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Toxicology 101: Know Your Pet Toxins

By March 14, 2021September 20th, 2023No Comments

Your pet relies on you for their safety, and ingestion or exposure to toxic substances can have life-threatening consequences. The first step toward a pet-safe home and garden is to become aware of potential pet toxins and keep them out of paws’ reach. The Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team has compiled a list of common pet toxins, with links for further details, to help you identify toxic dangers that require immediate veterinary care.

#1: Human medicines and your pet

According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and the Pet Poison Helpline, over-the-counter and prescription human medications are among the top reported pet toxicities. Ingestion can initially cause vomiting or diarrhea, and may lead to more severe illness signs or organ damage. The following human products can be toxic to pets:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) — Ingestion of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or diclofenac, can cause severe gastric ulceration in your pet, and lead to kidney failure. Prescription NSAIDs designed for pets are much safer.
  • Acetaminophen — This pain and fever reducer has a narrow safety margin in dogs, but should not be given to cats because it can lead to liver damage.
  • Antidepressants — Although some antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed for your pet at an appropriate dose, accidental ingestion or overdose can affect their nervous system and lead to tremors and seizures.
    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication — This class of medications, such as adderall, ritalin, methylphenidate, or dexedrine, can overstimulate your pet’s nervous system and cause hyperactivity and cardiac changes, and lead to kidney damage.
  • Cardiac medications — Accidental ingestion of cardiac medications can affect your pet’s heart and blood pressure, and lead to kidney or liver damage.
  • Vitamin D — This vitamin is fat-soluble and not secreted in urine like other vitamins, and an overdose can lead to possible kidney failure.
  • Marijuana — Marijuana can be dangerous to your pet, depending on your pet’s size and the amount ingested, and whether the marijuana is included in chocolate edible products.

#2: Foods to avoid giving your pet

Sharing table scraps with your four-legged friend may be hard to resist, but prevent them from consuming any of the following:

  • Xylitol — Many sugar-free foods contain xylitol, and ingestion can cause precipitous drops in blood glucose, and seizures, and lead to liver failure.
  • Chocolate — The degree of chocolate toxicity depends on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, with dark chocolate and baking chocolate the most dangerous. Illness signs can progress to changes in heart rhythm, tremors, and seizures.
  • Raisins and grapes — Kidney damage can occur in some pets who consume only a few grapes or raisins.
  • Onions, garlic, and chives — Cats can develop life-threatening anemia from eating small amounts of onion, garlic, and chives. Dogs can also be affected, but they need to eat larger quantities.
  • Bread dough — Ingestion of uncooked and yeasty bread dough can result in painful gas, intestinal bloating, and alcohol poisoning from yeast fermentation.
  • Alcohol — Pets and adult beverages don’t mix, and consumption can cause weakness, respiratory problems, seizures, or collapse in pets.

#3: Veterinary products and your pet

Veterinary products are designed for animal safety, but can be manufactured in a chewable and tasty form irresistible to your pet, and you must keep your pet’s medications tightly closed and out of reach to avoid a toxic overdose. Cat owners should use only cat-specific flea and tick preventives their veterinarian recommends, because products containing pyrethrin or permethrin are toxic to cats and can cause severe illness or death.

#4: Household products and your pet

Plants and garden products — Be aware of potentially toxic plants and garden products to ensure your pet’s safety. Two that are especially deadly include:

  • Lilies — Lilies are extremely toxic to cats and can lead to kidney failure from simply biting on a leaf or flower, licking pollen from their paws, or drinking water from a vase. Lilies primarily cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs.
  • Rodenticides — Four main rodenticide types (i.e., anticoagulant, vitamin D3, bromethalin, and phosphide) cause different illness signs, but ingestion of any type can be life-threatening.

Essential oils — Certain essential oils are toxic to cats if absorbed orally or through the skin, and can lead to liver failure.
Household cleaners — Be especially careful with disinfectants that contain alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or chemical compounds such as “phenols” that can be hazardous to your pet.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or been exposed to a toxic substance, immediately contact the Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team. We are here for you 24 hours per day, seven days per week if your pet is in trouble and requires emergency veterinary care.