Did you know that each year, there are more than 232,000 cases of pet poisoning in America? Many of these happen at home, caused by household substances that are often harmless to humans. But, we all know that just because something is safe for people doesn’t mean it’s safe for our pets. In fact, some of the most dangerous and common dog poisons are actually things we use on a regular basis.
Knowing is the most important thing. If you know something can harm your pet, simply moving it out of reach, away from your animal, is the safest thing you can do.
So, let’s run through the most common substances that poison pets.
Common Dog Poisons
What are the most common dog poisons? And how can you keep your pet safe from them?
1. Human Medications
Both over-the-counter medications (ex. aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) and prescription medications can be incredibly harmful to dogs. In fact, medicines are the most common dog poisons.
- Aspirin can cause anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, black-tarry stool, weakness and hyperthermia.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause tiredness, swelling of face, brown gums, difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Ibuprofen can cause vomiting, diarrhea, black-tarry stool, weakness, and pale gums. With larger ingestions, dogs can develop kidney failure, liver failure, and neurological conditions.
And, prescription drugs like anti-depressants, medications for ADHD, muscle-relaxants, NSAIDs, birth control pills, and some popular decongestants can also cause a range of symptoms in dogs, including seizures and organ failure.
This even applies to veterinarian medications, as too much of these can even prove fatal. The best rule is to keep all medications completely out of reach of pets, and store them wisely.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that’s commonly used as a sugar substitute. As sweet as sucrose, it only contains about two-thirds the calories. It’s lower on the glycemic index, so it’s useful for diabetics or people on low carbohydrate diets. But it’s really dangerous for dogs. When it comes to common dog poisons, this one can be harder to detect.
In dogs, xylitol causes low blood sugar and liver injury.
- Signs of low blood sugar include: weakness, unsteadiness, shaking, and seizures. Symptoms of low blood sugar can occur as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, but as long as up to 12 hours.
- Signs of liver damage include: loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and yellowing of the skin.
Foods that commonly contain xylitol include:
- Baked items
- Pancake syrup
- Barbecue sauce
Be sure to double check the ingredients to see if xylitol is on the list.
Xylitol can be found in many commonly purchased goods. While food items are the most common, you can also find the ingredient in:
- Personal care items like baby wipes, diapers, sunscreen, makeup, and lip balm
- Oral health products like toothpaste, dental floss, breath fresheners, mouth wash and mints
Many of these products don’t list ingredients, so you may not even know it’s in there! Your best bet is to avoid any of these items as much as possible – and keep them well our of your dog’s reach!
3. Certain Houseplants
Houseplants may be beautiful, and many help purify the air in our homes, but too many are also toxic to our pets!
The most common toxic plants include:
- Autumn crocus
- Lily of the valley
- Sago palm
Eating poisonous houseplants can have a multitude of symptoms for your dog, including:
- vomiting/ diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- drooling or foaming at the mouth
- stomach pain
- difficulty swallowing
- organ damage
- organ failure
If you think there’s a chance that your dog took a few bites of a poisonous plant, a call to your vet for next steps is in order.
And, to keep your pets safe, go through your house and perhaps rehome any of the ones on the above list. Replace them with pet-safe houseplants such as Boston ferns, prayer plants, spider plants, or a money tree.
4. Household Cleaners
These are more of the most common dog poisons that hide away in cupboards and cabinets. We often don’t see them as particularly harmful, but they pose a great risk to our animals.
These are just a few of the common ingredients in typical household cleaning products – all of which pollute the air inside your home with toxic fumes and can seriously harm your pets if ingested:
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Formaldehyde (common in general household cleaners)
- Perchloroethylene (common in carpet and rug cleaners)
- Phenols (common in cleaners with “sol” in the name)
- Phthalates (common in scented products, like air fresheners)
It’s easy to avoid these simply by ditching them and reaching instead for pet-safe alternatives. Whether you do your research and buy a product that does not contain these ingredients, or make your own, either option can keep these toxic substances from hunting your dog.
