Thursday, March 24, 2016

Top 10 Household Toxins to Dogs and Cats

 Top 10 Household Toxins to Dogs and Cats  

Written by Ashley Forti, BVMS, MRCVS 

1. Chocolate, coffee and caffeine
These products contain theobromine (a methylxanthine) found in cocoa seeds, coffee beans and some nuts. Toxic side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, tremors, seizures and death. Dark chocolate, baking chocolate and cocoa powder have higher levels of methylxanthines than milk or white chocolates.
2. Raisins and grapes
These fruits have the potential to cause kidney failure, but the toxic substance is unknown and not dose-related. Some dogs can eat them and be just fine, but other dogs may be more sensitive and develop clinical signs after ingesting a small amount. It is best to avoid feeding these to your pets due to the potentially lethal effects.
3. Over the counter medications (Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, etc.)
It may be tempting to try to treat your pet’s pain at home; however administering these common pain relievers can be deadly. Symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, ulceration, perforation leading to sepsis and death. They can also cause acute kidney failure and neurological disease. There are other veterinary pain medications that are specifically formulated for dogs and cats, and are much safer to use than the human versions.
4. Lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis species)
Lily toxicity has mainly been reported in cats. The target organ is the kidneys, and clinical signs include vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and acute kidney failure. All parts of the plant are toxic and clinical signs are usually seen between six-12 hours after ingestion.
5. Garlic, onions and chives
These plants can cause gastrointestinal upset and red blood cell damage in dogs and especially cats. If they ingest toxic doses, they can develop a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed called Heinz Body Anemia.
6. Xylitol
This is an artificial sweetener used in many candies, sugar-free gum, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release, low-blood sugar and leads to liver failure. Initial signs include vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination and seizures. Prompt treatment may be effective but liver failure can be seen within days of ingestion; if this occurs prognosis is poor.
7. Hops
Home brewing has become very popular and veterinarians are seeing an increase in the number of dogs that have ingested hops. Hops are used in the beer-making process and are toxic to dogs. It can cause a dangerously high body temperature, panting, elevated heart rate, anxiety, vomiting and even death. Effects can be seen very quickly and death can occur after only six hours.
8. Raw bread dough/yeast
Yeast can cause your pet’s stomach to painfully swell, bloat with gas and potentially twist,
which is a life-threatening emergency. The yeast undergoes a reaction in the stomach
and one of the byproducts of this reaction is ethanol. Ethanol (alcohol) created in the
stomach causes your pet to become drunk and other symptoms of a twisted gut may become apparent.
9. Albuterol inhaler
Biting or chewing these inhalers can cause severe issues including arrhythmias, changes in blood pressure, anxiety, restlessness, tremors, weakness and electrolyte
abnormalities. With prompt veterinary care, prognosis is generally good.
10. Recreational substances
These substances can be consumed by accident and cause severe symptoms. Alcohol causes depression, lethargy, sedation, wobbliness and metabolic acidosis. IV fl uid therapy and other treatments may be warranted if your pet is experiencing these symptoms. Marijuana causes vomiting, changes in heart rate and body temperature, vocalizing, urinary incontinence, hyperactivity, seizures, weakness, depression and coma. Dogs often eat brownies or cookies that contain this substance, but they can also eat the marijuana by itself.

 There are hundreds of other household toxins that are toxic to our pets. For a complete list please visit The most important part of treating any toxin exposure is rapid decontanmination, so it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. If you are at all concerned that your pet may have ingested any of these toxins, please contact Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services at (585) 424-1277 or ASPCA poison control at (888) 426-4435. 

Dr. Ashley Forti is a staff doctor at Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services. She graduated from the University of Glasgow School of Medicine in Glasgow, Scotland in 2015. Dr. Forti's professional interests include small animal surgery and exotic pets. She has a four-year-old Russian Tortoise named Boris.