Pet Household Hazards and Other Commonly Asked Questions

What are some household hazards for a new puppy?

Much like a human child, puppies will find their way into every inch of your home. It important for new owners to be aware of hazardous materials found commonly in your household that your puppy can get into that may be harmful to their health.
Harmful Foods in the Kitchen:

  • Chocolate, Cocoa Power – contain a substance called Theobromine, which is neurotoxic to dogs
  • Grapes, Raisins – can cause kidney failure
  • Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Chives – can cause anemia in your pet
  • Avocado – can lead to heart problems and vomiting/diarrhea

Sugar Free Products

  • Many “sugar-­‐free” candies and gum (Orbit, Ice Breakers), as well as some toothpastes, baked goods, and more, contain a sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs and causes a rapid decrease in blood sugar

Hazardous Plants in the House: Some household plants can cause toxicity in dogs if they are chewed on and eaten. Because puppies explore their environments with their mouths, it is crucial to keep these plants out of areas your puppy has access to.

  • Sago Palm – can cause liver damage and intestinal problems
  • Shamrock plants, Rhubarb, Star Fruit, Beets – can cause kidney injury
  • Philodendron, Calla Lily, Caladium, Elephant’s Ear, Peace Lily – can cause gastrointestinal injury
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons – can cause intestinal upset, depression, and heart problems

Poisonous Medications: Many human medications are toxic if ingested by your pet.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – can cause liver toxicity
  • Non-­‐Steroidal Anti-­‐Inflammatory Drugs – Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil), Naproxen – Large doses can cause gastrointestinal injury and kidney damage
  • Anxiolytics: can cause tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, hyperventilation, vomiting, and diarrhea:  Lexapro, Paxil, Reconcile, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa
  • ADD/ADHD Medications: can cause tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, hyperventilation, vomiting, and diarrhea:  Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Dexoxyn
  • Antidepressants: can cause tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, hyperventilation, vomiting, and diarrhea:  Effexor, Cymbalta
  • Sleep Aids: can cause depression, slow heart rate and breathing rate or hyperactivity, agitation, panting, and tremors in dogs:  Ambien, Lunesta, Klonopin, Valium

Household Cleaning Agents:

  • Many cleaning agents are low to moderate in toxicity, but it is still important to prevent your animal from ingesting these irritable substances: Hand soap, Shampoos, Dishwashing Detergents, Laundry Soaps
  • Agents that contain Cationic Detergents and Quaternary Ammonium can directly cause burns in the animal’s mouth when ingested
  • Disinfectants and Antiseptics are also toxic when ingested:  Mouthwash (Listerine), Pine Oils (Pine Sol)

Miscellaneous Hazards:

  • Paintballs, Fireworks, Mothballs, Coins, Tobacco Products, Batteries

If you believe your animal has ingested any of these substances or shows signs of illness, please contact your local veterinary clinic as soon as possible.  For more information on household poisons and materials that can potentially harm your puppy, please visit:  American Veterinary Medical Association:
Pet Poison Helpline:     (855) 764-7661  ($65 incident fee applies)


Is Acetaminophen safe for cats?

While there are many medications that are for “Over-the-Counter” (OTC) use in humans, some of these drugs can be extremely harmful when given to our animal friends.  Acetaminophen with cats is one such medication.

When we ingest certain substances, our bodies can transform them into active compounds, which have a variety of safe and normal effects.  Additionally, our bodies have mechanisms that prevent toxic substances that may be produced during this conversion from accumulating.  One such fail-safe is called glucoronyl transferase, an enzyme that serves to convert toxic byproducts into safe compounds.  This enzyme is vital in the metabolism of acetaminophen.  Our feline friends have lower amounts of glucaronyl transferase in their bodies.  This is the reason that acetaminophen is toxic to cats; their bodies cannot safely breakdown the drug and toxins accumulate in their bloodstream.

The toxins primarily affect the liver and red bloods cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.  Severe liver damage can result in condition known as icterus.  A term you may be more familiar with is jaundice, which is as yellowing of the skin.  Since cats have hair, the easiest place to notice this change is their gums and the conjunctiva under the eyelid.  Simply lift up their lip or pull down their eyelid to observe these changes, respectively.  These toxins will also impair red blood cells ability to carry oxygen, which may result in the gums losing their normal, healthy pink appearance and becoming white or gray.  The abnormal red blood cells are broken down by the body and components are excreted in the urine.  These break-down products are pigmented and will turn the urine a brown color.  You may also see increased respiratory rate, decreased or no appetite, and vomiting.

Please realize that even a small amount of acetaminophen can be toxic to cats.  If you suspect that your cat has ingested acetaminophen, do wait until clinical signs appearance.  Contact your veterinarian immediately.  Other common OTC medications that can cause problems when inappropriately administered include ibuprofen and aspirin.  Aspirin can be used in certain disease conditions; however, a veterinarian should always be consulted prior to giving any human OTC medications to your pet.



Is Aspirin safe to use as a medication in dogs?

