Most dogs, cats, and other pets live a long, happy lifetime among their loving owners. Some pets aren’t so lucky. That’s because many unknown dangers are lurking in and around the home. While puppies and cats are curious and get into everything, all pets are at risk of being accidentally exposed to toxins. Understanding what household items are toxic is the first step to prevent your pet from serious illness and even death.
It’s pretty common knowledge to keep bags of chocolate candies as far away from your dog as you can (cats too). But did you realize that coffee and tea drinks are off-limits as well? They all contain toxic chemicals called methylxanthine, including caffeine and theobromine, which are found naturally in cacao and tea plants. Dark and bitter baking chocolates have the highest levels of theobromine, but you should avoid white chocolate. Even a couple of pieces eaten by a small dog or cat can lead to seizures, cardiac failure, and death.
Cats and balls of yarn seem to go hand in hand. As harmless as it looks, yarn, string, ribbon, and even dental floss are unsafe for pets. That’s because cats, rabbits, dogs, and other pets can get tangled up in at and strangled. Even worse, animals that eat stringy material can choke on it or cause it to wrap around and perforate the intestines leading to a fatal infection. If your dog loves to play tug of war with rope toys, know that it’s not uncommon for dogs to die from intestinal blockage after ingesting the strings.
Who doesn’t like the fresh smell of home filled with the fragrance of a liquid air freshener, especially when you have pets? Unfortunately, these decorative plugins and diffusers pose a health risk to pets in these households. The air fresheners release cancer-causing chemicals into the air called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Pets exposed to VOCs can develop pneumonia, suffer from kidney damage, experience neurological problems and even die from cancer. Ingesting air fresheners is even more dangerous than inhaling the vapors.
If you’re a small animal owner, you might use old newspapers and magazines as an alternative to costly pet store bedding materials. Buyer beware! Hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs chew up materials to make their nesting area comfy. Glossy ad inserts, magazines, and even construction paper often contain toxic inks, dyes, and other chemicals. Ingested paper can be harmful, particularly those containing red and yellow pigments known to be carcinogenic.
Most people equip their kitchen with Teflon-coated frying pans. If you’re a bird owner or plan to get one as a pet, avoid using nonstick cookware at all costs. Teflon is very toxic to many birds because gas is emitted when it’s heated to a high temperature. Birds that breathe in the vapors suffer from PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) toxicity. There is no cure or treatment because pets experience immediate respiratory distress and rapid death.
There’s not a cat or dog owner out there that hasn’t battled fleas and ticks with the use of various insecticides. So, how is it that flea and tick control show up on a lethal items list? Flea and tick collars that you buy over the counter often contain toxic organophosphate (OP) compounds such as tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur. Topical medications for the skin contain imidacloprid, fipronil, permethrin, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen. Even the pills or chews recommended by vets contain afoxolaner and fluralaner that affect the nervous system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that many of these pest control products are harmful to pets because they can cause skin irritation, seizure, and, sometimes, death.
Xylitol is a toxic substance commonly used to replace sugar in many products found around the home. It’s well known in food products such as sugar-free gum, candy, ketchup, syrup, drink mixes, and diet foods. Still, you may be surprised to find out that it’s often in baked goods, toothpaste, mouthwash, gummy vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines. It’s even found in no sugar and low sugar peanut butter. In a small dog, all it takes are small amounts like half a piece of gum to lower a dog’s blood glucose levels. Xylitol can cause liver disease, blood clots, and death.
Grapes, raisins, and currants are healthy snacks, but they’re poisonous to dogs, cats, and other pets. Pets may experience vomiting within 12 hours after eating because their body can’t metabolize the toxins. Although it’s unclear what toxins are dangerous, it’s suspected that tannins, pesticides, or other chemicals found in grapes cause kidney damage and kidney failure. These fresh and dried fruits can be more toxic than chocolate, so it’s important not to feed your pet anything that may have hidden raisins in them.
Pets love to run around the yard and eat grass and other plants. However, many common garden and potted plants and flowers should be kept away from dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, iguanas, etc. The following are known to be highly toxic to animals: autumn crocus, azalea, caster bean, cyclamen, chrysanthemum, daffodils, dumb cane, English ivy, hyacinth, kalanchoe, lilies (especially for cats), oleander, pothos, sago palm, tulips, and yew. When eaten, they can cause everything from abdominal pain and breathing issues to organ damage and death. As marijuana gains legal status, exposure puts pets at risk of a depressed nervous system, increased heart rate, seizure, and coma.
The garage, driveway, and city streets can be littered with harmful substances. In the winter months in cold climates, de-icers are put on the ground to melt ice. While dogs and other pets may not be interested in eating these salts, they can track toxins inside and then lick them off their feet. There are different ice melts, but those containing calcium salts and sodium chloride are the most toxic and can lead to death if a large amount is ingested. Unlike salts, dogs are particularly attracted to the sweet smell of bitter-tasting coolant garage floors. Antifreeze contains alcohol (ethylene glycol), which can cause fatal kidney failure within a few hours if left untreated.
Over the past few years, avocados have become a pop-culture diet trend. This newly favored superfood is high in healthy fats, fiber, folate, potassium, and essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains a toxin called persin, which is harmless to humans but can be deadly for certain animals. Although dogs and cats are rarely affected, it’s best to avoid them. However, large amounts of avocados given to birds (parakeets, cockatiels, canaries, parrots) and large farm animals (horses, goats, cows, sheep) can be deadly because pectin damages the liver, kidneys, and heart.
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