Prevention of Poisonings

General Information

Our pets are marvelous beings. We provide food, attention, training, medical care and love. In exchange, they offer companionship, protection, enjoyment and their own love for us. For all that they have to offer, though, they must rely on us for protection from harm. We need to look at our homes through the eyes of our pets, seeking out "toys" and "entertainment" that may be harmful for them.

Dogs and cats of all ages, and especially kittens and puppies, explore with their mouths. Dogs like to mouth and chew things. Cats may start to taste something and be unable to spit it out because of their rough tongues. Both may simply "dive in" when they see us doing something new or unfamiliar. These behaviors often land them in trouble. But we can do a lot to improve the odds.

Always be prepared. Your animal may become poisoned in spite of your best efforts to prevent it. You should keep telephone numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary service, and the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4 ANI-HELP) in a convenient location. If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, seek medical attention immediately.


Our homes can contain a wide variety of potentially harmful compounds. The following is not a complete list, but indicates some of the most common problems.

         Alcoholic beverages


         Avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats)



         Book matches

         Boric Acid

         Brake Fluid

         Carbon Monoxide

         Carbuerator Cleaner

         Chocolate (baker's, semi-sweet, milk, dark)

         Christmas Tinsel


         Cleaning Fluid

         Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)




         Drain cleaner

         Drain Cleaner



         Furniture Polish


         Hair Colorings


         Hops (used in home beer brewing)



         Kitchen matches

         Laundry detergents





         Metal Polish

         Mineral Spirits

         Moldy foods


         Nail Polish and Remover

         Nuts (especially Macadamia and Walnut)

         Onions, onion powder


         Paint thinner

         Perm Solutions


         Photo Developer


         Potato leaves and stems (green parts)



         Rat Poison

         Rhubarb leaves

         Rubbing Alcohol



         Shoe Polish

         Sleeping Pills


         Suntan Lotions


         Tea (caffeine)

         Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)


         Windshield Fluid


         Yeast dough

Many household chemicals can be harmful if consumed by a companion animal. Most cleansing materials can cause stomach upset and vomiting if they are eaten. Dishwasher detergent can produce burns in the mouth. When using household chemicals, special care should be taken to make sure your pets can not get into them. This may mean keeping your pet out of the room where you are using such materials. Common household items that can be lethal to an animal are mothballs, potpourri oils, coffee grounds, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, batteries, cigarettes, and alcoholic drinks.


Because they are so much smaller than we are, our companion animals need to be kept away from all medications. Cats, in particular, have body chemistry quite different from ours in several important ways. Do not give any of your medications to a pet. That includes over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, cough or cold medicines and decongestants. Do not give your dog's medicine to your cat or ferret.

Be careful where you take your own medications. Make sure a pill does not drop within reach of a playful paw or quick, slurping tongue. Do not put your medications out on a table or counter to take later. They may not be there when later arrives.

Store medications for all family members and pets in high cabinets, out of reach. With their curiosity and strong teeth, dogs can crack open a pill bottle and swallow the entire contents in a very short time. Even if a medicine prescribed for your pet, too large a dose could cause problems.

Medications that come in tubes may also pose a large risk. Most pets have sharp teeth and can chew into a tube within seconds. Creams and ointments that may be quite safe when applied to the skin can cause serious problems when eaten.

Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills are all examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals, even in small doses.

Flea Control Products and Other Insecticides

For many pets, fleas are a problem that makes life miserable. When you treat a house to kill fleas or other insects, read the product label and follow all directions carefully. This is particularly important if a flea control product is to be applied directly to the pet. Before buying a flea product, consult your veterinarian, especially when treating sick, debilitated or pregnant pets. If you put out ant or roach baits, make sure they are in a spot inaccessible to your pet. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of them properly when they are no longer needed. Record on a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name of the bait used. This will be needed if your dog eats an entire bait container or if there was no label on the container and you need to tell the Center veterinarian what your pet ingested.

Mouse and Rat Poisons

If you put out mouse or rat baits, make sure they are in a spot that your pet cannot reach. Keep track of the baits and remove and dispose of them when they are no longer needed. Record on a calendar the date the bait was put out and the name of the bait used. This will be needed if your dog eats an entire bait container or if there was no label on the container and you need to tell the Center veterinarian what your pet ingested.





         Angel's Trumpet


         Apricot pits


         Asparagus ferns

         Avocado leaves


         Balsam Pear

         Bird of paradise


         Black locust

         Boston Ivy

         Buttercup leaves


         Castor bean

         Cherry pits & leaves





         Crabapple seeds

         Creeping Charlie

         Creeping fig

         Crown of thorns

         Daffodil bulbs


         Dieftenbachia (Dumb cane)


         Dutchmans breeches

         Elephant ears

         English ivy berries

         Flax seeds


         Ground cherry


         Horse chestnut

         Hyacinth bulbs

         Hydrangea leaves

         Indian tabacco

         Indian turnip

         Iris leaves

         Ivy (most varieties)


         Jerusalem cherry

         Jimson weed

         Jonquil bulbs


         Lily of the valley blooms




         Matrimony vine

         May apple

         Mescal bean

         Mistletoe berries

         Mock orange


         Morning glory


         Narcissus seeds

         Nightshade (Tomato & patato leaves and patato berries)

         Nutmeg nuts

         Nux vomica

         Peach pits



         Philodendron (all varieties)


         Plum pits


         Poison hemlock


         Patato green tubers, leaves and berries


         Rain tree (Monkey pod)

         Rhododendron leaves


         Skunk cabbage

         Soap berry


         Sweet pee seeds

         Tomato leaves, vines

         Tulip bulbs

         Virginia creeper berries

         Water hemlock

         Weeping fig



Some houseplants can be quite harmful if ingested by an animal. The ingestion of azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, Easter lily or yew plant material by an animal can be fatal. Chewing on some plants may result in severe irritation to the mouth and throat. Others, while not quite so deadly, may cause a severe intestinal upset. You should know the names of all your plants, and keep any potentially toxic plants out of areas accessible to your animal companions.

