Pills, Plants, Pesticides, and “On Purpose” Poisoning in Pets

By March 20, 2015Uncategorized
brown dog with cleaning products

Every year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline handles over 150,000 cases of pets being poisoned. While many substances can be responsible for these poisonings, the most common is medication.


A childproof cap on a pill bottle may stop a toddler, but not a determined dog. But it’s not just pets breaking into pill bottles. Pet owners can inadvertently poison their pets when they dose them with human medications. Acetaminophen and any aspirin product, as well as birth control pills and vitamins, can cause internal bleeding. Keep the medicine cabinet securely locked, and never give a pet any pill without consulting your veterinarian.

Veterinarians are seeing an increase in accidental and deliberate marijuana-related incidents in pets including the ingestion of marijuana-laced foods. Symptoms include stumbling, in-coordination, listlessness, slow heart rate, and sometimes urinary incontinence.

Foods to Avoid

Milk: not easily digested by most adult animals and can cause them to develop diarrhea

Bones: can lodge in a dog’s passageways or cut its intestines

Chocolate: can be lethal, especially baking chocolate

Onions: can destroy a dog’s red blood cells, leading to anemia

Rich, fatty foods (such as turkey skin or gravy): can cause pancreatitis and inflammation of a digestive gland and can be very painful and serious.

Grapes and raisins: can lead to appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and kidney failure

Coffee: watch out for grounds and whole beans

Nicotine: stimulant that can increase the heart rate, even death

Alcohol: can cause behavioral changes, staggering, excitement, decreased reflexes, and even death

Xylitol: a common artificial sweetener in desserts and sugarless chewing gum

Avocados: dangerous to birds


Kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, antifreeze, batteries, pennies, moth balls, glue, and insecticides are all dangerous, if not deadly, for pets. Keep these products in closed cabinets or high off the ground. Also keep in mind that flea control is commonly labeled specifically for dogs or cats because the agents used for dogs are not safe for cats, so follow the label directions and amounts correctly. If you have a bird, keep them away from aerosol sprays like hair spray or fragrances, as birds are known to be sensitive to these chemicals.


Some common houseplants are also poisonous and can cause heart and kidney problems if ingested. This includes Cycad (Sago Palm), philodendron, dieffenbachia, and lilies, which are extremely poisonous for cats. Other examples of toxic plants are the azalea, oleander, castor bean, rhododendron, and Japanese yew plants. While catnip generally isn’t toxic to cats, too much of the fresh plant can over-stimulate the central nervous system and cause a cat to injure himself.

Intentional Poisoning

Either for retaliation or spite, an animal can be poisoned by a neighbor or relative. Is the dog barking at all hours or doing his business on the neighbor’s property? Is the cat roaming around, digging up gardens? If there’s a problem with your pet, sometimes your neighbors may try to resolve it, so be alert. Keep your cat inside and your dog in sight. Look for foreign objects and food in your yard, such as the bluish-green pellets used in rodent poison. If you believe your dog is at risk, don’t hesitate to contact the authorities.

If you suspect that your pet has gotten into a poison, immediately call your veterinarian, your local emergency veterinary clinic, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. It’s helpful to have a list of your pet’s symptoms, when the symptoms first started, where the animal has been recently, and whether you found any pieces of uneaten meat, discolored vomit, or other foreign objects.

For a complete list of poisonous plants and household hazards, visit www.avma.org.

–Rikki Schmidt

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