(Courtesy of California Poison Control and U.C. Davis)

(Courtesy of California Poison Control and U.C. Davis)

Pets are not immune from poisonings, accidental or intentional. Dogs are especially prone to poisonings as they can and do eat almost anything. The three most common causes of serious poisonings in dogs are snail baits containing metaldehyde, rat poisons containing blood thinners, and ethylene glycol antifreeze. Only a little can cause life-threatening poisoning. Treatment is prolonged and expensive. With care, you can prevent poisoning your pet.





Prevent potential pet dangers by using the following guidelines:

  • Feed pets only pet food. The fat content from table scraps can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Never give pets human food that you think might be spoiled. Animals can get sick from bad food as easily as humans.
  • Food items dangerous to pets include:
    • Onions and onion powder
    • Chocolate (bakers, semi sweet, milk, dark)
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Yeast dough
    • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans, tea – caffeine)
    • Salt
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Hops (used in home beer brewing)
    • Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
    • Rhubarb leaves
    • Avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats)
    • Cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco
    • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Many common household items can be dangerous to animals. Mothballs, potpourri oils, pennies, homemade play dough, fabric softener sheets, dishwashing detergent, and batteries.
  • Lock up dangerous items like insect killers or fertilizers in the garage or storage area items before confining your pet in these areas.
  • Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to your pets. Clean up immediately after using household and automotive products. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that is attractive to animals. Even a small amount lapped up from the floor or driveway can cause kidney failure or death. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than one tablespoon can be lethal to a 20-pound dog.
  • Never transfer toxic products into jars or bowls from which pets can drink.
  • Never allow your pets to have access to the areas in which cleaning agents are being used or stored. Cleaning agents have a variety of properties; some may only cause mild stomach upset, but others can cause severe burns of the tongue, mouth and stomach.
  • Store all cleaners, pesticides, and medications in a secured area.
  • Choose a snail bait (metaldehyde) that does not look or smell like pet food. The pellet formulation is responsible for many serious poisonings each year. Snail bait in the sawdust/powder formulation scattered in flowerbeds is safer.
  • Some mouse and insect killing products use peanut butter as an attractant. The peanut butter is also attractive to dogs. Keep pets in mind when placing these products around your home. If you have to use these items, place them in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals.
  • Use pesticides, such as flea repellant sprays, flea shampoos, and flea collars with care. They may cause allergic and even deadly reactions. Before buying a flea product, consult your veterinarian, especially when treating sick, debilitated or pregnant pets. If you are uncertain about the proper usage of any product, contact the manufacturer and/or your veterinarian for instructions.
  • Make sure your companion animals do not enter areas in which insecticidal foggers or house sprays have been applied for the period of time indicated on the label. Read warning labels before use.
  • Never use dog products on cats, as cats are much more sensitive to the toxic effects of products. Never use permethrin spot on products (which are labeled for dogs only) on your cat. Discontinue use immediately if any unusual symptoms appear.
  • Always check with a veterinarian before medicating pets. Many of the common over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen) can cause severe toxicity in both dogs and cats, even with just one tablet. For example, one extra strength (500mg) acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablet could be fatal to a cat.
  • Keep all prescription and over-the-counter drugs out of your pets’ reach, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins and diet pills are all examples of human medications that can be lethal to animals, even in small doses.
  • Don’t allow your dog to eat chocolate. Chocolate contains an ingredient called theobromine, which acts very much like caffeine. Too much theobromine can cause:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Nervousness
    • Tremors
    • Seizures
    • Coma
  • Don’t feed your pets alcohol or illicit drugs. They are dangerous to pets.
  • If you live in a tick-infested area, check your pets frequently, especially if they have been out for an extended period of time. Remove ticks from your pet as soon as possible.
  • Select houseplants with care. Some plants considered non-toxic to humans can be toxic to pets. The ingestion of azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, Easter lily (in cats only), or yew plant material by an animal can be fatal.
  • Make sure curious, young pets have safe, non-toxic chewable toys and snacks available. When young pets are teething, they will eat or chew on almost anything.
  • Have the phone number of your veterinarian and the emergency vet number posted: Camino Animal Clinic (805) 497-0969 and The Pet Emergency Clinic (805) 492-2436. Keep the Poison Center number on hand: 1-800-876-4766 California Poison Control System or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435.



If you suspect a pet poisoning, do not wait to call. Prompt attention may make a crucial difference to your pet. If you think that your pet may have ingested poison of any type, immediately contact your local poison control center for help. Keep your pet warm and quiet, and try to determine what the poison was, when it was ingested, and the amount ingested. Have the label with you when you call the poison center or visit your veterinarian.