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Shay enjoys Internet research, silly crafts, and keeping her very stubborn Beagle-Cattle Dog alive through training and anxious vigilance.
This is a guide to common household items, plants and foods that are poisonous, toxic or deadly in dogs. As there are literally hundreds of poisonous items out there, I'm limiting this list to things that are found in many homes, with an emphasis on things that are often considered harmless.
I will be including some links at the end of this article if you're looking for more exhaustive lists of things that are poisonous to dogs and cats.
I initially wrote this guide because of my dog's near-death experience with zinc toxicity, but I realize that not all dogs like to eat coins; some have an affinity for specific, non-conventional foods, plants or other objects around the house. Read on for 12 common, yet seemingly harmless items that could make your dog sick.
Many dogs have an affinity for metal. Many owners believe the greatest risk to their dog eating a small metal object, such as a coin, is if it gets caught in their intestines. For pennies, this is not the case.
US pennies minted on or after 1982 are made of over 95% zinc and when ingested, can cause zinc toxicity. My dog, Penny (yes her name is actually Penny) almost died after ingesting 6 pennies.
Keep coins off the floor and out of reach from pets and toddlers. It is important to learn the signs and symptoms of zinc toxicity so you can get your pet or child help before it's too late. View the video below to learn more about this little known subject and feel free to share it with fellow dog owners and parents.
Most people have heard that chocolate can be poisonous to dogs, but why is this? The specific ingredients in chocolate that are problematic are caffeine and theobromine (a substance similar to caffeine that is found in the cocoa plant). The human body is easily able to metabolize caffeine and theobromine, but for dogs, the process is much much slower.
When consumed by dogs, chocolate can cause vomiting and digestive problems, seizures, heart problems and death (often from heart failure). Chocolate that is higher in cocoa (i.e. dark, semi-sweet or baker's chocolate) is more dangerous than milk or white chocolate, but all chocolate can be poisonous in dogs.
An ounce per pound of bodyweight of milk chocolate can cause toxicity, whereas about a 100 milligrams of dark chocolate per pound of bodyweight is poisonous. So, if you have a 20-pound dog, 20 ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, or just over 2 ounces of baker's chocolate can be toxic.
Be careful with this if you are a dog owner. Dogs eat everything, and chocolate is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs.
Also, because caffeine is a major problem with chocolate, other caffeine-containing foods and supplements can be poisonous to your dog, such as:
While I had heard of chocolate being poisonous to dogs, I had never heard of raisin or grape toxicity until recently. The actual mechanism behind the toxicity and ingredient in grapes/raisins that causes problems is uncertain at this time, but the problem itself is becoming well known.
Over the last decade or so, doctors have been seeing a trend of dogs suffering from kidney failure (acute renal failure) after consuming grapes or raisins. A serving of raisins (ie one of those little boxes) or a pound of grapes can cause serious problems.
I actually used to give my dog a grape from time to time to play with—I definitely don't do that anymore!
Onions, garlic, and other members of the onion family (such as leeks and green onions) are poisonous to dogs because of the sulfur they contain. Even in small amounts, this sulfur reacts with the cell membranes of a dog or cat's red blood cells (RBCs) and causes them to burst. We all need RBCs because they deliver oxygen to our organs; less functioning RBCs can result in anemia and cause major problems.
Also, know that cats are especially susceptible to the toxic effects of onions. It's best to avoid feeding your dog or cat even a small bit of onion or garlic or foods that have been cooked with onion or garlic.
Macadamia nuts can cause muscle weakness, tremors, problems walking, vomiting, and raised body temperature. If chocolate-covered macadamia nuts are eaten by dogs, chocolate toxicity may also be observed.
If your dog is suffering from macadamia nut poisoning (and has no underlying problems such as chocolate toxicity), the prognosis is quite good.
As always, when in doubt, take your pet to the vet!
Xylitol is a non-sugar sweetener commonly found in sugar-free gum, candy, lozenges, vitamins and liquid medicines. Because Xylitol is sugar free, it is often marketed toward diabetics or used in tooth care products such as toothpaste and mouthwashes.
While Xylitol is harmless in humans, it can be very poisonous to dogs. As little as 2 pieces of sugar-free gum or small candies can cause a 13-pound dog to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). 10 pieces for the same sized dog could cause liver failure and death.
