As pet parents, it’s important that we keep our pets safe but unfortunately hazards can present in unusual situations. We’ve listed some common indoor hazards for you to keep an eye out for.
It’s amazing (yet scary) how many common food items in our kitchen are poisonous to our pets! Some of these food items, while safe to you, may cause serious problems if ingested by our dogs and cats. Here is the list of kitchen products that the veterinarians recommend keeping away from pets.
Chocolate: Chocolate comes in many different forms, such as white, dark and milk. Each type of chocolate has a different toxicity level. A mild toxic dose of chocolate can cause agitation/hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhoea. Moderate toxicity can cause tachycardia (increased heart rate) and severe toxic levels can cause seizures. Chocolate stays in the stomach for several hours after ingestion, so symptoms may not be witnessed until up to 12 hours after ingestion.
Xylitol (common in sugar-free chewing gum): Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and is gaining popularity in sugar-free foods, oral care products, and dietary supplements. Common products that contain xylitol are gum, toothpaste, sugar-free candy, chewable vitamins, and melatonin supplements. Although safe for humans, xylitol can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs that ingest toxic amounts. The symptoms can be very rapid, occurring within 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. Common symptoms of xylitol poisoning include vomiting, weakness, lethargy, difficulty walking (ataxia) and seizures. Dogs are the most susceptible pet species to xylitol toxicity.
Grapes/Raisins/Currants: Grapes, raisins and toxic currants can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. There is no known toxic dose for these fruits so any ingestion should be considered potentially toxic. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, anorexia (not eating), weakness and decreased urine output. Symptoms can be witnessed within 12-24 hours.
Caffeine: Caffeine poisoning, while not as common as chocolate poisoning, can occur with ingestion of products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, certain drugs such as migraine medications, and caffeine or diet pills. Caffeine poisoning can cause restlessness, hyperactivity, vomiting, panting, tachycardia (increased heart rate), weakness, diarrhoea, and heart Symptoms can occur 1-2 hours after ingestion and can last for 12-36 hours. Fatality is common when dogs ingest caffeine pills.
Fatty Scraps: While it is tempting to feed your pet scraps from the table, fatty food scraps can cause stomach upset and is a risk for pancreatitis in pets. Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed. Symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite (anorexia), lethargy and diarrhoea. Some dog breeds are more prone to pancreatitis. Older and overweight dogs can also be prone to pancreatitis, but with an ingestion of fatty foods, any dog can be susceptible.
Onions/Garlic/Chives/Leeks/Shallots: Ingestion of these foods in large enough quantities can cause oxidative haemolysis, which is defined as destruction of the red blood cells causing anaemia. Common symptoms of toxicity can include but are not limited to: lethargy, pale mucous membranes, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, and increased breathing rate. The onset of symptoms can be anywhere from 24 hours after ingestion to several days. The symptoms can potentially last for 10-20 days. Dogs, cats, cattle and horses can be affected.
Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts are a common snack for people but can be toxic to dogs. Macadamia nuts contain up to 80% oil and 4% sugar which can increase the risk for pancreatitis (high fat). In toxic quantities, the nuts can also cause neurological signs such as weakness, ataxia (difficulty walking), tremors, hyperthermia (increased temperature), and joint stiffness. Symptoms of neurological poisoning can be witnessed within 3-6 hours and can last for 24-36 hours. Dog breeds more predisposed to pancreatitis may be at higher risk but all dogs may be susceptible to pancreatitis.
Unbaked Yeast Bread Dough: Any bread made with baker’s yeast can be toxic if the unbaked bread dough is ingested. When bread dough is rising, the yeast consumes sugars in the dough and in turn produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide forms bubbles in the dough making it rise. Ingestion can cause ethanol (alcohol) toxicity as well as obstruction of the stomach, stomach bloat and/or stomach torsion. Common symptoms from ethanol toxicity include acting “drunk”, sedation, ataxia (difficulty walking), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), hypothermia (low temperature), GI distress, respiratory depression, and coma. Bloat and stomach torsion are more common in deep chested dog breeds, however any breed of dog could be at risk. Common symptoms of bloat include abdominal distension, pawing, restlessness, and unproductive retching. Symptoms can occur one hour after ingestion but can be delayed. Symptoms can last 24-36 hours and surgical intervention may be needed to remove the dough.
Alcohol: Alcohol or ethanol toxicity can occur when an animal ingests alcoholic beverages, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, yeast bread dough, etc. Common symptoms from ethanol toxicity include acting “drunk”, sedation, ataxia (difficulty walking), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), hypothermia (low temperature), GI distress, respiratory depression, and coma. Symptoms have a rapid onset, within 30 – 90 minutes, and can last 24-36 hours.
Table Salt: Ingestion of salt can cause sodium poisoning (hypernatremia). Hypernatremia is an increase of sodium concentrations in the blood. Common symptoms of salt toxicity include vomiting, diarrhoea, polydipsia (increased drinking/thirst), ataxia (difficulty walking), tremors, and seizures. Symptoms can occur within 30 minutes to 4 hours. Animals can also be at risk for salt toxicity when they ingest homemade play doh, salt ornaments, baking soda, de-icing products, and other salt containing products.
Keep medications such as over-the-counter and prescription pills, inhalers and dietary supplements, safely locked up in secure cupboards. Do not leave them on countertops or tables or store them in plastic zippered baggies, which are easily chewed through.
Never medicate your pets with human products without first contacting your veterinarian. Some common human medications such as ibuprofen is extremely poisonous to pets.
