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Household Toxins

By August 31, 2023No Comments

Dogs and cats are susceptible to many toxins that are in many of our homes. While this is not a comprehensive list of every danger in your home, these are the most common toxins we see on an emergency basis.

Lilies – While lilies are a beautiful flower, they should never be enjoyed in a household with cats. All parts of the lily- ranging from the flower petals to the pollen can be lethal to your cats, causing acute kidney failure. We do not recommend that lilies ever be kept in your house if you own cats, even with direct supervision or close monitoring. If your cat is exposed to lilies, wipe away the pollen on their face/paws to reduce exposure and immediately seek veterinary care. Fluid therapy and monitoring of kidney values will be indicated to best protect your beloved cat. The only “lilies” that do not cause kidney injury are the Lily of the Valley, the Pece Lily and Calla Lily.

Grapes/Raisins– Grapes and raisins are a frustrating toxin for dogs as any amount can be toxic to any size dog. There is no correlation between your dog’s weight and the amount ingested for us to determine safety. Not all dogs are susceptible to this toxin, but the 30-50% of dogs that are, can experience kidney failure. Bring your pet in as soon as you realize they have ingested the grapes/raisins so that we can make your pet vomit to decontaminate them. We will then discuss fluid options and inpatient versus outpatient care and kidney value monitoring.

Xylitol– Xylitol is a sugar-free substitute that can be found in gum, sugar-free foods (check your peanut butter!), toothpaste and medications/supplements, to name a few! More and more products are popping up with xylitol, which may also be termed “birch sugar” on product labels. Xylitol is rapidly absorbed after ingestion and can cause life threatening low blood sugar and liver damage. As soon as you realize your dog has ingested xylitol, seek emergency care. If your pet seems weak/wobbly on your way to the ER, you can apply Karo Syrup to their gums to help control their blood sugar.

Sago Palm– Sago palm is a short, squatty palm tree that many owners have in their backyard that they do not realize can be fatal for dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic and signs of exposure starting with vomiting and diarrhea, low blood sugar, and resulting in liver damage. If you have a sago palm on your property and have dogs, the plant should be removed from your yard. If you realize that your pet has been exposed, seek care immediately so that we can induce vomiting and start your pet on medications to help protect their liver.

Mushrooms– Many types of wild mushrooms grow in our area, many of which are non-toxic but we also have toxic mushrooms that can cause gastrointestinal upset, liver damage and seizures. Removing all mushrooms from your property as soon as you see them is the best way to prevent any health issues. If you commonly have mushrooms on your property, consider going outside and inspecting your yard prior to letting your dog outside to reduce exposure. If your dog has ingested a mushroom, bring them in immediately so we can induce vomiting to decontaminate them. If you see additional mushrooms in your yard, pull those from the ground and bring them with you so that we can do our best to identify the type of mushroom that was ingested in case the vomited sample is too chewed up to be identified.

Tylenol– Tylenol (acetaminophen) is a toxin that can affect both dogs and cats. Cats are more prone to toxicity than dogs. NEVER administer Tylenol to your pet without first speaking with your veterinarian. Tylenol can cause liver and kidney injury as well as damage to the red blood cell, causing anemia. If your pet accidentally ingests Tylenol, seek care so that we can induce vomiting to reduce the exposure level and do your best to tell us how many milligrams (mg) they were exposed to so we can determine their degree of toxicity to best formulate a treatment plan.

NSAIDs– Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin should never be given to your pet without consulting a veterinarian. NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, kidney failure, liver damage, damage platelets and cause seizures. If your pet accidentally ingests this type of medication, seek emergency care so that we can induce vomiting. Do your best to tell us how many milligrams (mg) they were exposed to so we can determine their degree of toxicity to best formulate a treatment plan. While you may be tempted to give your pet a human formulated NSAID when they are painful or limping, we strongly discourage this as it will prevent us from being able to prescribe a more effective and safe veterinary-formulated NSAID for 5-7 days due to significant risks from switching between different NSAIDs. If your pet is in pain, seek veterinary care prior to giving your pet any medication at home.

Chocolate– All types of chocolate, ranging from white to dark to cacao are toxic to dogs and cats. While we do not often see cats for this, certain food-motivated cats will sometimes get themselves into trouble! Chocolate is rapidly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and based upon the amount can cause vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis, fast heart rate and irregular heart rhythms. If your pet ingests chocolate, seek emergency veterinary care so that we can induce vomiting to decontaminate their stomach. We will then do our best to determine the amount that they ingested and what their toxicity level is. Depending on this, we may need to keep your pet in hospital for monitoring of the heart rate/rhythm or send your pet home with medication for you to monitor. 

Rodenticides – Three types of rodenticides are on the market- anticoagulant, Bromethalin and Cholecalciferol. Anticoagulant rodenticides cause bleeding abnormalities and can cause patients to hemorrhage internally. Vitamin K is the antidote and with prompt decontamination and emergency assessment a good outcome is likely. Bromethalin is a neurotoxin that can cause tremors, seizures, paralysis and death. There is no antidote for this toxin and prompt decontamination and then charcoal administration are imperative to try to prevent toxicity. Depending on the dose ingested, your pet may need to be hospitalized for ongoing care and monitoring. Cholecalciferol rodenticides contain vitamin D that can damage the kidneys and cause high calcium levels. The toxin is rapidly absorbed, therefore prompt decontamination and monitoring of kidney and electrolyte values, fluid therapy as well as a low calcium diet may be indicated depending on the dose.

Kate Behnke, DVM