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Common Household Toxins


Hi, I’m Chico. I live here at My Zoo Animal Hospital. I eat prescription cat food, R/D, to help with weight loss. You see, I like to eat anything and everything I can find, so I gain weight really easily. However, there are some things pets should never eat. Dr. Debbie and Dr. Katie told me some of these things are very common in households, and I want to share what they told me so none of my feline or canine friends get into anything they shouldn’t.

  • Chocolate – Although the sweet taste of chocolate doesn’t really appeal to me, my canine friends love it. So what’s so bad about chocolate? Well, it’s actually got 2 toxic components in it: theobromine and caffeine. Both of these are chemicals called methylxanthines. An overdose causes the muscles to become over-stimulated and can lead to seizures.
  • Cigarettes – The nicotine is toxic to animals. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excitation, and even death. Just how much is toxic? Well just a handful of cigarette butts or 1 whole cigar could be lethal to a small (< 10 pound) dog.
  • Bread dough – Bread dough made with yeast can expand in the stomach and cause distention. As the fermentation progresses, alcohol is produced which is also toxic to animals. Signs to look for include abdominal distention, nonproductive retching (as if to vomit), and signs of drunkenness.
  • Raisins – So this one is a mystery. Nobody knows what about grapes and raisins are toxic. This one seems to mostly affect dogs, but there have been a few scattered cases of them hurting cats (and ferrets) too. The minimum dose that causes illness is not known and appears to vary according to each individual. So keep those raisins and grapes away from your pets!
  • Xylitol – Xylitol is a sweetener used in a variety of products including chewing gum. It causes the sugar in the blood to drop dramatically – so much that it could be fatal.
  • Antifreeze – Ethylene glycol has a very sweet taste that appeals to dogs especially. Unfortunately it damages the kidneys and can lead to death. The early signs of antifreeze poisoning are vomiting followed by weakness, depression, rapid breathing, and difficulty walking.
  • House plants – many different types of house plants are toxic to animals. Certain types of lilies are particularly toxic to cats. Be sure to keep these out of reach of your pets. Here are some examples of poisonous plants: azaleas, rhododendron, castor bean, cyclamen, foxglove, kalanchoe, lilies, marijuana, oleander, sago palm, tulip/narcissus bulbs, and yew.
  • Human medications – As animals, we have a different way of processing drugs and chemicals than humans. Therefore, many human medications are not safe for us. Please don’t give us any medications at home without first consulting Dr. Debbie or Dr. Katie. If your furry friend gets into any of your medications please call us as soon as you find out.

Other toxic foods include alcohol, avocados, macadamia nuts, mold/spoiled foods, onions, garlic, and coffee. More toxic household items include cleaning agents, baits for pests, insecticides, paint, polishes, fuels/oils, and rodenticides.

So what do you do if your pet has gotten into any of the things I listed here? Stay calm, write down what and how much your pet ingested, and give us a call for more directions.

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