Pet Toxins: How Many Are in Your Home, Garage, and Yard?

March 3, 2020
Pet Toxins: How Many Are in Your Home, Garage, and Yard?
Pets have an innate ability to sniff out things that get them into trouble, but the inquisitive nature that you love can land your pet in the Care Center emergency room if she gets into something poisonous. A number of common household items are potentially poisonous to pets, and you may be surprised to discover how many are lurking around your home, garage, and yard.  

Pet Toxins in Your Home

Your pet spends most of her time in your comfortable home, where the most common pet toxins can be found. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), prescription and over-the-counter medications, and toxic foods, top their list of calls year after year.
  • Medications — Owners sometimes treat their pets from their own medicine cabinet instead of consulting their family veterinarian for help, not realizing that many human medications can cause life-threatening toxicity. If you give your pet Tylenol, Aleve, or ibuprofen for a sore leg, she can suffer from kidney failure or severe anemia, and aspirin and Pepto-bismol, which contains an aspirin-like compound, can be toxic to cats. If your pet gets into your anti-anxiety, ADHD, or heart medication, she can develop severe side effects.

    Human medications are not the only culprits—medications approved for use in pets can also cause problems. If you confuse your Labrador retriever’s prescription with your Chihuahua’s medication, or if you apply your dog’s flea preventive to your cat’s skin, the overdose may be deadly. And, the beef-flavored medication that your dog gobbles up like a treat can get her into trouble, if she confiscates the whole bottle.

  • Toxic foods — Comprising more than 10% of all the APCC hotline calls, chocolate is the most common toxic food that pets find a way to indulge in—no matter how well-hidden we think it is. Although you are likely aware of chocolate’s toxic potential, you may not be aware of other toxic foods, including:
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Onions
    • Garlic 
    • Xylitol
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Raw yeast dough
    • Alcohol
    • Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
If you think your pet has ingested a toxic food, immediately take her to your family veterinarian, or our emergency department, for an evaluation.

Pet Toxins in Your Garage

A number of toxins can be found on your garage shelves, including paint, glues, cleaning chemicals, rodent bait, and antifreeze products. Paint or cleaning chemicals may not sound tempting to you, but indiscriminate dogs often lap up the liquid before realizing it’s bitter and unappetizing. Antifreeze products and rodent baits are two of the most dangerous toxins in your garage.
  • Antifreeze products — Antifreeze contains the toxin ethylene glycol, which causes deadly kidney failure if treatment is not administered a few hours after ingestion. Pets will readily lick up any sweet liquid spilled on your driveway or garage floor, so clean up all spills immediately, and store these products out of reach on high shelves.
  • Rodent baits — Rodenticides contain a variety of toxic ingredients designed to attract and kill rodents who get into your home, garage, or garden. Unfortunately, these ingredients also entice pets, who eat them, with deadly results. Depending on the active ingredient, rodenticide toxicity can cause acute kidney failure, internal bleeding, or brain swelling. Keep in mind that pets may also be exposed if they eat a dead rodent who consumed bait. 

Pet Toxins in Your Yard

With spring around the corner, your pet is looking forward to romping in the backyard, and you are likely anticipating sprucing up your flower beds and garden. Since you want your yard to be a safe zone for your pet, consider these potential toxins when you plan your springtime yard and garden:

  • PlantsCommon Household Hazards for Pets — Many plant varieties are toxic, so consult the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plant list before choosing blooms for your flower beds, or vegetables for your garden. Among the most dangerous plants are lilies, sago palm, azalea, castor bean, and oleander. 
  • Fertilizers — Plant fertilizers contain a variety of toxic ingredients, including nitrates, urea, iron, and blood or bone meal. Although most ingestions cause only gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, with vomiting and diarrhea, large amounts can cause more serious problems. 
  • Pesticides — Chemicals sprayed on your lawn to keep it green and insect-free may be toxic to pets who groom them off their feet and fur. Ensure your lawn-care company uses only pet-safe ingredients, and follow all instructions, as most chemicals must dry before they are safe for pets. 
  • Mulch — When choosing landscaping mulch, steer clear of cocoa bean varieties, which are made from processed cocoa bean hulls and shells that are left over from chocolate production. Although most of the toxic methylxanthines are removed during processing, if the chocolate aroma tempts your dog to ingest the mulch, she may still become sick, and the mulch may also obstruct her GI-tract. 

Are you ready to clean out your garage, lock up the chocolate, and research your yard plants? Keeping toxins stored safely, or out of your home altogether, are key to keeping your pet safe, especially if she eats anything she can get her paws on. Contact your family veterinarian if you have questions about household toxins, or think your pet may have ingested something toxic. Our emergency department is always open if your family veterinarian isn’t available, and we can treat toxicities of all types. Call to let us know you are on the way and bring the toxin and any packaging with you.