Thursday, April 18, 2013

Top 10 Poison Dangers for Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

It’s that time again. Spring is upon us, and my neighbors are fertilizing their lawns and spraying all kinds of insecticides to kill bugs. It always makes me nervous when they’re poisoning up their adjacent yard; I’m sure some of the toxic chemicals migrate over into our space. To educate myself, I consulted the Pet Poison Helpline and saw that they have an updated list of potential poisons in our homes and yards.

The Pet Poison Helpline is a valuable resource for pet people. They log every call they get, and each year they examine their records to determine what type of poisons garnered the most calls. So even though we’ve written other articles here on the CANIDAE RPO blog about the plants, foods or chemicals that can be hazardous to your pet, as a responsible pet owner it’s good to stay updated on the subject. With that in mind, here are the most common dangers for dogs, listed in order of the frequency of calls into the helpline. Interestingly, the list starts with food items because food accounted for the highest number of poisoning calls.

1.  Foods, especially xylitol, chocolate and grapes/raisins

Xylitol is getting a lot of attention lately because of claims that tout its health benefits, including reducing the risk of tooth decay. Many sugarless gums and candies now contain xylitol, and this sweetener is dangerous to dogs. Even a small amount ingested by your pup can result in a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar or even liver failure.

Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. The chemical in chocolate that makes it dangerous for dogs is theobromine, which is a relative of caffeine. The darker, bitter chocolates are the most dangerous. The fact that raisins and grapes are toxic foods for dogs isn’t as widely known. Be cautious; if a dog eats raisins or grapes it can result in kidney failure.

2.  Insecticides 

If it can kill insects, it can kill other things. Ingestion of insecticides and pesticides were the second most common call to the helpline. What I didn’t know is that one of the most dangerous ingredients is organophosphate (e.g., disulfoton) which is often found in rose-care products. This toxic chemical can be fatal to dogs, even when ingested in small amounts, so rose gardeners please take note.

Even though spot-applied flea and tick treatments work well for dogs, you have to be extremely careful if you are a mixed-species household because they can be very toxic to cats. Read the labels carefully and look out for products that contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids, which are a derivative of the Chrysanthemum flower. These chemicals are severely toxic if directly applied or ingested by cats.

3.  Mouse and rat poisons

Another case of the obvious; if it kills rodents it can kill other things. There are a variety of chemicals in mouse and rat poisons, all with diverse active ingredients and different types of action. Therefore all of them, regardless of what the packaging claims, are potentially poisonous to dogs. They can cause severe vomiting, internal bleeding, brain swelling or kidney failure. Furthermore, if your pets eat a mouse or rat that was poisoned by rodenticides, it can cause what’s called relay toxicity, meaning they can be poisoned via the dead animal.

4.  Human ibuprofen and naproxen pain relief drugs

Common NSAID pain relief drugs, which include Advil, Aleve and Motrin, can cause severe problems to dogs when ingested. These pain relievers can cause your pet stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as potential kidney failure. You should never treat your pet with human drugs of any sort without consulting your veterinarian.

5.  Common household cleaners 

Powerful cleaning products carry the highest risk to animals due to their corrosive properties. These household cleaners include rust removers, toilet bowel cleaners, calcium/lime removers and drain cleaners. And remember, just because a cleaner claims to be “natural,” it’s not necessarily safe. With all household cleaners, it’s better to err on the side of caution and keep them all out of your pet’s reach.

6.  Human antidepressant drugs

Of all the prescription drugs, antidepressants account for the highest number of emergency calls into the helpline. When ingested, these drugs can cause neurological problems in dogs like high levels of agitation, sedation, tremors and seizures. Please keep all human medications away from your pets.

7.  Fertilizers

The Pet Poison Helpline says that some fertilizers are fairly safe, but I still keep my dogs away from them. Apparently, certain organic fertilizers that contain iron, blood meal, bone meal and feather meal may be especially appealing to dogs. Consuming large quantities can cause severe pancreatitis or even bind together in the stomach and obstruct the gastrointestinal tract.

8.  Human acetaminophen drugs and cough/cold medications

Considerable amounts of acetaminophen (Tylenol) can lead to severe liver failure in dogs. Cat people should be doubly cautions about acetaminophen because it poses a more significant threat – one Tylenol can be fatal to felines.

9.  Human amphetamine drugs 

Drugs that are used to treat ADD and ADHD, like Adderall and Concerta, contain strong stimulants. The smallest amount ingested by a dog can cause life-threatening heart problems, tremors, seizures and elevated body temperatures and heart problems.

10.  Veterinary pain relievers 

Rimadyl is a veterinary-specific, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is often prescribed by veterinarians for inflammation, osteoarthritis and pain management for dogs. Be careful, though. Over ingestion can result in severe gastric ulceration and acute kidney failure in dogs.

Top photo by Crystal Rolfe
Bottom photo by Tony Alter

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. I wish more people would take this seriously...urr - thanks for the article!

  2. i did not know about grapes and raisens!


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