As a responsible pet owner, you must ensure your furry pal’s safety and wellbeing. However, many pet owners are unfamiliar with the many common household items that can be toxic to their four-legged friends. Pets explore their environments with their mouths, which increases their toxin exposure risk. To learn to protect your furry pal from a potentially harmful substance, read our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team’s guide to three of the most common household pet toxins. 

#1: Medications for humans

If your pet becomes ill, they may require medication to recover. However, never share your medication—such as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers—with your pet. Remember, a medication or food that is safe for you is not necessarily safe for your pet. Many medications intended for human use can be dangerous or even deadly for pets. 

In addition, your pet can get into your medication accidentally. If you drop a pill on the floor or leave a medicine bottle open where your pet can reach it, your curious furry pal can be tempted to swallow the medication, thinking the drug is a potential treat. Always keep your medications securely stored out of your pet’s reach. 

Human medications can cause your pet a variety of issues, with toxicity ranging in severity. Depending on the type and dosage of the medication they ingest, your pet may experience gastrointestinal (GI) upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and more serious problems such as seizures, liver or kidney failure, and death. Keep your pet away from the following OTC and prescription medications for humans:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) 
  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)
  • Decongestants
  • Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications
  • Heart and blood pressure medications
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications 
  • Sleep aids

#2: Veterinary prescription medications

When your veterinarian prescribes your pet a medication, they have determined that the medication is necessary to treat your furry pal’s current specific health problem. However, never assume medication left over from a previous illness is appropriate to your pet’s current condition, because different illnesses have similar signs. Your veterinarian prescribes your pet drugs that are effective for their current specific problem, and these medications can be harmful to your four-legged friend without having had a veterinary examination and diagnosis. As with protecting your pet from your medication, be as mindful with veterinary medications, especially the following:

  • Flavored medications  Overdose of alluring flavored medication—such as carprofen (e.g., Rimadyl)—can result in your pet experiencing mild stomach upset to liver failure, depending on the amount your pet ingests. Other commercial and compounded veterinary medications have flavoring added for easier administration, and you should keep these and all medications out of your pet’s reach. 
  • Canine flea and tick products Topical flea and tick preventives used incorrectly (e.g., using canine products on feline patients) can be harmful. The canine topical product permethrin is toxic to cats. Any product formulated for dogs that contains permethrin will be labeled, “Do not use on cats.” However, mistakes can happen. Permethrin toxicity causes cats to experience twitching, seizures, drooling, and touch hypersensitivity. 

#3: Foods for humans

Foods that are suitable—or even healthy—for you can be harmful to your pet, because they aren’t able to metabolize certain foods properly, which can cause various adverse health signs or organ system damage. Prevent your pet from ingesting the following human foods that are toxic or harmful to them:

  • Chocolate — Chocolate is a popular treat for humans, but this food is one of the most dangerous for pets—especially dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and death. 
  •  Xylitol — This sugar substitute—included in many sugar-free gums, candies, and baked goods—can cause a rapid insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia (i.e., low blood sugar), vomiting, incoordination, and seizures. 
  • Grapes and raisins — While the exact reason for grapes’ and raisins’ pet toxicity is unknown, if your furry pal ingests only a few of these tasty morsels, they can experience kidney failure. 
  • Onions, leeks, garlic, and chives —  These foods cause gastrointestinal upset and potentially destroy red blood cells, causing your pet to develop anemia. Onions and garlic are included in many foods, but in any form (i.e., raw, cooked, powdered, or dehydrated), they can be dangerous to your pet. While cats are most sensitive to Alliums’ harmful effects, do not offer them to any pet. 
  • Alcohol — Alcohol toxicity can commonly poison a pet through ingestion, skin absorption, or inhalation. Pets’ most common alcohol poisoning sources include:
    • Ethanol — Liquor, including beer and wine, fermented fruits, unbaked yeast dough, and mouthwash contain ethanol.
    • Methanol — Windshield fluids, and some gasoline additives and paint solvents contain methanol. 
    • Isopropanol — Isopropanol has twice the potency of ethanol or methanol. Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, glass cleaners, perfumes, detergents, antifreeze, and some grooming products or flea sprays contain isopropanol.
  • Macadamia nuts —  Macadamia nuts have a high fat content that can cause pets to develop pancreatitis. These nuts can also affect your pet’s neuromuscular system, which can result in them being temporarily unable to walk or use their hind legs.

Toxins pose a serious threat to your pet’s health and wellbeing, and here we have discussed only a few of the culprits likely lurking in your home. By taking precautions, you can protect your pet from a potential emergency. If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, contact our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team or the animal poison control helpline immediately.