There's a good chance that you've ridded your home of a few notorious houseplants that aren't safe for cats and dogs, but new advice from Consumer Reports illustrates the danger hidden in many other household items for our furry friends. In conjunction with safety experts from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the new report expands our understanding of potentially deadly toxins for our animals in common products like acetaminophen and mouthwash.
Tina Wismer, D.V.M., the medical director for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, told Consumer Reports that pet poisonings have become more prevalent than ever: The ASPCA hotline took more than 180,000 phone calls related to possible toxins in 2016, with cases rising in recent years. Most of the following items aren't safe for pets in any amount, but your pet's size might play a part in whether accidental digestion could lead to life-threatening conditions, or if you should wait to consult a vet before jumping to conclusions. A quick way to access the situation is to actually contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, and experts on call can help you determine solutions to the issue at hand (they may charge you a $65 consultation fee, however).
The best way to prevent animal poisonings is to keep an eye on your pet, especially if you have the following items in your home.
Lilies are one of the most poisonous plants for cats: A taste of the flower or its pollen could lead to severe kidney failure. But the cycad palm, which is very common in warm climates found in California, Texas, and Florida, is one of the most deadly plants for all pets, according to the ASPCA. Avoid peace lilies, philodendrons, and dieffenbachias in your home, as these plants contain insoluble nutrients that can cause digestion issues. These common household plants also contain need-like crystal structures in leaves and buds which can become lodged into your pet's tongue or gums. Swelling can be so severe that airways could become blocked, Wismer said.
The ASPCA maintains an up-to-date list of lethal houseplants right here. Experts suggest checking all bouquets for lilies before bringing them into your home, and on the off chance that your pet eats one of the plants listed above, feed it milk to avoid excess swelling and contact your vet immediately.
In 2016, over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication were the most common sources of pet poisoning, Wismer said. Common products like Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve are all risky, as well as blood thinners, antidepressants, phenylpropanolamine, and most thyroid treatments. One common issue that Wismer sees is children feeding pets their own medication when parents aren't watching, or they try to hide medication in food on a plate which then may make its way into a pet's bowl.
Even medication prescribed to your pet can be deadly in excess amounts. These items are often flavored, and can be appealing to your pet if left easily accessible: Try separating these pills from others and stashing them in secure cabinets, Wismer said. And if you take supplements that may be appealing to pets—like fish oil, for example—you should keep these sequestered from any prescription medications, as these could attract your pet directly to your own medicine stash as well. Should your pet consume any medication, note how much they ate and if they swallowed any packaging as well, which can help your vet determine further digestion issues.
Chocolate is at the top of the list, and as more people lean towards dark chocolate for its health properties, the risk for dogs increase dramatically. It only takes 9 ounces of milk chocolate, 4.5 ounces of dark chocolate, and 1.5 ounces of Baker's chocolate to cause a seizure in a 20-pound dog, Wismer said. But another alarming edible item is actually an additive found in many common grocery staples, including baked goods, gum, breath mints, and some forms of peanut butter (it's also found in mouth wash). It's called xylitol, and it can often be found on the product's ingredient list. This is the second-most common source of poisoning for pets in kitchens, despite its low profile.
Other items to steer clear of: Grapes, raisins, and currants, which can be deadly for a dogs' kidney; onions and garlic, which can cause red blood cell damage in both cats and dogs; and chives, which can cause fatigue and disorientation.
Common Household Items
Many pet owners immediately contact the ASPCA due to incidents where pets bite into batteries, Wismer said, which can cause acidic burns in the pet's mouth later on. Paint is another common household item that is of concern, as common industrial chemicals can burn the pet's skin and cause digestive issues. More often than not, experts recommend feeding your pet milk (as this dairy staple helps combat any swelling) and to reach out to vets immediately. You probably won't be surprised to hear that household cleaners, including bleach, drain cleaners, and disinfectants, are also on the top of the ASPCA's list of dangerous items. Keeping these away from the floor in your kitchen and bathroom is the best way to prevent a dog from biting into a cleaning product that could cause severe digestive issues.
Wismer said she advises pet owners to lock them into another room when using harsh cleaning agents on floors and other surfaces, giving them time to allow these surfaces to dry, as pets often lick wet surfaces out of confusion. If you store cleaning items under your sink, a baby lock could be a great way to prevent cats and dogs from squeezing their way into the cabinet.
Pesticides, Insecticides, and Other Pest Control Measures
While humans aren't as sensitive to industrial insecticides, these sprays could contain ingredients—including organophosphates, pyrethroids, pyrethrins, and permethrins—that are toxic for your pets as well as insects. Cats are particularly affected by rat poison—if the cat eats or kills a mouse or rat that has ingested rodenticide, it could also be poisoned as well. The same is true for dogs, Wismer said.
The ASPCA says you shouldn't discard the spray bottle or packaging material for any pest control product used in your home, as the ingredient list could be crucial for your vet when your pet digests the material in question. When buying insecticides, look for nontoxic alternatives, which Consumer Reports said contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis (otherwise known as "Bt"). If you're using an industrial-grade pesticide, try limiting it to areas that can't be reached easily by your cat or dog.