Many dogs are poisoned each year either by ingesting rat poison or by eating other animals who’ve ingested it. Most rodent poisons use anti-coagulants that kill the animal by causing uncontrollable bleeding. There are different active ingredients in rodenticides, and each has a different mechanism of action of poisoning. The most common ingredient is bromethalin, and affected animals can show symptoms anywhere from two days to several weeks after exposure.
Signs of rodenticide poisoning include loss of appetite, lethargy, weakness, coughing, seizures, muscle tremors, staggering, and even paralysis in the back limbs. Try your best to identify which substance your pet ingested so that you can tell your vet to make sure treatment is appropriate.
Prevention is always best, so if you have pests in the house, find a humane trap that doesn’t use poison! Many traps let you choose what goes inside, so you can use something that’s totally fine. They also trap, rather than kill, the animals, keeping the furry little creatures safe too!
6. Lawn and Garden Products
Like that cupboard full of cleaning products or the medicine cabinet, the garden shed is also home to several common dog poisons.
Pesticide and herbicide products are just a few. The various types and ingredients in these products can cause toxicity in dogs exposed to them. A range of symptoms are associated with pesticide or herbicide poisoning: fever, vomiting, anorexia, depression, muscle tremors, constricted pupils, increased heart rate, and respiratory failure are just a few.
Fertiliser products are another. These generally contain varying amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium compounds. In general, symptoms include mild to moderate stomach upset, which may present signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling, and abdominal pain.
To avoid these common dog poisons, stay away from commercial fertilizers and pesticides, and instead use organic compost, mulch, and natural fertilizers like eggshells to improve your yield.
Another of the common dog poisons, antifreeze is often attractive to pets because of the sweet taste. The sweetness comes from ethylene glycol – a colorless, odorless ingredient in most automotive antifreeze products. Many animals will voluntarily drink ethylene glycol if antifreeze is spilled or leaks onto garage floors or driveways.
Ethylene glycol can also be found, in lower concentrations, in some windshield de-icing agents, hydraulic brake fluid, motor oils, solvents, paints, film processing solutions, wood stains, inks, printer cartridges, etc.
Any amount of antifreeze is dangerous to dogs, even if it’s found in contaminated water such as puddles. Just a tablespoonful is potentially fatal.
To keep your pet safe, keep containers tightly closed and store them out of reach. Clean up any leaks and spills immediately and completely. Dispose of containers properly, and never let your pet wander unattended where they can possibly have access to antifreeze or any other ethylene glycol products – places like roads, gutters, garages, and driveways.
8. Certain Human Foods
While this list isn’t long, remember that there are a few foods that can be harmful to your pet even in small doses. Things like onions and grapes should be avoided – neither provide any nutritional value, and small amounts can do harm to your animal. Onions contain a toxic compound called N-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to the red blood cells by attaching to the oxygen molecules in them. The exact cause of grape toxicity is not known, nor is the amount. Common symptoms of grape or onion poisoning include:
- Decreased appetite
- Lethargy or weakness
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Increased thirst and urine production OR decreased or no urine production
- Elevated heart rate
- Pale gums
- Increased panting
- Reddish urine
Chocolate is another no-no, and while a little milk chocolate isn’t a super big deal, those with a higher cocoa content, specifically dark chocolate, can be problematic. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine and so they’re more sensitive to the chemical’s effects. Warning signs can take up to twelve hours to appear and include extreme thirst, diarrhea, pacing, panting, shaking, and seizures, so if you dog gets into chocolate, it’s best to speak with your vet.
What to Do if You Think Your Dog Ate Something Poisonous
So, if you know your dog has come in contact with one of these common dog poisons, what are your next steps? First off, don’t panic. Stay calm.
Any of the above common dog poisons should be approached with caution. And that means speaking with your vet right away. Depending on the substance, symptoms can take time to show, but getting ahead of them is often the best thing you can do. And some act fact, doing damage quickly, so you want to act quickly.
Your vet will tell you what to do. They may advise heading right in, so go. Before you leave though, if you can, collect and have at hand any material involved. This may be of great help to your vet, as they determine what poison or poisons are involved. Also, collect in a sealable plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed.
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!