Do You Know What Is Toxic to Pets? Vet Techs Do! | Vet Tech

Do You Know What Is Toxic to Pets? Vet Techs Do! | Vet Tech
On April 25, 2016

A vase filled with lilies, fresh green grapes, and gooey oatmeal raisin cookies with big chunks of dark chocolate sound good, unless you are a veterinarian, veterinary technician or any animal care professional.
Why? Because these seemingly innocuous items are all potentially life threatening when ingested by our dogs and cats. Want to keep the animals in your life safer from toxins? 

Well, there’s an app for that! Literally, there is now a helpful app thanks to the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center.  You can download the app right to your smartphones, (which are now bordering on geniusphones). We won’t go so far as to call them Doctorphones; if your pet ingests something toxic you still need to seek professional animal care from your veterinarian, or nearest emergency veterinary hospital, but this can help you quickly gather crucial information if your animal is in a potentially life-threatening situation.

Want your phone to be even smarter? Here is the link to the ASPCA app.

There are thousands of substances in dozens of categories that can be dangerous to pets and people, but I want to mention a few of the more common toxins we see harm our animal friends.


  • Over the counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), as well as prescription drugs including blood thinners, sleep aids, anti-depressants and pain medications can be lethal to animals.
  • Many drugs safe for dogs, including flea and tick products, are NOT safe for cats.
  • Drugs compounded into tasty chewable forms can easily cause a dangerous overdose if they are too tasty, so keep all of these closed tightly, out of reach and behind tightly shut doors.


  • Chocolate: The darker it is the worse it is for pets.  Chocolate has been in the “Top 10” lists of pet poisons for as long as I can remember. Especially around holiday baking time, be sure all chocolate items are off limits to everyone except the intended recipients.
  • Grapes and Raisins: Now that is a weird one, I know. Grapes and raisins can cause severe kidney damage in dogs, and the dose at which they become dangerous is highly variable. Our best bet is to keep them out of reach.
  • Onions and Garlic: Everything in this general family can cause a certain form of anemia in our pets.
  • Xylitol: This very common sugar substitute can cause severe hypoglycemia, (low blood sugar), in dogs. As Xylitol has become more common in our foods, gum, medications, mints etc. access for our dogs has increased. Therefore, Xylitol toxicity has increased in recent years.  

Plants: TONS! Check it out: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.


  • Antifreeze, or Ethylene Glycol, is a perfect storm in terms of toxicity. It is readily available, it has a sweet smell and taste, it only takes a small amount to do harm and the harm is swift and often fatal.
  • This is a problem for small children as well as animals.
  • Antifreeze ingestion causes kidney failure if not treated aggressively and quickly.

Rodenticides: rat/mouse poisons:

  • Though some people still find it acceptable to cause rodents and other unidentified wildlife to slowly bleed to death, they tend to frown upon the same fate once it is bestowed upon their pets.
  • Every single emergency case of rodenticide toxicity I have treated starts with roughly the same story; the owner, or the neighbor, DOES use rat poison, but they ONLY put it in places where pets can’t possibly get to it. The pet can’t possibly get to it except for that one time, when he does get to it, and it almost kills him.
  • With many products, it’s not only the rodent poison itself that can kill your pet. Eating the mouse, rat or chipmunk who eats the poison can also kill your pet. And remember, rodents who are bleeding to death tend to slow down and get much easier to catch.
  • To paraphrase Office Space: If everyone could just stop using this stuff now and put these companies right out of business, that’d be great.

Other stuff:

  • Most types of insecticides, lawn care products like mulch, fertilizers and weed killers can be toxic.
  • Many household cleaners and disinfectants are dangerous to pets.
  • Even hand and foot warmers, glow sticks and high doses of vitamins can be toxic.

If you see any animal get into anything listed above, or frankly anything that isn’t cat food or dog food, don’t waste time. Call your veterinarian and get to your animal care facility right away.

Paranoid yet?

  • Keep your own veterinarian’s number, that of your nearest emergency veterinary clinic, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center & the emergency poison control number handy.
  • Learn more! Learn what you love, and love what you do.
  • Talk to us about working with animals in any aspect of animal care or animal welfare, or just to learn more about our amazing animal rescue partners.
  • Stautzenberger College offers diploma and degree programs in Animal Sciences.
  • In addition to diploma and degree programs, Stautzenberger College also offers short, sweet & cheap certificate courses for members of the community, like our Animal Warden, Animal Control Officer program which provides attendees the opportunity to learn about animal health, animal behavior and animal law.

Written by: Danya Linehan, DVMDR.Dayna Spring image

Danya Linehan has been working with animals since 1983, practicing veterinary medicine since 1993, and has been a proud member of the Stautzenberger College Family since 2006. (Danya Linehan is old). Dr. Danya is the Program Chair for Animal Welfare and Management Program with the College.

As the part time shelter veterinarian at Cat Welfare Association, she is part of an amazing animal welfare team.

Danya shares her home, her rescue mission and her life with fellow animal advocate Mike Parks. Mike and Danya are owned by a lively crew of cats; they are currently one cat shy of being the crazy cat couple.



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