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10 Toxic Household Items That Can Poison Your Pets

In our homes there are many items that seem normal to us but can cause our pets a lot of harm when ingested. As a pet owner you never want your furry friends to be harmed. To prevent any potential occurrences of them eating toxic household items you need to be both aware of which items they should not eat and also how to store things properly so your pet does not get access. Here are ten common toxic household items that can harm your pets.

1. Chocolate

It’s common knowledge that chocolate is bad for pets, but do you know why? Theobromine and caffeine are the main toxic components in chocolate (also coffee beans and cocoa beans). The amounts of each vary depending on the type of chocolate (i.e., milk, unsweetened baking, or semisweet chocolates).

The main signs referable to the heart and central nervous system:

  • nervousness/anxiety
  • excitable behavior
  • tremors
  • seizures and coma due to CNS stimulation
  • high blood pressure
  • a slowed or increased heart rate
  • heart arrhythmias, which may be manifested as disorientation, weakness, collapse and loss of consciousness
  • vomiting and diarrhea can also occur

The most important things for owners to do when a pet ingests chocolate (coffee beans or cocoa beans) are:

  • to estimate how much was ingested
  • to bring packaging to the hospital so the type(s) of chocolate and relative doses of the toxic ingredients can be identified/estimated
  • to not delay the trip to the hospital

2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and other aspirin free pain medications)

These common types of medication can be toxic to both dogs, and cats but cats are the most significantly affected and can have severe changes to the red blood cells (methemoglobinemia) that can result in brown/blue mucous membranes (gums). Cats can also have severe facial and paw swelling due to acetaminophen ingestion.

3. Batteries

Make sure to store your batteries well and don’t leave them out for your pet to potentially chew on. Ingestion of the whole battery as well as chewing on batteries can lead to clinical signs including pain, hypersalivation, oral inflammation and ulceration, vomiting, anorexia, and gastrointestinal ulceration and or bleeding due to battery acid exposure. X-rays should be taken to see if there are battery parts in the GI tract. Seek immediate veterinary attention if there is suspicion of battery ingestion.

4. Bread Dough

Baking bread? Be mindful of your pet getting a bite of the dough. Ingestion of bread dough can cause intestinal obstruction, vomiting, diarrhea, blindness, inability to walk, vocalization, change in behaviors and loss of consciousness. Bread dough will rapidly rise in the warm environment of the stomach and produce ethanol, which is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract causing the clinical signs. The prognosis is good if treated immediately by a veterinarian.

5. Cigarette Ingestion

Think twice about letting cigarettes and tobacco products laying around your house if you have pets. Tobacco products contain nicotine, and cigarettes and cigars have varying degrees of nicotine in them. The butts themselves contain 25 percent of the total nicotine. Clinical signs develop quickly (15-30 minutes) and include hyperexcitablity, hypersalivation, fast breathing, diarrhea, and vomiting. Muscle weakness, twitching, collapse, coma, and death can occur at high enough doses. Animals seen ingesting any tobacco products or even several cigarette or cigar butts should present to a veterinarian for medical care and decontamination.

6. Grapes and raisins

Grapes are a bit of a mystery when it comes to toxicity — very little is known regarding the cause of grape toxicity in dogs. It is not dose-dependent, meaning that a small amount of grape ingestion could cause a serious problem in some dogs and some dogs can eat a large amount and never be affected. On presentation, your dog will likely have emesis (vomiting) induced and baseline kidney values measured. Most dogs will be admitted to the hospital for 48 hours of intravenous fluids.

Prognosis varies based on when the patients presents to a veterinarian and the degree of sensitivity to grapes and raisins per patient.

7. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve) Ingestion (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory or NSAID)

Another very common OTC medication that could potentially harm your pet. Ibuprofen is an over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that is commonly used for aches and pains in people. Ingestion of even small amounts of ibuprofen or naproxen can lead to vomiting and diarrhea as well as gastric ulceration, bleeding and intestinal perforation. At high enough concentrations it can cause permanent kidney damage and affect the central nervous system leading to seizures, inability to walk, coma and death.

Cats are twice as sensitive as dogs are due to a lack of an enzyme to help digest the medication.

Treatment of the patient includes decontamination through emesis (inducing vomiting), prevention and treatment of gastric ulceration, renal failure and CNS effects. Common therapies will include giving activated charcoal, gastrointestinal protectants such as omeprazole, carafate, misoprostol, and IV fluid therapy. Blood will also be monitored to check kidney function as well.

The prognosis is good if the patient is treated immediately after ingestion.

8. Mushrooms

Mushrooms commonly found in the backyard, parks, and nature trails can be toxic and lethal to dogs. The most toxic poisonous mushroom family is the Amanita phalloides or death cap mushrooms. Clinical signs can include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, bleeding disorders, excessive drooling, cardiac arrhythmias, liver failure and death. Clinical signs can occur as soon as 20 minutes after ingestion.

Prognosis is variable depending on the type of mushroom ingested and quantity.

9. Toilet Tank Drop Ins/Toilet water

Does your pet drink from the toilet bowl from time to time? Be mindful of using drop in products, as they are often are made of a corrosive cleaning agent. Due to the dilution of the toxin in the toilet tank and bowl the concentration is usually not very high. Typical clinical signs include gastrointestinal irritation which could include vomiting and diarrhea

10. Xylitol

Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many sugar-free gums, baked goods, desserts, some medications, vitamins, and toothpaste. Xylitol can be harmful to your pets.

