Top 20 Deadly Pet Poisons every owner must know about!
Think you know all of the poisonous foods, chemicals and toxins in your house that could poison your cat or dog? Better double check as I run through the 20 most common pet poisons in the kitchen, house and garden.
Our houses, garages and gardens are full of potential poisons and toxins that our dogs and cats would just love to eat. If you want more details about the poisonous foods for dogs and cats or the common household toxins our pets often come across then make sure you check out the videos linked below but for now let's jump into the list.
At number 1 and by far the most common pet poison seen is chocolate. Thankfully it's by no means the most dangerous and the majority of dog owners are aware not to feed their dogs chocolate. Make no mistake though, chocolate really can be a dangerous food, especially dark chocolate eaten by small dogs. Check out my dedicated chocolate poisoning article to find out how much chocolate your dog would have to eat to be poisonous.
The second most common pet poison I see in practice is rat bait toxicity. It is tasty to both dogs and cats so they may well actively search it out. It also gets moved by rodents so there is no such thing as a safe place to put it if you have pets. The most common type is based on warfarin and prevents the blood from being able to clot. As a result the poisoned animal bleeds to death. There is an antidote if caught in time but if you have pets don't use rat poison
Moldy food is my 3rd most common pet poison. Dogs scavenging in the bins or compost heap are the normal culprits. Mold on food can produce mycotoxins which affect the nervous system within a couple of hours of being eaten. The result is a dog who becomes wobbly and starts twitching which can progress to seizures and death. Thankfully the response to treatment is normally excellent.
At number 4 is not a poison in the strictest sense but regularly causes serious problems when eaten so is a worthy addition. Bones, especially cooked bones have the potential to fracture teeth, get stuck in the stomach and puncture holes in the intestine. The last 2 can easily prove fatal if not addressed by expensive surgery. Some dogs will get away with eating bones their whole life, others are not so lucky.
My 5th common pet poison and dangerous food for dogs is xylitol. This sugar-free sweetener causes a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar levels with higher doses also causing liver failure. It's really toxic stuff and found in a lot of sugar free foods. A single piece of sugar free gum can be enough to poison a 44lb or 20kg dog! Check out just where you find xylitol and why xylitol is so deadly.
Number 6 on the common pet poisons list is antifreeze. Also known as ethylene glycol. Antifreeze too is very poisonous stuff. It only takes a teaspoon to kill a cat and a tablespoon to poison a small dog. Once consumed the kidneys rapidly shut down and the fatality rate is pretty much 100%.
Slug bait is number 7. Like most poisons it is tasty and so it's not unusual for our pets to actually seek them out. It is also a deadly poison. A tiny 18g is all it takes to poison a 20 lb (9kg) dog. Once eaten it causes tremors, seizures and hyperthermia which progresses to multi-organ failure and death.
Grapes + Raisins
Raisins and grapes are the 8th common poison on the list. In affected animals they cause, potentially irreversible, kidney failure. The fact that's difference about these poisons compared to others is that we don't know exactly what part of grapes and raisins is toxic. This is combined with the fact that raisins and grapes are very poisonous to some animals but other animals seem to be unaffected. There is currently no way to know if your dog is sensitive to grapes and raisins or not so it's better to be very cautious.
Garlic, onions, leeks and chives
Another poisonous food for dogs and cats is my number 9. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives cause destruction of the bodies red blood cells which can result in anemia. While a lot needs to be eaten in one go, these are different to other poisons because small amounts eaten over a longer period of time can be just as dangerous as a large amount eaten in a single sitting. In terms of toxicity, garlic is 4 times more poisonous than onions.
For more details on all of these potential poisons check out my articles on:
find out how much your individual pet would need to eat, what the poisoning symptoms to look out for are and when to call for help. I also discuss if you should make your pet sick or not. This is not always a good idea for a number of reasons.
