Last year, there were more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning in the U.S. Many of these were caused by household substances that may seem perfectly harmless to you. But just because something is safe for people doesn't mean it won’t hurt beloved pets. Some of the most dangerous dog poisons are foods and medications we take on a daily basis.
Depending on how a particular substance affects your dog’s body and how much was ingested or inhaled, pet poisoning symptoms can include gastrointestinal and neurological problems, cardiac and respiratory distress, coma, and even death.
Bob, a Maine Coon mix, was never fond of the ride to the veterinarian. While the cat would purr placidly through the vet's exam, he pitched a fit and cried during the trip there.
"Riding in a car stressed him out terribly," says owner Sandy Volkman of Lakeville, Minn.
When Bob went into kidney failure at age 18, Volkman couldn't fathom driving him to be put down through her tears and his cries. Her veterinarian recommended Minnesota Pets, a Twin Cities-based mobile euthanasia service.
Dog poison No. 1: Prescription medications for people. Drugs that might be beneficial or even lifesaving for people can have the opposite effect in pets. And it doesn’t always take a large dose to do major damage.
Some of the most common and harmful medications that poison dogs include:
Prescription anti-inflammatory and pain medications can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers or kidney failure.
Antidepressants can cause vomiting and, in more serious instances, serotonin syndrome -- a dangerous condition that raises temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and may cause seizures.
Blood pressure medications.
Dog poison No. 2: Insecticides.
Flea and tick products. You may think you’re doing your dog a favor when you apply products marketed to fight fleas and ticks, but thousands of animals are unintentionally poisoned by these products every year. Problems can occur if dogs accidentally ingest these products or if small dogs receive excessive amounts.
Dog poison No. 3: Over-the-counter medications. This group contains acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen and naproxen (Advil, Alleve), as well as herbal and nutraceutical products (fish oil, joint supplements).
Dog poison No. 4: Pet medications. Just as we can be sickened or killed by medications intended to help us, cases of pet poisoning by veterinary drugs are not uncommon. Some of the more commonly reported problem medications include painkillers and de-wormers.
Dog poison No. 5: Household products, from cleaners to fire logs. Just as cleaners like bleach can poison people, they are also a leading cause of pet poisoning, resulting in stomach and respiratory tract problems. Not surprisingly, chemicals contained in antifreeze, paint thinner, and chemicals for pools also can act as dog poison. The pet poisoning symptoms they may produce include stomach upset, depression, and chemical burns.
Dog poison No. 6: People food. Your canine companion may look so cute as he sits there begging for a bite of your chocolate cake or a chip covered in guacamole, but not giving him what he wants could save his life. Animals have different metabolisms than people. Some foods and beverages that are perfectly safe for people can be dangerous, and sometimes fatal, for dogs.
Chocolate. Though not harmful to people, chocolate products contain substances called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting in small doses, and death if ingested in larger quantities. Darker chocolate contains more of these dangerous substances than do white or milk chocolate. The amount of chocolate that could result in death depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog. For smaller breeds, just half an ounce of baking chocolate can be fatal, while a larger dog might survive eating 4 ounces to 8 ounces. Coffee and caffeine have similarly dangerous chemicals.
Alcohol. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in animals are similar to those in people, and may include vomiting, breathing problems, coma and, in severe cases, death.
Avocado. You might think of them as healthy, but avocadoes have a substance called persin that can act as a dog poison, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
Macadamia nuts. Dogs may suffer from a series of symptoms, including weakness, overheating, and vomiting, after consumption of macadamia nuts.
Grapes and raisins. Experts aren’t sure why, but these fruits can induce kidney failure in dogs. Even a small number may cause problems in some dogs.
Xylitol. This sweetener is found in many products, including sugar-free gum and candy. It causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, resulting in weakness and seizures. Liver failure also has been reported in some dogs.