Sago palm or false sago palm (Cycas revoluta) is a popular indoor plant that also thrives outdoors in warm, tropical areas such as Florida. As few as two seeds have caused poisoning in small dogs. Clinical signs include severe vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding disorders, bloody stools and liver failure. Death occurs a few days after ingestion unless prompt decontamination and treatment are administered. Other cycads, including Zamia species, can also cause poisoning.

Floral bouquets can also be a hazard, though not all species react in the same way. For example, most human poison control centers list lilies as nontoxic because no reports of poisonings are included in the medical literature. Rabbits and rats also appear to be unaffected after ingesting lilies, whereas dogs often exhibit a mild gastrointestinal upset with no evidence of systemic organ damage. However, Easter lilies, tiger lilies, stargazer lilies, day lilies and other members of the genus Lilium and Hemerocallis cause kidney failure in cats. After ingesting just a nibble or two, they may start vomiting within minutes to hours. Because the vomiting subsides after a few hours, owners often think that the cat is better. But in about 12 hours, evidence of kidney damage begins. Without prompt and aggressive decontamination and treatment, death usually occurs three to six days after ingestion.

Many popular houseplants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These plants can cause intense burning and itching of the tongue, oral cavity and lips. An owner may observe drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing. If a large ingestion has occurred, severe vomiting and diarrhea may occur. Dieffenbachia, or dumb cane, reportedly has caused death in humans when the tongue and oral cavity have swollen enough to block air passages. Some, but not all, species of plants that contain calcium oxalate crystals, include Dieffenbachia species (dumb cane, mother-in-law's tongue plant, leopard lily), Philodendron species (panda plant, heart-leaf, fiddle-leaf, red-leaf philodendron), SpathiphylIum species (peace lily, snowflower, mauna loa) and Caladium species (mother-in-law plant, elephant's ear, pink cloud).

Outdoor plants can also be quite hazardous to your pets. Many plants, such as oleander, azalea, rhododendrons and Japanese yew, can affect the heart rhythm, possibly even causing it to stop. Some plants can cause considerable stomach upset with vomiting or diarrhea. Others can produce mental disturbances or confusion.

It is important to know exactly what plant an animal has eaten, ideally by the Latin genus and species name. Common names vary by region, and more than one plant may have the same common name. Unfortunately, a verbal description of the plant is not always helpful. English ivy (Hedera helix) may cause vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, labored breathing, drooling, muscle weakness, staggering and coma. Swedish ivy (Plectranthus australis) may cause a mild upset stomach.

Brunplsia australis most commonly known as yesterday-today-and-tomorrow but also called morning-noon-and-night, Paraguay jasmine, eternity plant and forever plant - can cause depression, vomiting, fever, muscle tremors, staggering and seizures after ingestion.

Because of species differences, no single book or list covers all toxic plants. Besides, even nontoxic plants may cause stomach irritation and vomiting. So play it safe before buying a plant and placing it in your pet's environment, learn the genus, species and whether or not the plant is toxic. After buying, save the plant marker in case of an emergency. And, don't totally rely on greenhouse and nursery employees who may not have accurate information. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center.

Gardening and Lawn Care Supplies

         Any Insecticide or Pesticide

         Flea collar

         Ant traps

         Rodent poison

         Slug & Snail bait

         Roach poison

         Weed killers


         Keep pup off lawn after treatment

         Most wood preservatives

Please do not use garden or lawn care chemicals in the presence of your pet. For your own and your animal's safety, read and follow label directions carefully. Your pets should be kept off of a lawn treated with an insecticide or weed killer until the lawn is completely dry. Your pet must be kept out of an area where snail or slug bait has been applied. Always store such products in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals. Contact the manufacturer for information concerning product usage around your pets.

Automobile Care Supplies

         Battery Acid

         Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol) tastes sweet

         Fuel oil

         Brake fluid


Like indoor cleaners, car-cleaning compounds can cause stomach upset and vomiting. Some car-cleaning agents are stronger than those used indoors. Car-cleaning products should be kept away from your pet, who will be safer if he or she is not allowed to "help" you clean your automobile.

Antifreeze and windshield washer fluid can be harmful to your pet. Your pet should not be allowed to drink water from a car radiator. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon can be deadly to a 10-pound dog. Safer antifreeze products are now available and should be used.

Miscellaneous Chemicals

While performing construction, remodeling or repair work, keep pets out of the area until all equipment and materials have been put away. Keep pets away from fresh paint, varnish, or stains until these finishes have dried completely. If a pet comes in contact with paint or other finishes, DO NOT use paint thinners or paint removers to clean the animal. Contact the Center or your local veterinarian for removal instructions.

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center

The center is the first and only 24-hour poison control hotline for animals in North America. Our professionals are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Veterinarians and pet owners needing advice reach a staff of 16 veterinarians (including four board-certified veterinary toxicologists) and six certified veterinary technicians. The number is for consultation services is 1-888-4ANI-HELP