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Poison Safety Tips Every Pet Parent Needs to Know

As pet parents, it's terrifying to think of our four-legged family members ingesting something poisonous. You may be tempted to push that thought right out of your mind. However, we all know that our curious kitties and playful pooches have a way of getting into stuff they shouldn't.

Learning everything you can about potentially life-threatening foods, plants, and other substances is one of the smartest and most loving things you can do for your pal.

What to Watch Out For

In the best-case scenario, you will witness what your dog or cat ingests so that you can act quickly and give your veterinarian as much detail as possible. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. Here are some symptoms common to both dogs and cats that could be an indication of poisoning:

  • Drooling, panting, or difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Seizures

Poisoning can even lead to death, so if you have any suspicion that your pal is in trouble, contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian clinic immediately.

Some of the primary offenders you should keep away from pets are everyday items and food. Read on to learn more.

toxic food for dogs and cats _ dog begging for food under table

Foods Toxic to Dogs and Cats

Our dogs and cats love stealing tasty morsels from our tables, but people food doesn't always make good pet food. Most pet parents know that chocolate and certain types of peanut butter can be dangerous to dogs, but there are actually a lot of foods that you should keep away from your li'l buddies. The following should be off-limits for pooches and kitties:

  • Alcohol - Yes, your pet can get buzzed too! And this can be an uncomfortable feeling for your pal. Even worse, it can impact their nervous system and lead to coma or death.
  • Coffee/caffeinated beverages - Caffeine acts as a stimulant, and it can ratchet up your pet's blood pressure, increase heart rate, and cause seizures.
  • Grapes/raisins - You probably know never to feed your pet grapes or raisins, but you might not know they can cause serious complications such as sudden kidney failure.
  • Macadamia nuts - These nuts are very harmful to dogs. They can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting, hyperthermia, and tremors.
  • Onions/garlic/chives - An ingredient in these foods can damage your pet's blood cells. This makes them unable to carry oxygen through the body, which can have fatal consequences.
  • Salty snack foods - Keep your pet's nose out of the pretzels and chips. An overdose of salt can damage the kidneys.
  • Xylitol - This artificial sweetener can be found in candies, gum, desserts, and some brands of peanut butter. It is highly toxic and can cause low blood sugar, seizures, and liver failure.
  • Yeast dough - Make sure you let dough with raw yeast rise out of paw's reach. It can expand in your pet's belly causing painful gas and bloating.
  • Foods high in fat - These include tasty items like hot dogs, ribs, and bacon, which can bring on vomiting, diarrhea, and inflammation of the pancreas.

Dairy products can also be bad for pets so you may want to avoid giving your kitty that saucer of milk. It can cause tummy upset and more severe symptoms if they are allergic or lactose intolerant.

toxic plants for cats and dogs _ cat staring out a window

Poisonous Plants

Our furry friends love nibbling on fresh greens. There are a lot of plants and flowers that can cause tummy upset, but unfortunately, there are also many that are classified as toxic. These can cause a range of problems, from vomiting and blood pressure changes to convulsions, coma, and even death.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, but here are some plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats:

  • Amaryllis
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Daffodil
  • Eucalyptus
  • Hyacinth
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Morning Glories

True Lilies from the Lilium species, including the Tiger and Easter, are also highly toxic to cats. Some Lilies are not as dangerous, such as the Calla, Peach, and Peruvian Lily, which only tend to cause minor issues like mouth irritation if they're nibbled on.

toxic household products for cats and dogs _ dog helping with laundry

Harmful Household Products

It's kind of a no-brainer that harsh cleaning products like bleach are poisonous to pets. If you use a diluted solution and rinse and air out very thoroughly, you can still clean your pal's crate or toys with bleach. Just make sure to store the bottle in a closed cupboard and out of reach.

Carpet fresheners, carpet shampoos, and air fresheners can also be safe if you follow the directions and keep your pet away from fresh applications. Some products to definitely lock up are:

  • Dryer sheets
  • Drain cleaner
  • Laundry detergent
  • Window cleaner
  • Antifreeze

Essential Oils

Essential oils have been a hot topic when it comes to pet safety. They've been gaining popularity as a way to treat ailments in people from congestion to sore muscles. While they can be dangerous to pets, particularly cats, you don't have to toss out your essential oil diffuser yet.

These oils are dangerous to pets in their most concentrated form (100%), and some oils may be more harmful than others. However, you can use a diffuser for short periods of time if your pet doesn't have respiratory issues. Keep it somewhere it can't get knocked over potentially exposing your pet to the oils. And, of course, store essential oils out of pet's reach.

Get more tips on essential oils from our strategic partner the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®).

toxic human medication and cosmetics for dogs and cats _ cat getting a pill

Human Medications and Cosmetics

There are a lot of human medications that can harm your dog or cat, who could easily ingest a loose pill if you drop it on the floor. Some of the most common include:

  • Ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®, Motrin®)
  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®)
  • Naproxen (e.g., Aleve®, Naprosyn®)
  • Zolpidem (e.g., Ambien®)
  • Amphetamine-based medication (e.g., Adderall®, Ritalin®)
  • Antidepressants, such as Alprazolam (e.g., Xanax®) and Duloxetine (e.g., Cymbalta®)
  • Tobacco replacement products

A lot of your personal care products can also make your dog or cat feel sick - or worse - if ingested. Take extra care to keep your face wash, soap, lotion, petroleum jelly, topical creams, mosquito repellents, and other cosmetic items out of paw's reach.

what to do in case of a dog or cat poisoning emergency _ dog resting under an orange blanket

What to Do in Case of Emergency

Even the most diligent pet parents and the most well-behaved pets can find themselves in a scary, poison-related emergency. If your pal is in trouble, don't beat yourself up about it. Just stay calm, and remember these tips:

  • Contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian clinic immediately - You should never try to treat your pet yourself, for their safety and yours.
  • Be extra careful when handling your pet - They are sick and scared, and even the gentlest dogs and cats can nip or scratch under these conditions.
  • Have as much information handy as possible - This may include your li'l buddy's age, breed, and weight, as well as whatever details you can provide regarding the substance ingested.
  • Bring the package with you - If your pet swallowed human medication, household cleaning items, or anything else that comes in a package, take it to your appointment.
  • Take a sample - If your dog or cat vomited or had diarrhea, collect a sample to take with you to the veterinary office.

Are you prepared? Learn more about dog CPR and what to include in a pet first-aid kit.

How Pet Health Insurance Can Help

Poisoning isn't something you can plan for. But you can prepare for the treatment and associated costs by getting coverage for your furry friend… before disaster strikes. Whether it's an emergency visit or a routine check-up, an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan helps you provide the care they need without breaking the bank.

Is your pal covered? Get a personalized quote!

Pet Insurance Quote