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Common Household Poisons


The average home contains many possible poisons for pets and children. Properly storing and locking up hazardous items is the first step to preventing accidental poisonings. An important thing to remember for pets: many won't hesitate to chew through child locking caps and "safe" containers. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some common toxins to be aware of to protect accidental ingestion by your pet (or children).

1. Foods and Food Additives

Sugar Dog Loves Me by D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr
by D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr

Probably one of the most common known "food toxins" for pets is chocolate, but there are many others. Foods to keep away from pets include, but are not limited to: raisins and grapes and products containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener).

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2. Human Medications

Poison Pills - Getty Images/Michael Matisse
by Getty Images/Michael Matisse

One of the most common household poisons are medications - either discovered by the pet or purposely administered by the owner. Everyone is familiar with the "Keep out of reach of children" warnings, but may underestimate their pets. Pets have an advantage over children -- their strong jaws and teeth can chew through many "child safe" bottles.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications should not be given to pets (unless directly advised by your veterinarian); accidental poisonings, especially from NSAIDs (e.g. Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin®), acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) and antidepressants (e.g. Effexor®, Cymbalta®, Prozac®) are very common.

3. Plants and Trees

Stargazer Lilies by steakpinball on Flickr
by steakpinball on Flickr

Lilies and other beautiful plants and trees that adorn our homes and yards may also be deadly poison if ingested or even chewed upon. It is wise to confine pets from known poisonous plants if possible. Most county extension offices or gardening societies in your area will be able to assist you in selecting safe plants for your geographic area and climate.

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4. Pest Control Baits and Poisons

Poison Label - by Getty / Stockbytes
by Getty / Stockbytes

Rat and mouse poisons and any other baits, such as slug and snail bait should be used with extreme caution in a household with pets.

These items are baits -- they are made to entice animals to eat. Hiding the box behind the cupboard is not guaranteed safe, either. Pets have been known to move furniture or items to reach poisons. Also, other animals or events may move the poison into easy reach.

5. Flea and Tick Treatments

Electron micrograph image of a flea
Image © Center for Disease Control (CDC)

No one wants to deal with fleas and ticks and all of the problems they present. However, in the effort to rid your pet of these parasites, caution is advised -- these treatments are also toxins (designed to kill the parasites)! Used at the recommended dosages and protocols, pesticides should be safe for the animals that they are intended to be used on.

A common mistake is to apply dog topicals to cats. Cats may also suffer toxic exposure by being close to or licking other pets who have had topicals applied.

Using more of the product or not following product recommendations is NOT the way to kill more fleas and ticks; it may seriously harmful or fatal for your pet.

6. Lawn and Garden Herbicides and Pesticides

Dog Bluey in the Park - credit: mikebaird on Flickr
Image credit: mikebaird on Flickr

Use of products on lawns and gardens to control insects and weeds is common for many households. These chemicals are not intended for use on animals, so be sure to allow for proper drying time in the area before releasing pets to roll in, eat, or otherwise have contact with treated areas and plants. Store all containers in safe areas and dispose of empty containers safely.

Many fertilizers cause gastrointestinal upset. Some may be combined with pesticides and/or herbicides, which can be harmful or fatal to pets.

If at all possible, it is best reduce or eliminate the use of yard chemicals. Check with local pest and garden centers -- many now offer non-toxic, organic alternatives for pest and weed control.

7. Household Cleaners and Chemicals

Cleaning Products - Getty Images / Nichola Evans
by Getty Images / Nichola Evans

Products used to clean the house, do laundry and dishes, maintain pools and hot tubs, and maintenance products such as paints and lubricants all pose a risk to curious or bored pets.

Never assume that because the product is in a spray bottle or can that it is "safe." Newer products will have safety information about the product, often with a phone number to call in the event of ingestion or exposure.

8. Antifreeze (Ethylene glycol)

Radiator Antifreeze by evelynishere on Flickr
by evelynishere on Flickr

Antifreeze is a deadly poison. Even if you aren't a mechanic working on cars in the driveway, cars may leak this fluid at any time of the year. It is a bright green-yellow liquid that is sweet to the taste, attracting pets. One swallow may be lethal for small animals.

A safer alternative is propylene glycol.

Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

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