We have all been there: one minute, you are sitting at home on the couch watching TV, and suddenly you hear a noise coming from the kitchen. The “noise” turns out to be your pet getting into something they shouldn’t be. Sometimes we even come home to the garbage can knocked over onto the floor with its contents spread around the house. Or, when you accidentally drop a piece of your dinner, and your furry friend quickly aids in the cleanup. What some pet owners might not realize is that many of the items we have in our homes can be highly toxic to our feline and canine companions.
In this article, we will discuss a few of the most common items you may have in your own house that could be extremely poisonous to your pet if ingested.
1. Sugar-free gum (Artificial sweeteners)
As a kid, I loved chewing gum, which I still do to this day, especially when my breath needs a quick pick me up. What I didn’t know as a kid, though, was how toxic gum can be if ingested by a dog. Gum, specifically sugar-free gum, can be extremely toxic to dogs because it can contain the ingredient xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in many gum brands, such as Ice Breakers, Orbit, and Extra.
If ingested by a dog, even a tiny amount of xylitol can lead to severe liver damage, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), seizures, and even death. Just one stick of gum can potentially cause death in a small dog, pending on the amount of xylitol present. Thankfully cats do not seem susceptible to xylitol poisoning. Xylitol can also go by the name birch sugar now, which is important to know when determining if your dog has consumed this poisonous substance. Xylitol also can be found in many different types of sugar-free candy, peanut butter, and toothpaste, among many other items.
Grapes are one of the most common fruits to have in the house as a snack. However, you may not realize that grapes can be extremely toxic to your dog if ingested by accident. Even one grape can potentially lead to acute kidney damage in your dog; the exact reason is still unknown. Grapes in any form can be dangerous, including raisins, jam, jelly, and even certain kinds of juice. This is extremely important for those of us with young kids at home, as many of the snacks we feed our children can have a grape component in them.
It is common to have plants and flowers to brighten up our house. Flowers are also often a popular gift from loved ones. Many people forget (or don’t know) that many household plants and flowers can be highly toxic to our pets. Lilies, in particular, can cause acute kidney failure in cats and eventually lead to death if not treated quickly. Not all forms of lilies will cause kidney damage in cats, but true lilies, such as the Tiger Lily, Easter Lily, and Daylilies, are incredibly poisonous. Many cats also like to chew on household plants and flowers, which makes certain species of lily extremely dangerous to have in the house, as every part of the flower, including the stem, is toxic.
Many people use onions and garlic when cooking at home; they are both common ingredients in the foods we eat daily. However, you may need to realize how toxic these vegetables can be to your pet. Onions and garlic are part of a specific family of plants called the Allium family. The scariest part of this family of vegetables is that they can be toxic, whether in powdered, raw, or cooked form. Garlic powders, specifically, are much more poisonous than garlic cloves themselves.
This group of plants is so toxic because they contain oxidizing agents that can damage red blood cells and destroy them over time. When red blood cells become destroyed, they can lead to anemia (low red blood cell counts) which can cause weakness, kidney damage, vomiting, loss of appetite, and even death. This toxin can affect both canines and felines, and apparently, some Japanese breeds of dogs (Shiba Inu and Akita) are more susceptible to garlic toxicity than other breeds. The Allium family also includes chives and leeks, which can also be poisonous if ingested, but garlic poses the most considerable risk of toxicity.
Chocolate is a very common food item that many pet parents know is toxic. Still, many owners forget that chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains two important chemicals: caffeine and theobromine. Unfortunately, dogs cannot metabolize chocolate and products containing caffeine the same way humans can. This means that not just chocolate candy is toxic to dogs, but so are our favorite caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda, and even many energy drinks.
Caffeine and theobromine can lead to the same symptoms we would experience after ingesting too much coffee or soda, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Because dogs cannot metabolize these chemicals as humans can, they can develop heart failure and even die from chocolate ingestion at a much smaller dose.
What should you do if your pet has consumed something potentially toxic?
Many of these toxic substances can lead to death in a matter of hours if prompt veterinary care is not obtained immediately after ingestion. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested any of the poisonous substances listed above, please get in touch with your veterinarian immediately and call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, which is open 24 hours a day. The ASPCA has a great website that lists these and many other household items that can be highly toxic to your pet.