As pet owners, we’ve all experienced that awful stomach-dropping feeling you get when you step inside the house after a long day at work and see the telltale signs that your pet has been busy eating something they shouldn’t have while you were away. Your pet is either nowhere to be found—probably hiding under the bed waiting to see your reaction—or smiling sheepishly in the middle of the destruction. Depending on what your pet has eaten, your emotions might range from rage—“Not my new cashmere sweater!”—to disgust—“I don’t think those are Milk Duds”—to total panic—“Was that chocolate box empty this morning?” Chances are you’ve felt all of these emotions and more.
When you share your home with a pet, everything becomes fair game if it’s left where they can reach it, and that can lead to some scary situations if they get into something toxic. Unfortunately, pets lack discernment when they see something they’d like to taste, and that means it’s our job as pet owners to remove the temptations. To help you pet-proof your home, our team at Companion Veterinary Clinic is sharing a list of common pet toxins that can be found in nearly every home.
You see medication—your pet sees a potential tasty treat
Pills. They’re everywhere—in your purse, on your nightstand, on the floor under the sink from last night when you had a terrible headache, fumbled around in the dark for something to ease the pain, and heard the small ping of a dropped pill. (You told yourself you would remember to get it in the morning, but we all know how that goes.)
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are great for people, and we’re lucky to have them, but your pet doesn’t know that the shiny pill on the floor is your heart medication and not an abandoned treat they were lucky to stumble upon. All medications—including prescription veterinary medications—are potentially hazardous for dogs and cats, and the following are some of the most toxic:
- NSAIDS — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can cause a gastrointestinal ulceration and—at higher doses—kidney failure. Signs include vomiting, dark, tarry stool, lethargy, and lack of appetite.
- Acetaminophen — Acetaminophen is a popular pain reliever that can cause liver damage in pets. Cats are especially sensitive to acetaminophen because they are unable to metabolize the drug efficiently. Signs include lack of appetite, lethargy, salivation, vomiting, and respiratory distress.
- Antidepressants — While some antidepressant drugs are prescribed at veterinary doses for cats and dogs with anxiety, pets should never be given these medications without a veterinary prescription because of significant dosing differences. Signs of a toxic overdose include lethargy, agitation, abnormalities in heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, and seizures, depending on the particular medication.
- ADHD medications — Medications used for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are stimulants that cause signs including agitation, hyperactivity, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hyperthermia, tremors, and seizures.
- Blood pressure medications — Blood pressure medications, like ACE inhibitors and beta blockers, can cause weakness, stumbling, and dangerously low blood pressure in pets.
Sharing is not caring when it comes to food and pets
Your pet may say otherwise, but it’s best not to share your food with them. Many foods we enjoy contain ingredients that can be toxic for pets, and consuming only a small amount can cause serious illness. Chocolate is widely recognized as a pet safety hazard, but the following foods also contain toxic ingredients:
- Grapes and raisins
- Onions, chives, garlic, and leeks
- Items that contain xylitol
- Yeast dough
For a complete list of unsafe foods for pets, check out this list from the ASPCA.
Plants can be perilous for a curious pet
Indoor and outdoor plants are beautiful, but many contain harmful properties that make pets sick and can cause life-threatening organ damage. Depending on the plant, pets may react after consuming the leaves, sap, petals, or stems. Plant toxins can cause various reactions, from mild gastrointestinal distress to acute kidney failure. Dangerous plants include lilies, azaleas, cyclamen, daffodils, dieffenbachia, oleander, sago palms, hyacinth, tulips, and chrysanthemums.
For your pet’s safety, keep toxic plants out of reach. To determine if your plants are pet-safe, use this searchable poisonous plant list.
While we’ve all had moments when our pet has tested our patience, made a mess, and turned something treasured into a chew toy, we wouldn’t trade them for the world. Protecting your pet from everyday hazards begins with awareness, and, by taking precautions and storing toxic items out of reach, your home really can be a safe haven once more—for you and your pet.