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Weston's Animal Control Officer Karen O'Reilly has posted helpful tips, FAQs, and other items of interest regarding Weston's wildlife, farm animals, and house pets.

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Aug 07

Common Household Pet Toxins

Posted on August 7, 2019 at 3:37 PM by Kara Fleming

Did you just bring home a puppy who thinks everything big enough to fit in his mouth should be eaten? Or maybe you have a cat who believes the house plants in the window are there for his gnawing pleasure?

Whatever the case may be, if you have pets in your home, it is a worthwhile task to become familiar with common toxins that could potentially poison your pet and what to do if it happens.

Chocolate and caffeine are known to be toxic by most pet owners. The primary principle that causes the toxicity is methylxanthines theobromine, which is 3-10 times greater in chocolate than caffeine. Both contribute to chocolate toxicosis, which is potentially life-threatening for dogs though most pets are susceptible. White and milk chocolate contain the least amount of methylxanthines; however, cocoa powder, dark, and baker's (unsweetened) chocolate containing the highest levels.The hazard of chocolate depends on the type of chocolate, the amount consumed, and your pet's size. If your pet ingests chocolate, contact your vet right away. Even an ounce of chocolate could be potentially fatal.

In recent years, the food additive Xylitol has become a very popular ingredient in sugar-free products. It can be found anywhere from gum and candy to baked goods and toothpaste. It is considered a sweetener, so dogs and cats are attracted to it, but when it is ingested by a pet, it can severely affect their liver. 

Sharing human food with a pet can be a special treat. Or maybe they get the occasional scrap right from the table (no judgement, I cave to the begging puppy eyes too!). If this describes your relationship with your pet, becoming familiar with common cooking ingredients that are toxic to animals could save your fur (or feather) baby a lot of discomfort, or worse:
  • garlic, chives, and onion (powders, too)
  • grapes/raisins
  • chocolate
  • macadamia nuts
  • rhubarb 
  • yeast dough (raw)
  • alcohol
  • avocado
Houseplants can be a very pretty feature in any home, but what are the risks to your pet if a part of the plant is ingested? Different plants can affect your pet in many different ways, from diarrhea, vomiting, irritated mucous membranes, acting lethargic and depressed, bloody stool, to much worse. A few common houseplants that will cause a mild to moderate reaction if ingested are: 
  • peace lily
  • calla lily
  • ZZ plant
  • jade tree
  • aloe
  • arrowhead
  • dieffenbachia (dumb cane)
  • snake plants
  • dracaena fragrans (cornstalk plant)
  • kalanchoe
  • caladiums
  • eucalyptus
  • philodendrons
The following are extremely toxic and can cause death! These should never be kept in the same household as pets:
  • bird of paradise (strelitzia)
  • sago (sage) alms 
  • Kafir lily
  • desert rose (adenium)
  • flame lily
  • oleander
  • brunfelsia (kiss-me-quick/lady-of-the-night)

Household Cleaners

When the label and directions are followed on household cleaners, they are generally deemed to be safe for use around pets. However, if cleaners are ingested by pets, vet care should be sought out. Any products containing Cationic detergents -- such as fabric softeners, sanitizers, disinfectants, and rust inhibitors in petroleum products -- are more harmful if ingested than other products. Also, cats are very sensitive to essential oils (wintergreen, peppermint, citrus, tea tree, pine, eucalyptus, cinnamon, pennyroyal). Using products containing these in a cat household should be avoided.

Pets metabolize and eliminate medications differently than humans. They should never be given human medicine. If your pet accidentally ingests human medicine, vet care should be sought out immediately. 

I highly recommend checking out the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control. This site is a fantastic resource and even has a mobile app.