Clinical signs include vomiting, lethargy, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar episode) and fulminant liver failure. Due to the nature of xylitol ingestion, immediate presentation to the veterinarian for decontamination and observation is recommended for favorable outcome.

Emergency Services at MVA: Everything You Need to Know

By Shara Bankhead, BS, CVT

Since 1986, MVA has not only provided the highest quality specialty veterinary medicine, but the discipline of extraordinary emergency medicine has been part of our mission as well.

The Emergency Service is fully equipped with not only high-end, human-grade diagnostic equipment – digital x-ray, ultrasound, CT Scanner, MRI and in-house laboratory – there are also highly experienced emergency clinicians as well as critical care specialists on staff and our boarded surgeons are available on-call 24/7/365 to address any and all surgical emergencies as they arise.

Our support staff of veterinary nurses and assistants are experienced, compassionate, and dedicated to their patients. They provide the highest quality medical management in a calm, professional and attentive manner. The nurses provide the doctors with the support they need to perform the necessary emergent procedures and are the ones who spend 1:1 time with their patients. Our nurses are proficient at performing diagnostic testing, administering medications, placing IV catheters, inducing and monitoring anesthesia and much more. Our veterinary assistants are a vital part of our team, ensuring that our nurses and doctors are fully able to perform their duties efficiently and effectively. They not only care for patients regularly, but they are responsible for ensuring the hospital remains clean and functional, maintaining patient comfort through providing basic needs and cleanliness, and ensuring that lab work and other diagnostics are handled in a timely fashion.

The entire Emergency Service (ES) team runs like a well-oiled machine which is essential in the organized chaos of an emergency room. You can rest assured that you and your pet are in the best of hands when you arrive.

When one is faced with the decision to bring a furry family member to the ER, there are more than a few things that are likely being contemplated prior to doing so. Before making the trip to the ER, in particular MVA, these are some excellent steps to take and/or questions to ask:

What is considered to be a true animal emergency?

Any condition or event that is life-threatening or crucial in nature. These include but are not limited to:

Animal is unresponsive; no pulse detected
Sudden collapse
Respiratory distress/difficulty breathing
Open mouth breathing in cats
Uncontrollable bleeding
Swollen abdomen
Unable to urinate
Not eating or drinking for more than 24 hours
Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea or dark, tarry stool


  • That last longer than 1 minute
  • Occur more than 3 times in a 24-hour period
  • Is the 1st seizure that has occurred

Traumatic Event

  • Hit-by-Car
  • Bite Wounds
  • Electrocution
  • Near drowning
  • Broken limb


A pre-existing condition that has suddenly changed/worsened:

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Adrenal disorders
  • Asthma
  • Others

What can a pet owner do before they head to the ER at MVA?

Call us at 610-666-1050 and speak with one of our CSR’s or support team to talk through what you’re experiencing with your pet to determine if:

It is a true emergent/urgent concern
Seeing your primary care veterinarian would be sufficient
Monitoring your pet at home is advisable
If it’s determined that your pet is experiencing one of the above conditions, and needs to be seen we would request that:
All records (physical exam, lab work, x-rays, etc.) from the primary veterinarian be sent ahead of time or brought in

How can a pet owner help to alleviate anxiety in their pets either at home or when they’re on their way to the ER at MVA?
If the pet has a known anxiety associated with the car, or veterinary visits there are prescription medications to address this. Please discuss the options with a primary care veterinarian and have these on hand, and if safe to do so, administer 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to travel.

Other ways to address and lessen stress include but are not limited to:

  • Pheromone sprays, wipes, and/or collars (Feliway® for cats, Adaptil ® for dogs)
  • ThunderShirt®
  • Soothing music – there are playlists on YouTube and Spotify that have been created by veterinary behaviorists and have been shown to work for some pets

What happens when a pet owner arrives with their pet in a life-threatening situation?
Time allowing, the owner will have called prior to let our CSRs at the front desk know of an ETA, which is then relayed to the entire ES team.

If there’s not time to call/notify MVA prior to arrival, as soon as an owner arrives the front desk will send an overhead announcement to the ES team to come up ASAP.

A nurse or nurses will meet the owner at the entrance/in the lobby to initially assess their pet, ask for permission to administer treatments, perform CPR if necessary, etc.

The pet will be taken to the ER where nurses begin any approved lifesaving actions, a doctor will immediately evaluate the pet, and initial treatments and/or diagnostics will be performed.

The pet owner will be asked to remain in the lobby or will be escorted to a private exam room by one of our CSRs.

As soon as possible, the doctor will meet with the owner(s) to update them on the situation and discuss the medical plan moving forward.

We have modified all of the above steps in order to appropriately adhere with the Commonwealth of PA and the AVMA COVID-19 protocols for you, your pets’ and our team’s safety. For detailed information please refer to the following websites:

As one can imagine, the life and times in a Veterinary ER is very similar to that of a human ER, and our team members take their jobs very seriously to provide the utmost of veterinary medical care to the animals, but also ensure that the pet owners are treated with kindness and compassion as this is a stressful event for all involved. Here at MVA we dedicate ourselves to providing excellent service, exceptional skill, and extraordinary care from the front desk to the ER floor. We are here for you and your pets, 24/7/365 – and we always will be.

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