Always check the container before giving medication to your pet to make sure it’s the correct medication. Also, it is best to store your own medications separately from your pets. Veterinarians receive many calls from people who accidentally gave their own medication to a pet.
Keep pets away from cleaning products. Shut them out of the room while spraying bathroom cleansers or other products.
Close toilet lids to keep pets from drinking the water, especially if you use automatic chemical tank or bowl treatments.
Living Room Hazards
While your living room may be one of your pet’s favourite places to hang out, it can also be one of the most dangerous! Be cognizant of these common living room dangers and make sure to follow these helpful poison proofing tips.
Keep home fragrance products, such as simmer pots of liquid potpourri, well out of reach. These products may cause chemical burns if ingested.
Never spray aerosols or any heavily fragranced products around caged birds. They are especially sensitive to any airborne products.
Keep ashtrays and smoking cessation products such as nicotine chewing gum or patches out of reach. Even cigarette butts contain enough nicotine to cause poisoning in pets.
Be careful with batteries! Dogs enjoy chewing on batteries and battery-containing devices such as remote controls and cell phones. If ingested, they can cause serious chemical burns.
Hang up your purse! Pets love to dig through purses and backpacks which often contain potential pet poisons such medications, cigarettes or sugar-free gum with xylitol.
The laundry is an area of the home intended for the storage of many household items and products. It can often become the “junk drawer” of the house and for that reason can contain a variety of substance and items that could be toxic or harmful to your pets if exposure were to occur. Armed with the knowledge of what items may be dangerous to your pets, you can organize the room in such a way that keeps hazards are out of your pets reach.
Keeping dangerous items up high (if you have dogs but not cats) can be an easy prevention action. Adding locked or difficult to open cabinets can help to minimize exposures. Preventing access to the room all together may seem extreme but can sometime be the best and easiest answer. Common dangers for pets found in the Laundry include:
Laundry Products: Products such as laundry detergent, softener, bleach, and dryer sheets all have potential to cause significant irritation to your pet’s skin, eyes, oral, respiratory, and GI tracts. Some products may also have the potential to cause corrosive injury to these physiological systems.
In addition to possible toxic potential, dryer sheets can pose a risk for a foreign body obstruction in the GI tract if ingested. Injury from laundry products is not always immediately evident but those products with a more basic pH can cause serious and at times life threatening injury that may not be seen until several hours or more after exposure.
Laundry pods can also be harmful in more than one way. In addition to having GI irritant potential, the fluid inside of them is under pressure and when bitten into the contents often burst with force into the pet’s mouth which can cause inhalation/aspiration to occur. When this happens chemical pneumonia, which can be life threatening, can occur.
Light Bulbs: Light bulbs pose an injury hazard to your pet from sharp glass if they are bitten into or broken and walked over.
Fluorescent bulbs can also contain small amounts of mercury. Although the amount that your pet could be exposed to from a broken bulb or two is not anticipated to cause significant health risks these types of exposures are best avoided. If your dog ingests some of a broken light bulb call your veterinarian to discuss the risk of injury from the broken glass.
Some LED lights may also contain small amounts of heavy metals.
Cleaning Supplies: Cleaning supplies can contain a variety of ingredients with a range of toxicity potentials. Some common ingredients include bleach, ammonia, quaternary ammoniums, and other substances. Like laundry products some of these cleaners can cause GI distress whole others have corrosive injury potential. Depending on the chemical other toxic effects may also be possible.
When stored in utility rooms these products are often in their concentrated forms making toxic potential more significant then when diluted for use in the home. Keep these items tightly closed and locked away where the containers cannot be knocked over or chewed open by a pet.
Batteries: Batteries come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on their application. Several types of household batteries pose significant corrosive injury risks. Some also contain heavy metals that can be toxic if ingested. Additionally, when batteries are fully, or partially ingested, foreign body obstruction can occur.
When batteries are punctured and ingested there is very real potential for life threatening corrosive injury. The damage from the battery contents can be so severe that there can be perforations to the GI tract and trachea. When punctures of batteries occur, we take these exposures very seriously.
Commonly used Alkaline Dry cell batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 1.5 volt and others) are found in most homes. They can be punctured or ingested (most commonly by dogs) or pets can be exposed to leaking fluid from old or corrosive batteries.
Disc or Button Batteries: These types of batteries are commonly used in small household items such as watches, cameras, or hearing aids. They can have different ingredients including Silver oxide, zinc, mercury, and cadmium. Their small round appearance may give the impression of benignity but they can pose insidious hazards when ingested as their small, flat shape can promote lodging in the folds of the GI tract where they can corrode over time causing electrochemical burns that lead to perforation injury and possibly massive haemorrhage. For this reason it is imperative that treatment to remove the battery from the GI tract be initiated swiftly. Symptoms can appear long after you assume your pet has passed these little objects.
Rechargeable Batteries: These batteries are used commonly for electronics as well as scooters, wheelchairs and other mobility devices. These can contain lead, lithium, nickel, cadmium all of which may have toxic potential for your pet when ingested.
Each battery exposure is an individual scenario, but we take them all seriously given their potential for harm to pets. Battery ingestion is almost always an emergency. If you are aware of a recent battery exposure rec gently flushing your pet’s mouth for as long as tolerated up to 15 minutes or offering water with broth. The next step is to immediately seek veterinary attention for assessment and recommendations.
Even with the best planning and intentions our pets will occasionally be exposed to toxic substances. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to something harmful call your veterinarian immediately as time is of the essence. It is not always safe to induce vomiting or administer other home remedies. Seek counsel before taking action.