Spring Poison Prevention for Pets

By Dr. Rachel Duncan, Veterinarian

We all want to keep our family safe, including our four-legged family members.

Pets are amongst the most vulnerable for poison ingestion. Dogs and cats are keen to explore new things, ingest substances quickly, and are not able to verbalize when they are feeling ill.

Pets get into a large array of poisonous substances.

Some of the most common poisonous ingestions we see include the following items:


Human medications are often ingested by dogs, but cats are also drawn to ingest certain substances. Prescription drugs range from completely harmless to extremely life-threatening. Recreational drugs, particularly marijuana, are also commonly ingested.

Pets may also consume more than the prescribed amount of their own medications if given the opportunity. Some medications are formulated to taste like treats, and can easily be consumed in harmful quantities.

Common medications we see that cause concerns are NSAIDs, acetaminophen, antidepressants, blood pressure and cardiac medications, and certain vitamins. Even joint and dental chew treats can be harmful when eaten in large quantities.

Human Foods


A large amount of products contain the sugar substitute xylitol. Many foods, gum, candy and even non-edible items contain this chemical. Xylitol can be extremely dangerous when ingested by dogs. At toxic doses, dogs can develop very low blood sugar and liver damage.

Chocolate, caffeine

Chocolate contains caffeine and chemicals closely related to caffeine. These chemicals can be deadly to dogs when ingested in large amounts. Gastrointestinal upset, high and irregular heart rate, tremoring, seizures, and even death can result.

Grapes, raisins

When ingested by dogs, grapes and raisins can cause renal failure. Cats are not affected by this ingestion. The dangerous compound in grapes is unknown. Initial vomiting may occur, but many times no initial symptoms are noticed.



Among the most common plants that are ingested, lilies are the most dangerous. All parts of any true lily species are poisonous to cats. Dogs are not affected by this plant.

Renal failure can develop in any cat that ingests even very small quantities of the plant including water only containing the pollen.


Ethylene glycol

Antifreeze contains the chemical ethylene glycol, and may have a sweet flavor that attracts animals (new formulations frequently contain a bittering substance to deter ingestion). Antifreeze may cause initial vomiting then drunken-like walking and behavior after ingested. If these signs are missed, and treatment is not promptly initiated, renal failure can develop.

Poison prevention is key to reducing accidental injuries

Protect your pets by poison-proofing your home. General guidelines include placing all medications in inaccessible locations, ensuring plants in the home are non-poisonous, keeping all food items out of bags or containers on the floor, and securing garbage cans and trash.

There are many resources available to ensure your pet’s environment is safe. Pet Poison Helpline has an excellent room-by-room checklist to guide you in protection. ASPCA Poison Control Center also has information on their website listing and helping to identify poisonous substances.

Always being vigilant of your pet and noticing early if any symptoms or abnormalities are present will also ensure early care of poisonous substance ingestion.

What to do if your pet has ingested something

If you believe your pet has ingested something poisonous or toxic, or are noticing any abnormal behaviors, immediately call your local veterinarian. Your veterinarian can guide you in identifying concerns and guiding treatment.

ASPCA Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline are also excellent resources to call if you believe you have a pet poison emergency. Many times you will be directed to contact these toxicologists by veterinary staff, or veterinary staff may call for more treatment information if treating your pet.

Do not administer any treatment without first discussing with a veterinarian or poison control center.

Keep your pet safe and avoid these poisonous pitfalls!

ASPCA Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435

Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661

Leave A Comment