If you’ve ever turned your back for a second only to turn around and see your dog devouring a pack of gum or your cat on the counter licking the spout of the Windex bottle, you know pets have a habit of getting their paws onto things that are dangerous. The veterinarians and toxicology experts at the Pet Poison Helpline put together these lists of the items that generated the most poison consultations for dogs and cats in 2013 in the hopes that pet parents will be more cautious about what they leave out. While not all of the things on this list are highly toxic, they are all household items that you should keep somewhere where your pets do not have access to.
Note: The items below are presented in order of frequency, with number one being the item that caused the most emergency calls to Pet Poison Helpline.
1. Chocolate. Dark equals dangerous! Bakers and dark chocolate are the most toxic, and milk chocolate if ingested in large amounts.
2. Xylitol. This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications, and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).
3. NSAIDs. Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestions result in stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
4. Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications. Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.
5. Rodenticides (mouse poison). These may cause internal bleeding (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, etc.) or brain swelling (bromethalin), even in small amounts.
6. Grapes and raisins. These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.
7. Insect bait stations. These rarely cause poisoning in dogs––the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.
8. Prescription ADD/ADHD medications. Amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in pets.
9. Glucosamine joint supplements. Overdose of tasty products such as Cosequin and Move Free typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.
10. Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers. Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses or backpacks, is rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.
1. Lilies. Plants in the Lilium species, such as Easter, Tiger, and Asiatic lilies, cause kidney failure in cats. All cat parents must be aware of these highly toxic plants!
2. Household cleaners. Most general purpose cleaners (e.g., Windex, Formula 409) are fairly safe, but concentrated products like toilet bowl or drain cleaners can cause chemical burns.
3. Flea and tick spot-on products for dogs. Those that are pyrethroid based (e.g., Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant’s, etc.) cause tremors and seizures and can be deadly to cats.
4. Antidepressants. Cymbalta and Effexor topped the antidepressant list in 2013. Cats seem strangely drawn to these medications. Beware: ingestion can cause severe neurologic and cardiac effects.
5. NSAIDs. Cats are even more sensitive than dogs to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Even veterinary specific NSAIDs like Rimadyl and Meloxicam should be used with caution.
6. Prescription ADD/ADHD medications. These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death.
7. Over the counter cough, cold and allergy medications. Those that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are particularly toxic, as they damage red blood cells and cause liver failure.
8. Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Common houseplants like the peace lily, philodendron, and pothos can cause oral/upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested, but severe symptoms are uncommon.
9. Household insecticides. Thankfully, most household sprays and powders are fairly safe, but it’s best to keep curious kitties away until the products have dried or settled.
10. Glow sticks and glow jewelry. These irresistible “toys” contain a chemical called dibutyl phthalate. When it contacts the mouth, pain and excessive foaming occurs, but the signs quickly resolve when the cat eats food or drinks water.
Accidents do happen: If your pet may have ingested something toxic, Pet Poison Helpline recommends taking action immediately. Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. Pet Poison Helpline also has a helpful iPhone application with an extensive database of over 200 poisons dangerous to cats and dogs. “Pet Poison Help” is available on iTunes for $1.99.