Common Household Pet Poisons

Feb 28, 2023Blog Posting

A picture containing cat, indoor, plant, mammal

Preventative health care is the best way to give your pet a healthier, happier life! Knowing what the common pet poisons might be around your pet is crucial as a pet parent.

Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products are fine to use around your pets. However, your cleaning product may have special instructions to ensure the safety of your animals.

For instance, if the label states, “Keep pets and children away from the area until dry,” follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used correctly. However, they can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce severe chemical burns. Some detergents can create a similar reaction, and cats can be particularly sensitive to ingredients such as phenols. Phenols are organic compounds that you find in many products.

As a rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging or a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.

Air Fresheners

Some forms of air fresheners can be quite toxic, especially to animals (and children!) who might ingest the substances or cannot avoid the parts of the home where air fresheners are used.

The ingredient list for most air fresheners are volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. These substances can cause a long list of maladies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the health effects of VOCs may include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination, lethargy, and nausea
  • Damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause it in people

Essential Oils

Essential oils, which are included in many air freshener products, can be very toxic, especially to cats. If you simply must have essential oils in the home, make sure they are kept in a location where your pets cannot come into direct contact with them or inhale them. For more information about air fresheners and essential oils’ toxicity to pets, you can read an article from PetMD on them here.

Foods Poisonous to Pets

Food is in the top three of the most common things that poison pets. Food that is safe for humans can be deadly for pets. To be on the safe side, you should never allow your pet to have any of the following things:

  • Coffee – either the grounds, beans, or the drink itself. Caffeine of any kind can be deadly if ingested in sufficient quantity.
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Alcohol
  • Foods with a lot of fat
  • Macadamia nuts

Human Medication

Pets ingesting medication meant for humans is the number one reason people call the emergency animal poison control number.

You should never give your pet any human medication unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. That includes:

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen (Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc.)
  • Antidepressants or anxiety medications
  • ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.)
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Prescription medications for medical conditions
  • Vitamins and supplements. * Note, there are vitamins and supplements made specifically for pets that are safe. If you would like to find out more about them for your pet, please feel free to ask us.


Tobacco products are not safe for any pet and are particularly deadly for birds and pocket pets like guinea pigs or hamsters. Just a small amount of tobacco from a cigarette butt can cause serious poisoning if ingested. The toxic dose for nicotine in pets is 0.5 to one mg per pound of pet body weight while the lethal dose is four mg per pound of pet body weight

Below is a chart to put this in relation to quantities of tobacco products:

Chart showing relation to quantities of tobacco products
Veterinary Partner®


To put this in some perspective, a 1 ½ pound Guinea pig would only need to eat 1 cigarette butt to become poisoned.  A 40-lb dog would need less than a quarter teaspoon of e-juice.

Poisonous Plant

Many plants are poisonous to pets. Some poisonous plants can be found growing wild or grown in your home or gardens. They can also be used in floral decorations. So, it is good to be familiar with all types of poisonous plants. Their toxicity also depends on the species of animal and sometimes how much they ingest. Below are some of the common poisonous plants. You can get more information about poisonous plants from the article: Illinois Poisonous Plants and from the Almanac: Plants That Are Toxic to Cats, Dogs, and Other Pets.

Wild-growing plants in Illinois:

  • Poison Ivy
  • Jimson Weed
  • Nightshade
  • Poison Hemlock
  • Pokeweed

Toxic Garden/Landscape plants:

  • Azaleas
  • Daffodils
  • Rhododendron
  • Canada Yew
  • Delphinium or Larkspur
  • Foxglove
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Morning Glory (seeds)
  • Aloe Vera Plant
  • Boxwood
  • Sago Palm

Toxic House and Holiday Plants

  • American Holly (leaves & berries)
  • Philodendron
  • Snake Plant or Mother in Laws Tongue
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Rubber Plants

Fertilizers, Mulches, and Weed Killers

Fertilizers can contain toxic additives to pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse if eaten in large quantities. Safer pet-friendly fertilizer is available, but you should still always store it out of paw’s reach because it still is not healthy to eat. Fertilizers can also contain herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and snail bait.

Before using any mulch, check to see if it is toxic to your pet. Cocoa mulch, also known as cocoa bean mulch, is a popular mulch. It has an attractive rich, brown color, pleasant aroma, and excellent nutritional benefits for the soil. Sadly, it is toxic to pets. It contains cocoa bean shells and various chemicals that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, weakness, seizures, or death when eaten by pets.

There are numerous types of weed killer products, and many of them can cause dehydration, bloody vomiting, breathing and heart issues, mouth ulcers, and kidney or liver failure if your pet ingests them.

If you can, you should avoid using any weed-killing products at all, but at a minimum, you should try to eliminate the contact your pets have with any. A six-year scientific study conducted by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine found that lawn chemicals increased a dog’s chance of developing cancer by up to 70 percent.


As with household cleaners, read and follow label instructions before using any type of insecticide, pesticide, herbicide, or rodenticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “ for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as severe or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.

If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some newer rodenticides have no known antidote and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.

Signs of Poisoning

As a pet owner, you want to keep yourself informed so you can tell as rapidly as possible if your furry friend needs medical attention. These are some of the common things to watch out for:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Lethargy
  4. Irregular/stumbling gait
  5. Lack of appetite or water intake
  6. Difficulty or irregular breathing
  7. Coughing up blood

This is not a fully comprehensive list, but if you observe any of these indicators, you should act as quickly as possible because the faster you get help, the better the chances are that there will be no long-term adverse effects for your loved one.

If you see signs that your animal may be poisoned or suspect they ingested something poisonous, don’t wait! Call:

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435 They have all of the poisonous ingredients and treatments to guide you and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can also send us their information and treatment directions so we can all work together to help your pet.

You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661

The faster you act, the better the chances are that your furry family member can make a full recovery.

As an important reminder: do not induce vomiting in your pet after poison ingestion unless you are directed to do so by a trained professional.

Also, please keep our office number, an emergency vet number, and Poison Control or Poison Helpline numbers where you can easily find them in case of an emergency.

Final Words

We believe in the value of the human-animal bond. We understand that you always want whatever is best for your pet, which is exactly what we want too. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Your Friendly Team,

Wags and Whiskers Veterinary

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