Common Household Items That May Be Toxic To Your Pet

Having a pet is in many ways like having a toddler in the household.  They are constantly exploring the world around them, they get into things you never would have dreamed they could, and everything goes in their mouth. At Montana Veterinary Specialists and General Care, we see patients on a regular basis who have found something new in their environment and chewed it up, lapped it up, or swallowed it whole.  Many of these items are harmless, but some can be dangerous or downright deadly.  If your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, your veterinarian will need to know the following information to plan a course of action:

1)     The species, age, and approximate weight of the exposed pet(s).

2)     The time frame in which the exposure occurred.

3)     The amount and type of potential toxin that was ingested.

In some cases you may be able to monitor at home, but other toxins require immediate action and hospitalization.  The following is a list of common substances that may be found in your home, car, or neighborhood that warrant a call to your veterinarian if ingested.

Raisins and Grapes

Ingestion of grapes or raisins has been associated with acute renal failure in dogs.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that cats may also be affected.  The exact cause of renal toxicity is unknown.  Not every dog or cat is susceptible and some dogs can tolerate large quantities of grapes or raisins without any clinical signs. Since there is no test to determine if your pet is susceptible or not, any exposure should be treated as potentially toxic.  Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Sugar-free Gums and Candies containing Xylitol

Xylitol a sugar substitute and can be found in sugar-free candy, gums and other products.  In dogs it can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) severe enough to results in collapse, seizures, or death.  There is no antidote, but decontamination and supportive care to maintain appropriate blood sugar levels can save your pets life.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

The inappropriate use of anti-inflammatory medications such as Tylenol , Ibuprofen, and Rimadyl can cause a variety of illnesses in pets, from gastrointestinal upset to kidney disease.  Cats are especially sensitive to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.  If you suspect your pet has been exposed to anti-inflammatory medication without a recommendation by a licensed veterinarian, you should contact your veterinarian immediately to prevent life-threatening side effects.


Ingestion of leaves, flowers, or pollen from Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum), tiger lilies (Lilium tigrinum), rubrum or Japanese showy lilies (Lilium speciosum and Lilium lancifolium), and various day lilies (Hemerocallis species) can cause severe kidney damage, especially in cats.  If you think your pet has eaten a part of a lily, you should call your veterinarian immediately.


Ethylene glycol is a common constituent of antifreeze, brake fluid, and window deicers.  Unfortunately, it tastes sweet, and is therefore a common toxicity seen in small animals.   Even a small amount of ethylene glycol can cause behavior changes, seizures, and severe kidney disease.  If you believe your pet has been exposed to an ethylene glycol-containing product, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Ant Baits

Ant baits usually contain inert ingredients such as peanut butter, breadcrumbs, sugar and vegetable or animal, which could be attracting to pets.  Exposures to these types of ant baits usually do not require decontamination or treatment, unless the pet ingests the entire trap and it becomes lodged in their stomach or intestine, causing a blockage.  Most often, if signs are seen at all, they are mild in nature and self-limiting and are usually attributed to the inert ingredients instead of the active ingredient.  Unlike insect baits, those designed for mammalian pests such as gophers can be incredibly toxic to dogs and cats and warrant immediate decontamination.  Call your veterinarian if you have any questions about a specific product that your pet has been exposed to.

Inappropriately-used Veterinary Products

Many flea and tick products that are safe for one species are not appropriate for other household pets.  Cats are especially sensitive to some of the products that are perfectly safe for dogs.  Make sure all medications are used only for the species indicated on the prescription label, and use over-the-counter products according to the package instructions unless otherwise directed by a veterinarian.  Additionally, medications can have negative interferences with one another, so do not start administering an additional medication without the direction of your veterinarian.

Likewise, species differences exist between cats, dogs, and other domestic species that make medications that are safe for one very toxic to another.  Do not give a prescription intended for one pet to a pet of a different species without consulting with a veterinarian.  If a pet accidently ingests medication intended for another pet (or for a human in the household) contact a veterinarian to find out if you should be concerned.

Onions and Garlic

Onions, garlic, and other members of the Allium plant family, can cause damage to red blood cells.  Pieces of raw onion, onion powder, or even cooked onion could result in anemia in both dogs and cats. While there is no known anecdote for these foods, your animal may require supportive care at your local veterinarian in order to prevent and/or correct any anemia that may occur.

For more veterinarian-approved information about the health and safety of your four-legged, furred, or feathered family member, please visit or call us at 406-449-3539.

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