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Bad Taste: Protect Your Pet From Household Poisons

White Dog Lying Next to Poisonous Foods for Dogs

Knowing how to recognize potentially hazardous items, identify pet poisoning signs, and respond to a toxin ingestion or exposure can be life-saving. Here are some simple tips to help you protect your pet from potential poisons.

5 Pet-toxic products hiding in your home

Almost every day, the Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency team cares for pets with known or suspected toxin ingestion. Sadly, most pets are exposed to the toxic substance in their home. The most common toxin types include:

  • Human medications — Many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, such as painkillers, antidepressants, and cold medicines, can cause life-threatening toxicity.

  • Foods — Some human foods, including chocolate, grapes, onions, garlic, and the sugar substitute xylitol, can cause serious, potentially life-threatening health problems if ingested.

  • Rodenticide and insecticide — Rat and mouse bait and other products used to control pests are often extremely toxic to pets. Additionally, dogs and cats can experience secondary toxicity by ingesting a poisoned rodent.

  • Antifreeze — Ethylene glycol, found in antifreeze and some other automotive products, can cause rapid and fatal kidney damage even when a pet ingests a small amount—a teaspoon for cats and a tablespoon for small- to medium-sized dogs.

  • Plants — Many popular indoor and outdoor plants, including lilies and philodendrons, contain harmful chemical compounds that can lead to organ failure or severe gastrointestinal (GI) distress.

Poisoning complications in pets

Poisoning complications and outcomes vary depending on the toxin ingested, the amount your pet has consumed, and the time that has elapsed between ingestion and treatment. Recognizing the potential risk can help you stay vigilant against preventable poisonings and take quick action if exposure is suspected. Common complications include:

  • GI upset such as vomiting or diarrhea

  • Neurologic signs or injury such as seizures, tremors, or weakness

  • Kidney or liver damage

  • Respiratory distress

  • Cardiac abnormalities such as rapid heart rate, arrhythmias, or collapse

  • Coma or death

Recognizing toxicity signs in pets

Recognizing signs of toxicity is crucial for early intervention. Signs may vary depending on the circumstances but may include:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Excessive drooling

  • Lethargy

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Seizures

  • Tremors or muscle twitching

  • Loss of appetite

  • Jaundice—yellowing of the skin and eyes

What to do if your pet is exposed to a toxin

Toxicity signs can have rapid onset or take days or weeks to appear. If you know or suspect your pet has ingested something poisonous, act quickly and don’t wait for visible illness signs. Recommended actions include:

  • Moving your pet from the area — Move your pet away from the toxin to prevent further exposure.

  • Calling Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency Immediately call our team or the Pet Poison Helpline, or bring your pet in for rapid decontamination and stabilization. Be prepared to provide information about the type of toxin ingested, the amount, and your pet's signs.

  • Following instructions — Don’t attempt to induce vomiting or give your pet anything by mouth unless you are advised to do so by our team. Follow all instructions, including bringing in product packaging and information, to ensure your pet receives accurate and effective treatment.

Preventing poisoning in pets

Prevention is key to protecting your pet from household poisons. Minimize your pet’s poisoning risk by following these tips:

  • Securing hazardous substances — Keep medications, cleaning products, pesticides, harmful foods, and other toxic substances securely stored in cabinets or high shelves where pets cannot access them.

  • Pet-proofing your home — Remove or relocate pet-toxic plants and be cautious when using antifreeze or other automotive products. Eliminate all risk by replacing these items with pet-safe alternatives.

  • Supervising your pet — Monitor your pet outdoors, especially if they have access to areas where toxic substances may be present such as in gardens, garages, and sheds.

  • Disposing of hazardous items — Properly dispose of unused medications, chemicals, and other hazardous materials according to manufacturer instructions. Carefully clean up spills or leaks and if you have used paper towels or rags to clean up, place them in a sealed pet-proof container.

  • Staying informed — Familiarize yourself with common household poisons and their potential effects. Share this information with family and friends to increase awareness and protect more pets.

While the idea of toxins hiding in your home can be a scary thought, a proactive and vigilant approach can significantly reduce your pet’s risk of accidental poisoning. When in doubt, keep items in secure, pet-proof containers and stored out of your pet’s reach. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from toxin ingestion, remember that every second counts. Immediately contact Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency. Our knowledgeable team will triage your pet’s condition over the phone or, if your pet’s condition is urgent, be prepared to initiate immediate care as soon as you arrive.