At number 10 and half way through the list is corn cobs. A bit like bones these are not poisonous in the strictest sense but once eaten can easily result in death so deserve to be on this list. The reason for this is that corn cobs are often scavenged from bins or even fed to dogs as a treat. They are a size that can be swallowed but doesn't get broken down in the stomach. Once in the intestines corn cobs will often get stuck, causing a complete obstruction. To make matters worse they are very hard to see on xray so surgery may be delayed longer than is ideal, making them even more dangerous.
Aspirin + ibuprofen
Aspirin and Ibuprofen are next and are often a result of being given by well meaning owners when they think their pets are in pain. These are both examples of NSAIDs, a class of drug which is used in pets but the human forms can be very dangerous. Our pets are not little people and poisoning causes intestinal ulceration and kidney damage. Always stick to medications advised by your vet.
Another human pain killer is 12 on the common pet poisons list. Paracetamol or acetaminophen, while safe for dogs at the right dose, is very toxic to cats. Cats lack the ability to break it down in the same way as people and dogs. Instead poisonous chemicals are formed by the liver which rapidly causes death. Never give your cat paracetamol.
Another cat poison is at number 13. Permethrin, as well as other pyrethrins and pyrethroids, is found in some flea and tick products for dogs. Cats are exceptionally sensitive to these chemicals with the most common symptoms seen being twitching and seizures. While most poisonings are due to the product being applied directly to a cats skin, it is a good idea to either use a different product on your dog if you also have cats or at least keep them seperate for a few hours while the product dries.
Common pet poison number 14 is Macadamia nuts. These are on every poisonous food list but really aren't that bad. They can result in a non-fatal syndrome causing vomiting, in-coordination and weakness. Some badly affected dogs will need supportive care to prevent other problems developing but in reality macadamia nuts are not as bad as the other common pet poisons on this list.
Household cleaners are my number 15 on the list. These are generally strong acids or alkalies that are not only irritant but can also be very corrosive. As well as burning the mouth, if swallowed they cause severe ulceration of the esophagus and stomach. This can be so bad that the intestines develop holes which is invariably fatal.
We're on the home straight now and next up are lilies. True lilies of the lillium family contains a poison in it's leaves, pollen and stem that causes a cats kidneys to fail. A cat can be poisoned by eating the plant or poisoning can also take place if its coat gets contaminated with pollen (such as from brushing up against a fresh bunch) which it then eats when grooming.
17 is coffee, or more specifically caffeine. Caffeine is of course not just found in coffee but also energy drinks, caffeine pills and tea. In our pets caffeine can cause hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, a racing heart rate and this can progress to an abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizure and even death. Caffeine pills are perhaps the biggest risk with only 3 and a half needed to be toxic to a 10lb (4.5kg) pet.
Number 18 might surprise you but is one of the most popular calls owners make to the poison service. Glow sticks and jewelry contain an intense irritant that causes profuse drooling, gagging and retching. The symptoms can look really severe but thankfully the chemical itself has a very low toxicity so recovery is usually pretty rapid without the need for treatment.
Bread dough is my penultimate common toxin poison for dogs and cats. When eaten, the warm stomach causes the dough to expand and also start producing alcohol. It is actually the alcohol toxicity that is generally the cause of death so if you are a home baker keep any bread dough out of reach.
Last but not least in my top 20 dangerous foods and household toxins for dogs and cats is other human and animal medications. he most common reported ones are heart medication, antidepressants, ADHD treatments, cold and allergy medications and sleeping pills. Signs of poisoning really depend on what drug your pet has eaten. Needless to say though, don't give your pet any drugs unless advised by your vet. In some cases, a single tablet of certain human medications can be enough to result in toxicity.
This means that not only should you keep any medication safely locked away, when you are getting any out of the container it is best if your pet is not in the same room so that should any be dropped they can be found before your pet has a chance to eat them.
Teaching your dog a "leave it" command can also really reduce the risk of your dog being poisoned by something you drop on the ground or an item they come across when out and about. Here's a great video that teaches how to get your dog to "leave it".
Has your pet been poisoned by something not on this list? Please let everyone know what else they should be careful of by leaving a comment below.
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