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Common Pet Poisons

March is Pet Poison Prevention Month; in honor of that, we are going to cover the most common causes of pet poisoning. Some of them might surprise you. We will also cover what you should do if you find yourself in a situation where your pet has been affected by something poisonous.

Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products are fine to use around your pets. In any case, your cleaning product may have special instructions to ensure the safety of your animals.

For instance, if the label states, “keep pets and children away from the area until dry,” follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used correctly. However, they can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce severe chemical burns. Some detergents can create a similar reaction, and cats can be particularly sensitive to ingredients such as phenols. Phenols are organic compounds that you find in many products.

As a rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging or a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.

Air Fresheners

Some forms of air fresheners can be quite toxic, especially to animals (and children!) who might ingest the substances or cannot avoid the parts of the home where air fresheners are used.

The ingredient list for most air fresheners are volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. These substances can cause a long list of maladies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the health effects of VOCs may include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • headaches, loss of coordination, lethargy, and nausea
  • damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in both animals and people.

Essential Oils

Essential oils, which are included in many air freshener products, can be very toxic, especially to cats. If you simply must have essential oils in the home, make sure they are kept in a location where your pets cannot come into direct contact with them.

For more information about air fresheners and essential oils toxicity to pets, you can access the article from PetMD here.

Poisonous Plants

Some of the common poisonous plants for pets here in Iowa are:

  • Wild Parsnips
  • Poison Ivy
  • Stinging Nettles

For more information and a complete list of poisonous plants, you can visit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources here.


As with household cleaners, read and follow label instructions before using any type of insecticide, pesticide, herbicide, or rodenticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as severe or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.

When gardening, look for pet safe products if you cannot keep your pets out of your garden. Here are some sites to give you some ideas for pet safe gardening:

The All American Turf

Daily Paws

Better Homes & Gardens

If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some newer rodenticides have no known antidote and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.

Foods Poisonous to Pets

Food is in the top three of the most common things that poison pets. Food that is safe for humans can be deadly for pets. To be on the safe side, you should never allow your pet to have any of the following things:

  • Coffee – either the grounds, beans, or the drink itself. Caffeine of any kind can be deadly if ingested in sufficient quantity.
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Alcohol
  • Foods with a lot of fat
  • Macadamia nuts

Human Medication

Pets ingesting medication meant for humans is the number one reason people call the emergency animal poison control number.

You should never give your pet any human medication unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. That includes:

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen (Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc.)
  • Antidepressants or anxiety medications
  • ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.)
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Prescription medications for medical conditions
  • Vitamins and supplements. * Note, there are vitamins and supplements made specifically for pets that are safe. If you would like to find out more about them for your pet, please feel free to ask us.

If you have a question about a particular medication, just call or text us at (319) 277-7675; it will be so much safer and better for everyone.

Signs of Poisoning

As a pet owner, you want to keep yourself informed so you can tell as rapidly as possible if your furry friend needs medical attention. These are some of the common things to watch out for:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Lethargy
  4. Irregular/stumbling gait
  5. Lack of appetite or water intake

If you observe any of these indicators, you should act as quickly as possible because the faster you get help, the better the chances are that there will be no long-term adverse effects for your loved one. The list above of signs of poisoning is not a complete list. To find more signs of pet poisoning, you can go here.

How to Handle Pet Poisoning

If you see signs that your animal may be poisoned or suspect they ingested something poisonous, don’t wait! Call us immediately at (319) 277-7675. The faster you act, the better the chances are that your furry family member can make a full recovery.

You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline – (855) 764-7661

As an important reminder: do not induce vomiting in your pet after poison ingestion unless you are directed to do so by a trained professional.

Final Words

It is up to you to keep your pets safe from all the poisonous things that may surround them. Always stay alert to potential poisons in your pet’s environment and keep our phone number and Pet Poison Helpline number where anyone in the household can easily find them in case of a pet emergency.

Our job is to treat your pet when they aren’t feeling well and help you learn how to keep your best friend happy and healthy. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about things that may be potentially poisonous to your pet, or any other concerns about your pet you may have.


Dr. Tammy L. Stevenson

Advanced Pet Care Clinic

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