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Companion Animals and Poisons

If you share your home with a companion animal, it’s important to know how to protect them from illness or death by poisoning. Everyone who shares a home with a companion animal should be informed about substances that could harm companion animals and keep those substances safely out of reach. It’s also vital to know what to do when an animal is suspected of having ingested a potential poison. This FAQ will help you determine the best way to protect your companion animals from poisons.

If it’s safe for me, is it safe for my animals?
Not necessarily. Some substances, like chocolate or grapes, are safe for most humans to consume, but dangerous for other species. Always consult with a veterinarian before giving a companion animal any human foods or medications.

Common foods that are toxic to dogs and cats:

This is not an exhaustive list.

Keep toxic foods like chocolate, coffee, and grapes in sealed containers in the refrigerator or cabinet so your pets cannot access them.

  • chives
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • garlic
  • grapes
  • macadamia nuts
  • onions and onion powder
  • raisins
  • salt
  • tea leaves
  • xylitol – a sweetener used in mints, sugarless gum, and other foods
  • yeast dough
  • avocados


Which human medications are harmful to animals?
Never give an animal human medicine unless directed by a veterinarian. Even then, make sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosage instructions exactly. The following is a list of human medications known to be harmful to cats and dogs:

  • NSAID pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, etc. Just one extra-strength acetaminophen pill can be deadly for a cat!
  • cold/flu medications
  • anti-cancer drugs
  • anti-depressants

If it’s safe for one animal, is it safe for another?
Not necessarily. Many flea medications that are safe for use on dogs can be deadly when used on cats. Dosages can also vary based on an animal’s age, species, weight, and other factors. Check with your                                                                                               veterinarian before using any treatment prescribed for one animal on another animal.

Are there other materials that could pose a risk to companion animals?
Yes. Potentially poisonous substances are not limited to inside the home. Keep cleaners, rock salt, and automotive substances (gasoline, antifreeze, etc.) tightly sealed and away from animals. Antifreeze is particularly harmful in that it has a sweet smell and taste. If you accidentally spill antifreeze anywhere, make sure to safely dilute it with water so that no animal will lick it. All it takes is a small amount to cause fatal effects. Avoid the use of insecticides and rodent poisons, also. Not only are these dangerous to our companion animals, they can also harm hawks, falcons, and other wildlife who prey on small rodents. 

Common houseplants that are toxic to dogs and cats:

This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Aloe
  • Amaryllis
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Azalea
  • Belladonna
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Caladium
  • Castor Bean

    Ingesting holly leaves or berries can cause dogs and cats to smack their lips and drool. It can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Clematis
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil Daphne
  • Dracaena
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Elephant Ears
  • English Ivy
  • Foxglove Gladiolas
  • Golden Pothos
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hyacinth
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Jerusalem Cherry
  • Kalanchoe
  • Lantana
  • Lilies: Calla, Day, Easter, Tiger, Asiatic, Japanese Show
  • Lupine
  • Morning Glory
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Nandina
  • Narcissus
  • Nightshade
  • Oleander
  • Philodendron
  • Privet
  • Rhododendron
  • Rhubarb
  • Schefflera
  • Tulip (Bulbs)
  • Yuletide plants: mistletoe, rosemary, holly, poinsettia


What are the common symptoms of poisoning to look out for?

Although degrees of severity may very widely depending on the type of toxin as well as the age, species, and size of your animals, common symptoms of toxic ingestion are:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy, weakness, depression
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Keep phone numbers and addresses of your primary veterinarian and closest emergency vet clinic in an easy-to-find location, like on the refrigerator or next to the phone. Keep the numbers programmed in your cell phone for quick access. 

What should I do if I suspect my dog or cat has ingested a toxic substance?

If you believe your companion animal has ingested a toxic substance, do the following immediately:

  1. Remove the toxic substance from the animal’s reach
  2. Check to make sure he/she is awake and breathing
  3. Do not give any home antidotes
  4. Do not induce vomiting without consulting with a veterinarian
  5. Contact your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic for further instructions
  6. If it is safe to do so, keep the ingested substance and its container and take it with you to the vet clinic, as the veterinary staff will want to know what and how much was ingested as well as what time the incident occurred.

You can call the 24/7 Animal Poison Control Center: (855) 764-7661. For a fee, you can speak with a trained professional over the phone who will give recommendations based on what and how much your dog or cat ingested.


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