Here a toxin…there a toxin…everywhere a toxin…or two…or more! We are continually bombarded by toxins even in our home environment, and children and pets are intensely curious, interested in exploring, discovering, and learning about their world.  That natural curiosity can get them into trouble. Dogs (and sometimes young children) use their mouths in place of hands, and so they pick up, chew, and end up exposing themselves to numerous toxins in and around the home.

The kitchen with its tantalizing tastes and smells is a favorite gathering place for humans, and usually the home of a dog’s food bowl. This room usually contains large quantities of household maintenance and cleaning chemicals, often in lower cabinets. Many dogs easily learn to open cabinets, and, intrigued by new scents, are likely to lap of a lethal dose of chemical cleaner or snack on a dirty sponge or scouring pad.  The solution? Childproof locks on the cabinets.  These locks are easy for an adult to open, and quickly become automatic, but are almost impossible for a child or pet to manage. A second solution is reconsidering your housecleaning strategies, and rather than use caustic and poisonous chemicals, choose natural or “green” cleaners that are safer and more ecologically sound than traditional cleaners.

The kitchen garbage pail is full of potential dangers. Even a cover cannot deter a clever canine. The greasy mess of wrappers and gnawed bones are unhealthy, but the molds, bacteria, and toxins are more hazardous. “People tend to underestimate the problems that eating garbage can cause,” emphasizes New Hampshire vet, Dr. Charles DeVinne. “Such common throwaways, such as apple cores (and seeds), potato skins, and moldy cheese can make dogs sick, with symptoms ranging from obvious pain to diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by lethargy, depression, or seizures. All of these symptoms require veterinary care.”

Other dangers lurk throughout your house. Dogs who eat even one penny minted after 1983 or metal game tokens like Monopoly pieces risk zinc toxicity. Small, sharp parts of toys can also cause internal blockages or even serious intestinal punctures. The range of items removed from the stomachs of dogs includes panty hose, bouncy balls, feminine hygiene products, and plastic bread bags.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline ( ) among the top poisons are:

  1. Foods, especially chocolate, the sweetener zylitol, grapes and raisins, onions, alcohol, and unbaked yeast dough.
  2. Insecticides, including sprays, bait stations, and some spot-on-flea and tick treatments.(Do NOT buy these over the counter…consult your veterinarian!)
  3. Rodenticides (mouse and rat poison)
  4. Human medications including
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for humans, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
    • Anti-depressant such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Effexor
    • Acetaminophens such as Tylenol and cold medications
    • Amphetamines such as Adderall and Concerta, medications that are used to treat attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • Cardiac meds (e.g. calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, etc.)
    • Vitamins and minerals (Vitamin D3, iron, etc).
    • Caffeine pills
  5. Household cleaners including MANY sprays, detergents and polishes.
  6. Fertilizers, including bone meal, blood meal, and iron-based products, cocoa mulch.
  7. Veterinary prescribed meds, especially pain relievers such as COX-2 inhibitors like Rimadyl, Dermaxx, and Previcox, can be toxic if not administered properly.

The best thing a pet caregiver can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you suspect your dog has ingested something questionable, consult your veterinarian or poison helpline immediately. Accurate and timely identification of the suspected substance is important and may save the life of your pet.