Pet Toxins and How to Avoid Them

Dog at Veterinarian
Canine Patient Being Examined by Dr. Siegel at Flemington Veterinary Hospital

As a veterinary hospital, we regularly respond to pets that have been exposed to toxins. Many people think that because animals, especially dogs, seem to eat anything they can find, that they have hardy stomachs. But pets are notorious for experiencing severe discomfort when they eat unusual things, and in many cases that discomfort is related to toxins.

Common Pet Toxins

  • Rat Poison

Rat poison is one of the most common toxins for pets. Rat poison is highly toxic and in some cases can be deadly. When you have rats and put the poison within reach, pets will often consume some out of curiosity and suffer the consequences. It’s important that any time you use rat poison in or around your home, you put it in locations that are only accessible to rodents, where dogs and cats can’t reach.


  • Toxic Foods

Many foods are also toxic to pets – several of which are commonly consumed by humans. Chocolate is the most well-known toxic food. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which is highly toxic to dogs. Since processed chocolate also looks and smells delicious, chocolate that is left in an area that is accessible to pets can quickly become a danger.

Keep Chocolate Away from Pets
Delicious Chocolate Can Be Lethal For Your Pet

But chocolate is not the only toxic food. Other common foods such as raisins, onions, avocado pits, and foods that use xylitol (an artificial sweetener often used in gum) are all very toxic to dogs. Only 3 grams of xylitol, for example, can kill a 60 pound dog, and because it tastes sweet, any dog that comes into contact with xylitol is likely to consume it.



All human foods should be kept safely away from your pets, especially when the pet is not being monitored. Human food in general can upset a pet’s stomach. But the foods that are toxic to dogs need to be very safely put away – and that includes making sure it is not easily found in the trash by a sly dog.

  • Medications
Risk of Human Medicine for Pets
Human Medicine Can Pose A Serious Risk To Curious Pets

Both human and animal medications are harmful to pets, especially when they’re taken above the recommended dose. Many medications that work on humans are toxic to pets, and even medications made specifically for the pet can be deadly at high doses.

Your pet doesn’t have a filter for medications, and several medications now look, smell, and even taste delicious. Make sure that any and all medications for humans or pets are kept in a locked cupboard far away from any place dogs can get to, to prevent very dangerous accidents.

  • Antifreeze

Finally, another common pet toxin is antifreeze. Antifreeze has a nice smell, and contains an ingredient known as Ethylene glycol – an alcohol derivative that has a very sweet taste.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic, and unfortunately the sweet taste makes it delicious to pets, and not just dogs – cats also find antifreeze very tasty. If antifreeze is left somewhere in an open area that is easy to find, all your pet needs to do is taste the antifreeze and they’ll be likely to consume all of it, with dangerous results.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent antifreeze poisoning in your pets. First, use an antifreeze made with propylene glycol, which is slightly more bitter. Second, make sure that the antifreeze is not only sealed tightly, but placed in some type of bag or box so that it is well out of reach of your dogs and cats.

Make sure you always examine your car for leaks, and if you see any strange behavior (especially after a dog has been in the garage), rush your pet to the vet immediately. Pets can recover from antifreeze poisoning, but only if the pet is taken to the hospital early.

Keep Your Pet Safe

Your pet can’t tell you if something’s wrong, nor does it know if what it finds is safe or toxic. Many pets have an “eat first, ask questions later” attitude to the things they find on or near the ground. Be careful with what you keep within any distance of your pet, because dogs, cats, and other pets are all very good at accessing toxins that you thought were out of reach.



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