Common Pet Poisons

Accidental poisoning affects thousands of pet owners each year.

common pet poisons that you may not have heard about

Some are pretty obvious (like chocolate), but there are some you may not have considered. Dogs are the most common offenders, sniffing out “treats” from between the couch cushions, but cats are guilty of their fair share of opportunistic snacking as well.


You’d be surprised at how many well-intentioned pet owners poison their pets just by trying to relieve their pain with an Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen inhibits the blood flow to the kidneys and attacks the stomach lining, causing stomach ulcers or kidney failure. A single 200 mg tablet of ibuprofen could be fatal for a cat.

Unless directed by a veterinarian, any human medication, including herbal and natural supplements, is off-limits for pets. Nearly one-third of pet related poisonings reported to the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center in 2015 were from owners whose pets got into medicines intended for human use, earning these categories (prescription and over-the-counter medicines are separate) the top spots on the toxin list.


As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, incidents of marijuana poisoning in pets has quadrupled. Marijuana contains a chemical known as THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which can, in small doses, cause lethargy, incoordination, dilated pupils. Though death is, thankfully, rare, in large amounts THC is toxic and can lead to loss of consciousness and seizures.

If your pet has ingested marijuana, call your veterinarian immediately. The veterinary office may be able to induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal to absorb the toxin. Please always be forthright and honest with your veterinarian about the likelihood of a marijuana ingestion.


Xylitol (zy-li-tol) is an artificial sweetener used in many products such as gum, mints, and candy. If ingested xylitol may cause insulin release from the islet cells of the pancreas. The insulin release can cause a drop in the blood sugar level. Dogs who ingest toxic doses of xylitol may be depressed, shaky, experience tremor and possibly seizures. Check the label – If xylitol is listed as an ingredient and your dog exhibits any of those signs, seek medical attention at your veterinary clinic.


Notorious chewers, dogs will occasionally swallow a battery while chomping down on plastic toys. Batteries contain hazardous chemicals which can cause tissue damage in the intestinal tract. If you suspect a battery ingestion it is best to call your veterinarian immediately. A simple x-ray of the abdomen at your veterinary clinic will detect batteries.

What to Do if You Suspect Poisoning

Following these steps may help save your animal’s life after an accidental poisoning.

Get medical help immediately.

Post your veterinarian’s telephone number in a convenient location.
The Animal Poison Control Center is available 24 hours a day. Neighborhood veterinary clinics rarely see poisonings, so the NAPCC is a unique resource for both pet owners and veterinarians. For a small fee, they can provide very detailed treatment protocols to your veterinarian. Their number is (888) 426-4435.

Provide a history

As a concerned pet owner, it’s up to you to provide your vet with information that could potentially save your pet’s life. Checking symptoms allow vets to work backward and figure out the cause.

Providing a detailed history of symptoms to your veterinarian is critical. Immediately collect and preserve any vomit and food products you find as evidence. You can do this yourself, or take it to your vet to freeze and later send to a laboratory for testing.

Meet the Author


Dr. Clayton Jones

Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. He also is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.


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