothballs can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or absorbed thorough the stomach and intestines. Clinical signs of mothball poisoning include vomiting, mothball-scented breath, pale or brown gums, weakness or lethargy, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and organ failure.
- Mouse or Rat Bait – There are several ingredients in mouse and rat bait products that are toxic. Ingestion can cause excessive bleeding due to interference with blood clotting, seizures, nervous system dysfunction, and can be fatal.
- NSAIDs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, and kidney failure.
- Nicotine – A stimulant that can increase the heart rate, leading to collapse, and in worst case, can be fatal. Veterinary evaluation is recommended so that the heart rate, blood pressure, and neurological status can be monitored.
- Oxygen Absorbers and Silica Gel Pack – Found in packages of pet treats, beef jerky, vitamin supplements, shoe boxes, purses, etc. They contain iron that can cause iron poisoning in pets.
- Pesticides – Most pesticides or insecticides are basic irritants to pets, and result in clinical signs of drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some rare types of pesticides that are mixed with other dangerous chemicals such as organophosphates or carbamates can be life-threatening when consumed.
- Play Dough (Homemade) – Often contains flour, food coloring, oil, and a large amount of salt, which can lead to salt toxicity. Similarly, homemade salt dough used to make ornaments can also cause severe salt toxicity and has resulted in fatalities. Signs of salt poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst or urination, and in severe cases, tremors, seizure, coma, or death.
- Rattlesnakes – Can be deadly to animals when envenomated. Dogs and cats are typically bitten in the face and front legs, due to their curious nature, and fang punctures may be difficult to see. Clinical signs of envenomation include acute difficult breathing, clotting abnormalities, abnormal breathing, dermal injury, cardiovascular shock, and even organ failure. Pets bitten by a rattlesnake should have prompt veterinary attention.
- Salt – Ingestion of salt, in any of its many forms, can result in salt poisoning in pets. Poisoning results in signs of vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst, or excessive urination. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible.
- Scorpions – Of the over 1500 species throughout the world, in North America, only one species is considered venomous – the Arizona bark scorpion. When a pet is bitten by a scorpion, typical clinical signs include drooling, localized pain, itchiness, and redness at the bite area. Rarely, more severe signs include abnormal heart rate, abnormal blood pressure, dilated pupils, tremors, walking drunk, and abnormal eye movement.
- Sleep Aids – Clinical signs of sleep aid poisoning include severe sedation, severe agitation, hyperactivity, aggression, panting, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, walking drunk, tremors, hyperthermia, and respiratory or cardiovascular depression.
- Tea Tree Oil – Found in varying concentrations, tea tree oil should never be used on pets. As little as 7 drops of 100% oil has resulted in severe poisoning, and applications of 10-20 mls of 100% oil has resulted in poisoning and death in dogs and cats. Products containing tea tree oil concentrations of less than 1-2% are generally considered non-toxic, if used according to labeled directions. Clinical signs include low body temperature, weakness, walking drunk, inability to walk, tremors, coma, increased liver enzymes, and even death.
- Tobacco – can be toxic to pets. Ingestion of nicotine in the tobacco plant, cigarettes, or patches can lead to vomiting, tremors, collapse, and death.
- Windshield Wiper Fluid – can contain methanol or ethylene glycol. Ingestion of methanol can cause low blood sugar in pets.
- Xylitol – a natural sugar-free sweetener, is commonly found in many every day human products, foods, and treats including chewing gums, mints, sauces, syrups, jams, oral rinses, toothpastes, etc. If enough xylitol is ingested, it can cause life-threatening low blood sugar and acute liver failure.
- Zinc – poisoning can occur in pets when ingesting metal pieces such as coins, nuts, bolts, hardware, or certain topical ointments (e.g., diaper rash creams). Zinc poisoning can lead to destruction of red blood cells, liver damage, kidney failure, and heart failure. Clinical signs of zinc poisoning include weakness, pale gums, vomiting, increased breathing, increased heart rate, discolored urine, jaundiced gums, lack of appetite, and collapse.
What to do if your pet is poisoned
- Do not panic. Rapid response is important, but panicking can interfere with the process of helping your pet.
- Immediately contact your veterinarian, emergency clinic, or an animal emergency poison control hotline.
- Safely collect any poison or material into a sealable plastic bag. It will be helpful to your veterinarian to gather up any of the potential poison that remains, and to collect a sample if your pet has vomited.
- If you witness your pet consuming a substance that you suspect might be toxic, don’t hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any signs at the time. An animal may appear to be normal for several hours or days after the incident.
- Never induce vomiting until directed by a veterinary professional. Caustic substances will be much more dangerous when coming up again.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 (a consultation fee may apply)
Pet Poison Hotline: 855-764-7661 ($65 incident fee)
How to safeguard your pets
The best way to reduce the chances of your pet falling victim of pet poisoning is by preventing exposure to dangerous substances.
- Start by visiting the ASPCA Animal Control Center website to learn about other potential poisons that can harm your pets and keep a list of pet emergency phone numbers posted where you can easily reference, including in your cell phone.
- Supervise your pets. Be aware of your pet’s surroundings, whether in your yard or as you are out for a walk. Watch that your pets don’t pick up things they shouldn’t.
- Be on the lookout for foreign objects and food products in your yard. Poisonings can be intentional or unintentional. Check your yard often to ensure your pets do not ingest anything harmful.
- Keep all medications, even those in child-proof bottles, in cabinets that are inaccessible to pets. Be extra cautious when taking medications in case of accidental spillage or dropped pills on the floor. Pets can quickly scoop them up.
- Always follow guidelines on pet medications and flea or tick products.
- Keep rodenticides, chemicals, and cleaners stored in cabinets or shelves where your pets can’t find them. If putting out rodent bait, be sure pets cannot access or keep them away from the area. Keep in mind that pets can also be fatally poisoned by eating an exposed rodent.
- Be careful when feeding your pets “people foods.” Some are toxic to pets. List of Hazardous Foods
- When buying plants for inside your home or your yard, opt for those that won’t cause problems if your pets happen to nibble on them or eat the seeds. If you do have toxic plants, keep them in an area where your animals can’t access them. List of Hazardous Plants
The content of this page is not veterinary advice. This information shared here is intended for reference use only.
ASPCA – Animal Poison Control
Pet Poison Helpline