Poison Prevention and Your Pet by Dr. Krista Hight

One of the most common things I hear from owners of sick dogs and cats is, I think my neighbor poisoned him. I find this to be very rarely (if ever) the case, but for some reason the suspicion is always there (perhaps Roscoe does too much backyard barking). The more common scenario is accidental poisoning by very curious pets who eat their owners' plants/medications/food/whatever else they can get their paws on, and panicked owners who call the clinic wondering what the heck they should do.


Chocolate, Labs, and Chocolate Labs labs and chocolate2

Toxicities are almost always dose dependent, meaning a large dog has to ingest a large amount to be poisoned, and a small dog only has to ingest a small amount. When your dog or cat has eaten something potentially dangerous, it's important to know the weight of your animal, what time the ingestion happened, and what the substance is. For instance, if your dog has just eaten all of your Valentine's chocolates, we need to know how big the package was and what kind of chocolate it was (milk, dark, etc.), when the crime occurred, and how much your Labrador weighs (let's be honest, it's always the Labradors!). If you don't know all of this information, that's okay, we will recommend whatever is safest for your pet.


Potential Treatments

Mostly everything that has been ingested can be decontaminated. We can give an IV injection of an emetic to make dogs and cats vomit what they have eaten (as long as it is within two hours). Vomiting typically clears the stomach of 80 percent of its contents, so activated charcoal is often a necessary second step that prevents the rest of the stomach contents from being absorbed into the bloodstream. If it is something particularly toxic to the kidneys and/or liver, then we may also have to place your pet on fluid therapy for several days to try to flush the system and protect the organs.


Beautiful but Dangerous

cat and flowerSo please be aware of the food you are feeding. If your pet is hurting, resist the urge to give them over-the-counter pain medications. One adult Ibuprofen can cause fatal kidney damage in a small dog. If your cat likes to eat plants, don't keep houseplants or fresh-cut flowers, as a single lily can cause fatal kidney damage to a cat. If you ever have any questions, we are always just a phone call away.


The Poison-Safe Home

Here is a list of items to keep away from your beloved pet(s) so they can stay safe.


  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate (all forms)
  • Coffee
  • Fatty foods
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Onions, onion powder
  • Garlic, garlic powder
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener found in many candies, gum, etc.)

Environmental hazards

  • Toads, insects, spiders, snakes
  • Blue-green algae in ponds
  • Compost piles
  • Fertilizers
  • Mushrooms
  • Outdoor plants and plant bulbs

Household hazards

  • Rat and mouse baits
  • Mothballs
  • Citronella candles
  • Flea products
  • Swimming pool treatment supplies
  • Fly baits containing methomyl
  • Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde
  • Antifreeze
  • Ice-melting products
  • Post-1982 pennies

Medication (human)

  • Aspirin
  • Cold medicines
  • Anti-cancer drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Vitamins
  • Diet pills
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Various topical ointments and salves

Holiday hazards

  • Christmas tree water
  • Electrical cords
  • Ribbons and tinsel
  • Batteries
  • Glass ornaments
  • Halloween candy



Common Poisonous Plants

Lilies - highly toxic to cats; ingesting small amounts can cause severe kidney damage

Marijuana - ingestion causes depression of the central nervous system; you may see vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and seizures

Sago Palm - all of the parts belong to this plant are poisonous, but the seeds/nuts are the most toxic; ingesting 1 or 2 seeds can result in vomiting, depression, diarrhea, seizures, and liver failure

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs - ingestion of the bulbs causes depression of the central nervous system, severe gastrointestinal upset, convulsions, and cardiac abnormalities

Azalea/Rhododendron - grayanotoxins (found in rhododendron species) cause vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness, coma, and death

Oleander - contains cardiac glycosides that cause abnormal heart function, gastrointestinal upset, hypothermia, and even death

Amaryllis - common around Easter; causes vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and depression

Chrysanthemum - may cause gastrointestinal upset, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression and loss of coordination

English Ivy - may cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, and abdominal pain

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