We love sharing things with our pets, whether it is food, time, or our homes. That being said, it is important to be aware of toxins in our homes that we may not know of. In the veterinary medical field, one of the most common issues we see come in is toxicity or poisoning from household toxins. In this article we will touch on well known to lesser known household toxins.
Foods Toxic to Pets
- Chocolate: Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to our pets. But here’s why: chocolate contains two main toxic components for dogs- caffeine, and theobromine, which has a similar response in the body to caffeine. These chemicals can be medically used as a heart stimulant, muscle relaxant, and blood vessel dilator. Dogs are not able to metabolize theobromine and caffeine as efficiently as people which causes their effects to be even stronger. Chocolate toxicity side effects can range from vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, to muscle tremors, seizures, heart failure, and in extreme cases, sudden death from cardiac arrest.
- Grapes/Raisins: Grapes, raisins, and currants are all toxic to dogs. The cause is not yet entirely known which makes any exposure a concern. What we do know is that ingestion causes kidney failure which can be less severe to fatal depending on the amount ingested and the dog’s personal sensitivity. Vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, and diarrhea may be early signs of toxicity.
- Onion/Garlic: Onion and garlic are part of a plant species called Allium. Both cats and dogs are at risk of toxicity, with cats at higher risk of more severe effects. Ingestion of garlic or onion (regardless of the form: raw, cooked, dried, powdered) causes damage to the red blood cells, rendering them unable to carry oxygen efficiently. It can also reduce the red blood cell count causing anemia and in severe cases, internal organ damage, organ failure, or death.
- Xylitol: Xylitol is a far less known toxin to animals and comes as a surprise for many people as it is known as a healthy sweetener alternative for humans that’s popularity is growing. It has become commonly used in many products, be it prepackaged sweets or baked goods to chewing gum and toothpaste. That said, even in very small doses, it can be devastating or even fatal to your pet. Xylitol is absorbed into the dog’s system far more quickly than with humans, causing a rapid and potent release of insulin from the pancreas. This quickly causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and if untreated, can lead to weakness, collapse, seizures, or death.
Plants Toxic to Pets
- Lilies: There are many different types of lilies and the severity of poisoning can range from mild to severe depending on the species. Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies are all mildly toxic, causing irritation to the mouth, tongue, and esophagus, resulting in excessive drooling. Tiger, Day, Japanese, and Asiatic lilies are far more toxic and, even in small amounts, can cause severe kidney damage which can cause life-long illness or fatality. If you suspect any ingestion, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Daffodils: Daffodils contain a toxin called lycorine, which can be found in all parts of the plant. Initial symptoms may include severe tissue irritation and drooling. Vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain may be noted and in extreme cases, cardiac irregularities and respiratory depression may follow.
- Tulips/Hyacinths: These flowers contain two similar toxins that reside predominantly in the bulb of the flower rather than the stock, leaves or petals. Ingestion of the bulb can cause severe irritation to the mouth and esophagus, resulting in excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, respiratory increase and increased heart rate may be noted.
- Marijuana: Dogs and cats have far more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than humans which makes them especially susceptible to cannabis toxicity. Different versions of marijuana consumption can cause different symptomatic severities. Symptoms will most likely appear neurological and can range from hyperactivity and disorientation to tremors, seizures, or coma. Physical signs can consist of a “wild-eyed” appearance, excessive drooling, vomiting, and in some cases urinary incontinence.
- Ice Melt: Ice melt can be quite dangerous for dogs. Because it is salt-based, they are likely to not be dismayed by the flavor and over-ingestion can happen quickly by licking off of the ground or eating with snow. Symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, muscle weakness, or neurological issues. Aside from the salt, ice melt also includes various chemical ingredients that are not always disclosed on the bag, so it is important to be cautious.
- Rat Poison: There are many different types of rat poison and in order to get proper diagnosis and treatment it is vital to know which version was consumed. The toxin in rat poison prevents the body from appropriately absorbing vitamin K which is used to aid the body in normal blood clotting. Without the ability to absorb vitamin K, the blood is unable to clot, causing uncontrollable hemorrhages.
- Antifreeze: Antifreeze can be a very dangerous chemical for pets as it possesses a sweet taste, which fails to deter pets from ingesting it, and can even encourage larger consumption. Antifreeze causes a high metabolite response in the body which can lead to calcium crystals forming in the kidneys and severe kidney failure. First symptoms look similar to that of alcohol poisoning: inability to maintain balance, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Symptoms can progress relatively quickly to severe lethargy, anorexia, depression, and even coma. Prognosis if not caught and treated quickly is poor.
- Advil/Aleve/Ibuprofen: Human NSAIDS are quite dangerous for pets. These drugs cause serious stomach and intestinal ulcers in pets as well as kidney failure.
- Tylenol: Acetaminophen is especially dangerous for cats but in both cats and dogs can cause severe damage to the red blood cells resulting in an inability to carry oxygen throughout the body. In dogs, Acetaminophen can also lead to liver failure.
Be aware of the products you keep in and around your home and their ingredients. Make sure products that are unsafe for your pets are kept in a safe and secure space. If you suspect ingestion of any toxic substance or notice your pet portraying any of the above symptoms it is very important to reach out to your veterinary provider.
Written by: Harriet Burquist