Vet Blog

Common Household Toxins

August 09, 2020

Did you know that some of the items that you have around and outside your house can be fatal to your pets?

Here is a list of a few of the more common household toxicities that we see:

Over the counter pain medications (Ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, naproxen, Naprosyn)- These drugs (called NSAIDs for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are great for pain relief IN PEOPLE, but are highly toxic to dogs and cats. Because their livers metabolize the drugs completely differently from ours, these drugs can be fatal to your pet. As little as one Aleve pill can cause vomiting in an 80 pound dog and kidney failure in a 20 pound dog. Make sure never to intentionally give your dog or cat one of these drugs for pain. Also make sure to keep your supplies of these medications out of reach. We have seen several dogs that have rooted through their owner's purses and chewed open a bottle of ibuprofen. Never give your pet a human medication unless specifically directed to by your veterinarian. Effects of the drugs include vomiting, ulceration of the stomach, kidney failure, and liver disease.

Xylitol (an artificial sweetener)- Xylitol is an artificial sweetener present in many sugar-free gums, candies and desserts. As of the writing of this article in August 2012, Extra gum did not contain xylitol, but Trident did. Because products and formulas change, the important thing is to READ THE LABEL. Xylitol causes insulin release which leads to low blood sugar which can lead to seizures. Larger exposures can also cause liver failure up to 3 days after they eat the sweetener. Treatment involves inducing vomiting if they have eaten the product in the previous few hours. Intravenous fluids with sugar are given to combat hypoglycemia and bloodwork is evaluated to monitor liver enzymes.

Sago palm- these ornamental plants are frequently found in landscaping in the Houston area and can cause vomiting and liver failure if ingested. Although the whole plant is toxic, the seeds have the highest amount of the toxic ingredient. There is no effective treatment that can reverse the liver problems if they occur so identifying and removing these plants from your house and yard is the best way to prevent toxicity.

Lilies (esp Easter lilies, day lilies)- These plants cause kidney failure in cats when eaten. All parts of the plant are toxic. Treatment with IV fluids can help but is not always successful so keeping these plants out of your house is the only way to prevent illness.

Some household items that are non-toxic (or may just cause temporary gastrointestinal upset) include toilet bowl water with the blue cleaner, poinsettia plants, and the silica desiccant gel packs that say DO NOT EAT.

For more information on what's toxic and what's not, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center webpage.