Aspirin, as in humans, can be used in dogs to alleviate pain, fever, and inflammation, whether from injuries, infections, or disease. It is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID), which helps block the body’s production of prostaglandins, which are the source of pain and inflammation. However, like any drug, Aspirin has its faults and should only be used in low doses as a short term solution and should never be used as a long term control therapy for pain.

Like other NSAIDs, Aspirin has side effects. The most common is gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, ulceration, and blood loss, which may result in vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. In dogs, plain uncoated aspirin may be more irritating to the stomach lining than either buffered aspirin or enteric-coated tablets. Also, Aspirin should be given with food to reduce GI effects. Since dogs are particularly sensitive to GI effects, it is always advisable to consult your veterinarian before administering any aspirin to relieve pain.

Because Aspirin is potent with high toxicity, when used in long term therapies, it can be destructive to joint cartilage and cause serious health problems, such as kidney, liver, or central nervous system damage. It should never be given to puppies because they lack the necessary enzymes to breakdown the drug or pregnant females because it can cause birth defects. Too, it should not be given to dogs that suffer from any bleeding or clotting disorders because it reduces platelet clumping.

NSAIDs get a lot of bad press, but Aspirin is one of the few that can, under the right supervision from your local veterinarian, be used relatively safely in dogs. But, do not ignore the fact that is has many negative drug interactions and contraindications. It is important to first find the root of any problem before using medications. Thus, check with your veterinarian about what is going on with your pet and what would be the best drug for the problem.

The current standard dosage of aspirin recommended is 5-10mg per pound of the dog’s weight every 12 hours. Use it with caution and always seek veterinary guidance. Never use drugs that contain Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen like Tylenol® and Advil®. Also, realize that cats are more sensitive to the adverse effects of aspirin because they are unable to break down the drug as quickly as dogs and are typically given much smaller doses every 48-72 hours.


Are poinsettias poisonous to dogs and cats?

The myth that poinsettias are toxic began in the early 1900s when an Army officer’s young son passed away after having eaten a leaf from the plant. It was never medically or scientifically proven that the poinsettia caused his illness and eventually the story was determined to be a rumor. Unfortunately this rumor persists today to confuse many holiday decorators.

In 1971 The Ohio State University ran a battery of tests on the poinsettia plant to see if they were poisonous. Their experiments showed no death, disease or loss of appetite after eating the plant. Although this analysis shows poinsettias will not cause severe illness they do contain a milky white sap that can be irritating to the skin, eyes or gut. If your pet comes into contact with a poinsettia they may develop an itchy rash or red, watery eyes. When eaten, the plant may cause irritation of the mouth, vomiting or occasionally diarrhea. Most pets will experience mild discomfort but will not need medical treatment.

Like in humans, vomiting pets are at risk of dehydration if they continue to be sick over an extended period of time. In this situation you should contact your veterinarian to see if they recommend treatment to replace fluids and electrolytes lost in the vomit. If you are concerned about skin contact with the sap a bath with mild soap and water may be beneficial.

Have no fear when decorating your home during the holiday season. Poinsettias are beautiful plants to warm your home with their many array of colors.  Even though they’re non-toxic, it may be easier to avoid the situation altogether by leaving the plants out of pets’ reach on a mantle or in a hanging basket.



Is it true that chocolate is poisonous to dogs?

Yes, chocolate is toxic to dogs, and may even be fatal. It contains theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine which are all toxic. Theobromine is most toxic of the three compounds and its content varies within different types of chocolate.   The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content, and the more dangerous it is. Baking chocolate and cocoa powder contain the highest amount of theobromine, while white chocolate has the lowest content. As little as 2 ounces or 1 square of baking chocolate can cause severe signs of poisoning in dogs under 30 lbs, and is potentially fatal.

Signs of chocolate poisoning include hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, and increased urination or incontinence. Your dog may exhibit an increased heart rate and respiratory rate, high blood pressure, or neurological signs such as seizures and muscle tremors. High enough doses can cause your dog to stop breathing or result in heart failure, a coma, or even death.

There is no antidote for chocolate poisoning; however, it can be treated if you seek prompt veterinary care. You should call your veterinarian immediately to determine if your dog may have ingested a toxic dose. Be prepared to tell your veterinarian what type of chocolate and an approximate amount your dog ingested. Product or brand information can be helpful if you do not know the exact type of chocolate the candy or baked good contained. They may advise you to induce vomiting at home before your bring your dog in for care, especially if you live far from the clinic. Your veterinarian may induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to prevent the absorption of the theobromine into the body. Your dog will likely be given IV fluids and may require medications to control seizures or heart arrhythmias. Your dog may need to be hospitalized for treatment because it may last for several days.

While chocolate poisoning is treatable, prevention is paramount for the best possible outcome. Do not leave candy or baked goods within reach of your dog. Be vigilant on holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter when your dog may have access to large amounts of chocolate. Do not use Cacao bean mulch in a garden that your dog has access to.


Quick Reference Sheets:

Pet First Aid Sheet   Safe Fruits & Vegetables For Your Dog   Common Toxins For Cats