Household Hazards for your pet

Household Hazards for your petpharmacy

Our pets are part of our family, we provide them with food, attention, training, medical care and love. In exchange, they offer companionship, protection, enjoyment and reciprocal love for us. For all that they have to offer, though, they must rely on us for protection from harm. We need to look at our homes through the eyes of our pets, seeking out “toys” and “entertainments” that may be dangerous to them.

Dogs and cats of all ages, and especially kittens and puppies, explore with their mouths. Dogs like to mouth and chew things. Cats may start to taste something and be unable to spit it out because of their rough tongues, particularly string, tinsel or yarn. Both may simply “dive in” when they see us doing something new or unfamiliar. These behaviors often land them in trouble, however, by knowing what to avoid, we can help to protect them.

Our homes can contain a wide variety of potential hazards. The following is not a complete list, but indicates some of the most common problems. If your pet ingests any of the items included in these lists, you should reach out to your veterinarian, or one of the poison control helplines.

Foods to Avoid:

Onions, onion powder, garlic and chives
Chocolate (baker’s, semi-sweet, milk and dark)
Grapes and raisins
Alcoholic Beverages
Yeast Dough
Coffee (grounds, beans chocolate covered espresso beans)
Tea (caffeine)
Macadamia Nuts
Hops (used in home beer brewing)
Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
Potato leaves and stems (green parts)
Rhubarb leaves *Avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats)
Moldy foods
Xylitol (found in candy, gum, etc.)

One of the most common toxic events that we see is a pet getting into their owner’s medication. Because pets metabolize drugs and chemicals differently than we do, our pets should not have access to human medications. This includes over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, cough and cold medicines and decongestants.

Medications that come in tubes may also pose a significant risk. Dogs and cats alike can chew and puncture into a tube within seconds. Creams and ointments that may be quite safe when applied to the skin can cause serious problems when eaten.

Store all medications in cabinets, and out of reach. With their curiosity and strong teeth, dogs can crack open a pill vial and swallow the entire contents in a very short time. Even if a medication is prescribed for your pet, an overdose could be toxic.

Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins, diet pills and medical marijuana are all examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals, even in small doses. We recommend always keeping your medications in the original container. If a toxicity occurs, it will be important to know as much about a medication as possible.

DO NOT give any of your own personal medications to your pet. That includes over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, cough or cold medicines and decongestants. NEVER give your dog’s medicine to your cat or ferret.

Common houseplants can be quite harmful if ingested by an animal. The ingestion of Azalea, Oleander, Castor bean, Sago Palm, Baster Lily or yew plant material by an animal can be fatal. Chewing on some plants may result in severe irritation to the mouth and throat. Others, while not quite so deadly, may cause severe intestinal upset. You should know the names of all your plants, and keep any potentially toxic plants out of areas accessible to your animal companions. For a more extensive list of toxic plants, click here. (link to

Flea & Tick Control Products and Other Insecticides:
Fleas and Ticks are very common here in Maine, resulting in a need to treat your pet, and often your home environment as well. If you are planning to treat your home to kill fleas or other insects, it is important to read the label and use the product only as directed. This is particularly important if a flea control product is to be applied directly to the pet. Before buying a flea product, consult your veterinarian, especially when treating sick, debilitated or pregnant pets. There are many types of topical treatments on the market, many with similar names, but may not be used for the same things. NEVER use a dog product on your cat, or vice versa.

Mouse and Rat Poisons:
If you use ant or roach bait, make sure they are in a spot inaccessible to your pet. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed. Record on a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name of the bait used. This will be needed if your dog eats an entire bait container or if there was no label on the container and you need to tell the veterinarian what your pet ingested. Antidotes and medical treatments for such poisons differ on the type ingested.

Household Chemicals:
Many household chemicals can be harmful if consumed by your pet. Most cleaning materials can cause stomach upset and vomiting if they are eaten. Dishwasher detergent can produce burns in the mouth. When using household chemicals, special care should be taken to make sure your pets cannot access them. This may mean keeping your pet out of the room where you are using such materials. Common household items that can be lethal to an animal are antifreeze, mothballs, potpourri oils, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, gorilla or super glue, batteries and cigarettes.

What to do if your dog is exposed to a poison:
Your animal may become poisoned in spite your best effort to prevent it. Because of this, you should be prepared. Your pet should be seen by your local veterinarian on an annual basis (bi-annual for senior pets) to maintain overall health. You should know your veterinarian’s procedures for emergency situations, especially ones that occur after usual business hours. You should keep the telephone numbers for your veterinarian, emergency veterinary clinics, and ASPCA (1-888-426-4435) or The Pet Poison Helpline (1-855-764-7661) in a convenient location. Depending on the product consumed there may be a charge for the consultation with poison control; the operator will inform you at the time of the call.

You should not attempt any therapy on your pet without contacting the ASPCA, your local veterinarian or a state poison control center. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a poison, it is important not to panic. While rapid response is important, panicking generally interferes with the process of helping your pet. Take 30-60 seconds to collect yourself and have at hand the material involved. In the event that you need to take your pet to your veterinarian, be sure to take with you any relevant product container. Bring any material your pet may have vomited or chewed collected in a zip lock bag.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435
Pet Poison Control Helpline: 1-855-764-7661