There are many plants that can be poisonous or toxic in pets. Here are a few common but dangerous plants, flowers and succulents and the symptoms your dog may experience on ingesting them:
Over-the-counter flea-and-tick medications such as Frontline or Advantix are essentially pesticides, so it's no surprise that they can be poisonous to dogs as well. Symptoms are often neurological and can include: excess salivation, tremors or shaking, dilated pupils, vomiting, and skin irritation. Animals that are most at risk are the very young, very small, old or sick. If you choose to treat your pet with these products, follow these steps to reduce the risk of toxicity:
If in doubt about these medications, be sure to talk to your vet. Visit the Humane Society's website to learn more about flea & tick medication toxicity.
Medication for yourself should not be given to your pet. The following medications are the most poisonous to dogs:
All members of your household (and house guests) must know that they need to keep medications out of reach from pets. It's best to store pills in hard containers (rather than Ziploc bags) so that if they do happen to find it, they will have less of a chance of getting into it (although dog owners know that hard plastic may not necessarily be a deterrent!).
The only time I've ever given my dog human medication was at the advice of a vet; he had recommended Benadryl for an allergic reaction. Be sure to ask your veterinarian for advice and dosage information if you are considering giving your pet an anti-histamine.
I bought a bottle of Tropiclean Fresh Breath Oral Care Water Additive for my pup about a year ago. You add a little to your pet's water on a daily basis to control bad breath and dental plaque. It made her breath so ridiculously fresh, but it also made her throw up so I stopped using it.
I researched this topic a bit and learned that some of these water additives and products for doggy tooth care contain Xylitol (which is toxic). It's also a good reason to never use human toothpaste on a dog, as many contain Xylitol (which is harmless to humans).
Additionally, there is the thought that many dental products kill bacteria in the mouth, but unlike people who can spit out their dental washes/toothpastes, dogs simply swallow it. This means whatever bacteria-killing product you give your dog for oral care could be killing friendly bacteria in their digestive tract, and because they drink water often, you are constantly "dosing" them. In my opinion, these additives have not been researched sufficiently to ascertain their safety.
Moth balls release vapors that repel insects and moths. Cats are especially vulnerable to these vapors, but dogs are more likely to actually eat the moth balls. Symptoms of mothball poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, excessive thirst and urination, water retention, and seizures. They can also result in kidney damage, coma and death. To read more about mothball poisoning in dogs, visit this website.
If you live in an area that sees snow, and use de-icing salts on your driveway or entryway, make sure you know the dangers the salt poses to dogs and cats. When an animal walks on a de-iced patch of ground, some of the salt may stick to their paws. If they lick it off, it can make them sick. Salt can cause excessive drooling, paw irritation or burns, vomiting and nausea, and if your pet consumes enough, the salt can result in weakness, lethargy and tremors.
The best way to avoid this is to use a pet friendly de-icer (such those that contain calcium chloride or potassium chloride, rather than sodium chloride), clean your pet's feet after they go outside, and/or use pet boots.
Call the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 if you think your pet has ingested a poisonous substance.
© 2013 Shay Marie
Alex on May 04, 2015:
Hi my puppy mimmi the chihuahua has been vomiting for 1 night not sure what it is but im grateful for your website and the information that you have shared its very helpful thank you
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on September 23, 2014:
I'm sorry to hear about your Schnauzer - I hope she's okay now! I've also read that some dogs have a problem with the teeth cleaning treats because of how quickly they eat them, ie if the dog is a really fast eater, they may not chew the treat up well enough to digest it properly (causing vomiting, diarrhea, etc). I definitely agree that there hasn't been enough research done on animal foods and treats. I stick to treats made in the US to try to mitigate the issue.
joyce on September 23, 2014:
my little Schnauzer ate a rather large package of the green chewable bones that are supposed to freshen her breath. Consequently she threw up all night long. Even though she ate the entire package there was something in them that was toxic to her (and should be looked into). The amount she consumed was not any more than she normally eats. I'm not sure there is enough research done on the foods,etc we give our animals. I've learned NOT to give my dog any dog food that has color/dyes in it. Never.
Colonel2013 on August 14, 2014:
Great article! You have some great information here!! Thanks for sharing!!
aliciadonley on August 07, 2014:
So, my baby is getting older and eating less random things, but he is like a cat and will jump onto counters and eat stuff! He had some toothpaste and neosporin... ugh. One time he ate something, we assume, while my parents were babysitting for like an hour, we got back and he was barely responding ... a couple hours later and $300 dollars later, he was just dehydrated. The vet did say she had never seen a dog walk so funny - he kind of trots like a horse. Also that dumb cane stuff is nasty, I didn't know it was called that but it just looks poisonous.
