What Common Household Items Are Toxic to Pets?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is a 24-hour helpline staffed by veterinary toxicologists and other veterinary professionals experienced in pet poisonings. Each year, the ASPCA APCC receives thousands of calls and compiles a list of the top 10 pet poisons, which most often are everyday household items. Here are the poisons currently topping the list and how you can keep your furry pal safe.

#1: Over-the-counter human medications

As of 2022, over-the-counter (OTC) human medications had topped the list for five years running. These medications are easily accessible in most homes, purses, backpacks, and cars. Examples of toxic OTC medications include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Cold medications
  • Herbal supplements

Many medications used in veterinary medicine are adapted from human medicines, but you should never assume a medication is safe for your pet. Pets metabolize drugs differently and can develop organ failure or serious gastrointestinal (GI) distress if they consume common OTC drugs. Keep all medications stored in pet-proof cabinets or drawers and hang bags and backpacks out of reach. Never administer any medications to your pet without your veterinarian’s instructions.

#2: Human foods

In addition to drugs, pets metabolize some foods differently from people, which can cause toxicity. The consequences of eating a toxic food vary depending on the pet’s size, the amount eaten, and the particular food. Always secure food in the pantry or refrigerator, avoid feeding table scraps, and keep nosy pets out of the kitchen and dining areas while you’re cooking or eating.

Toxic foods include:

  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol, which is often found in sugar-free gum and foods
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions and garlic
  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Raw yeast dough

#3: Prescription human medications

Like OTC medications, prescription medications are readily available in most people’s homes and can be deadly to pets. The most commonly ingested drugs are those most commonly prescribed and include ADHD medications, antidepressants, and heart medications. Store all medications out of your pet’s reach, including portable pill containers in purses and suitcases.

#4: Plants

We love to decorate our homes and outdoor areas with plants, which can add beauty and warmth. Unfortunately, many dogs and cats enjoy chewing on greenery and often ingest plant material. Many of the most beautiful plants contain toxic compounds, which can cause a range of symptoms, from mild drooling or stomach upset to seizures, kidney failure, or death. If you move to a new home or get the itch to change your landscaping or indoor décor, check the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants to ensure you don’t endanger your pet with toxic varieties, such as lilies, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, or sago palm.

#5: Household products

Many household products, such as paint, glue, and cleaning products, contain dangerous chemicals that can poison a pet. Some pets investigate and consume these items because they smell or feel interesting, despite a less-than-ideal taste, so keep these products in pet-proof containers or behind latched cabinet doors.

#6: Garden products

Lawn and garden chemicals and fertilizers can seriously harm pets. Some attract pets because they contain blood or bone meal. Read instructions carefully to know how long pets must stay away from treated lawns and store chemicals in locked sheds or garages when possible. In winter, keep pets away from antifreeze leaks in the garage or driveway, because licking only a small amount can be deadly.

#7: Veterinary products

Many prescription veterinary products are flavored so they are more appealing and easier to administer. Enthusiastic pets may enjoy the flavorings so much that they seek out the medication and eat a toxic dose. If you suspect your pet enjoys their medication a bit too much, ensure you store it carefully and don’t underestimate your pet’s ability to sniff out items they want or to chew through plastic packaging.

#8: Rodenticides

Rodenticides are edible bait products designed to kill mice and rats that can also easily kill larger animals, such as dogs and cats. These products are tasty to pets and can cause death via internal bleeding, high calcium levels, brain swelling, or poison gas production in the stomach. You can keep your pet from eating rodenticides by using other rodent-control methods and keeping pets under your control at all times to prevent them from finding poisons on neighboring properties.

#9: Pesticides

Like rodenticides, insect and snail baits, sprays, and fogs contain chemicals designed to kill pests, making them harmful to any living creature who ingests them. Read labels carefully to choose pet-safe products, or use non-chemical pest control alternatives whenever possible.

#10: Recreational drugs

New to the list of top toxins is marijuana, which has become more readily available in edible forms. Pets are extremely sensitive to THC’s effects and can become dangerously intoxicated if they consume marijuana products. Although not associated with long-term harm in most cases, severe intoxication can lead to heavy sedation.

Pet toxins are found in all areas of modern homes, but you can protect your pet by keeping toxic items stored safely in secured containers, cabinets, or outbuildings. If you suspect your pet has consumed a toxic substance, contact the ASPCA APCC immediately for advice and seek emergency veterinary care at a local AAHA-accredited veterinary hospital.



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