Your pet doesn’t always know what’s best, and they can be tempted by the taste or smell of some dangerous substances in your home. Our team at Little Animal Hospital wants to help by providing information on toxins commonly found in many households. We enlisted the help of some four-legged friends, to get their perspective on the situation.

Brandon the bulldog asks, “Why can’t I have a bite of my owner’s chocolate cake? He said it was super delicious, and I think keeping it to himself is mean.”

Little Animal Hospital (LAH): Brandon, your owner is not being mean. Chocolate is toxic to pets, and can cause significant problems if you eat any substance that contains chocolate, and especially baking or dark chocolate. Caffeine and theobromine are ingredients in chocolate that cause cardiac and central nervous system stimulation in pets. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, panting, and increased thirst and urination, and in severe cases, muscle tremors, seizures, and heart failure. Theobromine has a long half-life, meaning the substance stays in the pet’s bloodstream for a long time, so signs can last for several days. I bet that chocolate cake doesn’t look so appealing now! 

Penny the Persian says, “I thought I had hit the jackpot, because I found some delectable morsels when I was investigating our garbage, but my owner snatched them away before I could enjoy my find.”

LAH: Penny, the morsels you found were leftover hor d’oeuvres that contained onion and garlic. Any vegetable from the Allium family, which includes onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots, contains N-propyl disulfide, a toxin that causes oxidative damage to the pet’s red blood cells, and results in anemia. Signs include lethargy, pale mucous membranes, reddish urine, and fainting. Your owner thankfully saved you from a trip to the emergency clinic! Pet owners should keep trash in sealed containers, to ensure their pets can’t access toxic foods.

Lori the Labrador retriever says, “I was being helpful by cleaning leftover crumbs from my owner’s countertop, when I came across a bowl containing these interesting, round, green globes. They smelled sweet, but as I was about to taste one, my owner grabbed them out of my mouth. I was offended, since all I was doing was tidying the kitchen.”

LAH: No reason to be offended, Lori! Those green globes are grapes, and they are extremely toxic, and can cause kidney failure in pets. Signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, and increased thirst and urination. Pet owners should keep their countertops clean of all leftovers, including crumbs, to avoid tempting their pet to counter surf and find forbidden food.

Chester the Chihuahua says, “I was finding treasures in a purse my owner’s friend left in the hallway, when I was rudely interrupted. My owner wouldn’t let me keep the little white rectangles I discovered, regardless how much I pleaded. I’m sure her friend didn’t need them all.”

LAH: Your owner did you a favor, Chester. Those little rectangles are sugar-free gum, and they contain xylitol, a common sugar substitute. When pets ingest xylitol, their pancreas recognizes the substance as sugar, and responds in an exaggerated manner, releasing an excessive insulin amount. This causes a sudden, and potentially drastic, drop in their blood sugar, leading to profound hypoglycemia. Signs include weakness, incoordination, and seizures. In severe cases, liver damage can occur, which often results in life-threatening consequences for the affected pet. Pet owners should ensure their guest’s coats and bags are securely placed where their pet can’t scavenge through the pockets to find inappropriate treasures.

Tina the tabby cat says, “My owner had an orange, round treat by his bedside table that I decided I should try, but he became highly agitated when he found me about to take a lick. I think he’s rude not to share.”

LAH: That is no treat, Tina. That is acetaminophen, and a small amount could damage your red blood cells. Signs include weakness, rapid breathing, panting, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Liver damage can also occur. Other medications, such as ibuprofen, decongestants, heart medications, antidepressants, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications, can also have significant consequences for pets. Pet owners should keep all over-the-counter and prescription medications in a safe place that their pet can’t access.

Peter the poodle says, My owner placed treats in the basement, but when I tried to take one, he got upset, and banned me from the area. Why place treats on the floor, if I can’t have any?!”

LAH: Those treats were actually rodent bait, Peter. Rodenticides are made to taste sweet to attract rodents, but pets can find them appealing, as well. Many rodenticides are on the market, and all are harmful to pets. In addition, many other common household products, such as fertilizers, paint, glue, spackle, and cleaning products, can harm pets. Keep all household products in a cabinet or closet that your pet can’t access, to ensure they stay safe. Also, keep your pet out of any area where you are using cleaning products, rodenticides, or fertilizer.

Don’t let your pet become a victim of a pet toxin. Safeguard your pet by keeping them away from any substance that can harm them. If your pet ingests a toxic substance, immediately contact Little Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control, to learn what steps you need to take to save your pet.