Anna from chichester on April 27, 2014:
Wow this is really good to know. Some of the things you have written about I had no idea were poisonous so I will definitely make sure my two boys stay away from the things on your list! Thank you
LoriBeninger on September 22, 2013:
I knew most of these, but this is an excellent reminder and convenient collection. Thank you.
Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on August 19, 2013:
I had no idea about the raisins and grapes, thank you, I won't give it to my dogs anymore. It never caused any problems, but it's better to be safe than sorry ;-)
Kevin_NC on May 29, 2013:
Do not use a Tagworks dog tag for your pet. My dog Lucky swallowed his last week and has been in the animal hospital for 5 days now with zinc toxicity. The tags are 95% zinc and there is no warning in the packaging to inform pet owners about the risk their pets are facing. Lucky's condition deteriorated quickly. After 5 days in the hospital, he still cannot lift his head on his own or stand up and has developed pneumonia because he is constantly regurgitating fluids out of his stomach and they are getting into his lungs. I have contacted both the manufacturer and PetSmart to get them to take responsibility for what they have done to Lucky and to do something about this dangerous product.
Shay Marie (author) from Southern California on April 17, 2013:
@Rosetta Slone: Thank you! I'll add this with my next update!
Rosetta Slone from Under a coconut tree on April 06, 2013:
Very very useful page. I've got one to add to your list - avocados!
Carpenter76 on March 28, 2013:
Wow I never knew leek and union were not safe to my pets. They always eat our leftovers :S Thanks for sharing this information!
Grapes and raisins are very toxic to dogs and could possibly cause acute sudden kidney failure. Dogs should never eat grapes or raisins, and you should definitely never offer them to your pet. Grapes contain chemicals called flavonoids, tannins, and monosaccharides that we as humans can easily metabolize, but dogs cannot.
While these might not be particularly enticing to the dog on their own, if your dog is conditioned to eat human food, they might just pick it up off the ground and eat it if you accidentally drop one. Another common occurrence is your dog stealing an oatmeal raisin cookie off of the table or the counter. If your dog eats a raisin or a grape, you should quickly call the Pet Poison Helpline or your local veterinarian and monitor for unwanted symptoms.
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We should have to avoid giving them human oral drugs. That can be really dangerous to their health because these human drugs can involve with oxygen flow and also can harm to the liver. Veterinary pharmaceuticals are always necessary.
But over dosage of drugs can cause dangerous situation. Doctors’ recommended drugs may only for specific or diseased dog. This dosage cannot be similar to other puppy or dog. So we have to be careful about that case also, because over dosage drugs can bring them to death immediately.
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According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a staggering number of dogs are accidentally poisoned every year by plants, foods, and yard and household products. Beat the odds for your pet by educating yourself on these deadly products and eliminating the threat in advance.
When you've made the loving decision to buy or adopt a dog, keeping it safe is one of the most important aspects of that commitment. That's why you need to learn about plants, foods, and household products that are poisonous to dogs. In 2011 alone, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) reported receiving nearly 166,000 phone calls about pets exposed to various poisonous substances. By beginning here and consulting other resources cited, you'll get a great start to prevent your pet from becoming an ASPCA statistic.
Make sure to know the botanical name as well as common names of plants, as some go by the same common name.
Keep contact information for your regular veterinarian and local emergency vet clinic handy.
When possible, take a picture or bring a sample of the suspected poisonous plant to your veterinarian for positive identification, which will assist in rendering the appropriate treatment.
If you believe your dog or cat has ingested a poisonous plant, call these 24-hour resources for immediate advice:
Seek professional advice immediately, as delaying treatment can result in worsening symptoms or even death.
For a more comprehensive plant list, see the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List.
Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine — a bit like caffeine — that’s poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine depends on the type of chocolate. Theobromine mainly affects the guts, heart, central nervous system, and kidneys and signs of theobromine poisoning will occur between four and 24 hours after your dog has eaten chocolate. You may see vomiting, diarrhoea, restlessness, hyperactivity and seizures. Read our in-depth guide on the dangers of chocolate to dogs.
Like chocolate, caffeine is a stimulant. Dogs are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than people. A couple of laps of tea or coffee are unlikely to do any harm, but if your dog swallows a handful of coffee beans or tea bags they could be in danger. Signs and treatment of caffeine poisoning are similar to chocolate toxicity.
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