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The Top Household Dangers to Your Pets
by Dr. Kitti Wielandt, DVM

The bond between dogs and cats -- and other pets, too -- and their owners (or their "human companions" if you prefer) can be remarkably strong. So strong, in fact, that there are proven direct correlations between a pet's safety, health and happiness and their owner's peace of mind, health and happiness.

Therefore, we are proud to announce that respected veterinarian Dr. Kitti Wielandt will be a contributing editor to Her monthly columns will, of course, focus on the most important steps to keep your pets safe and improve their health, longevity and well-being. Her biography follows her first piece below.

Pets, like children, can sometimes put their health in danger from seemingly harmless household items or seemingly innocuous events. Some of these risks are obvious, such as drain opener and other toxic chemicals, while you may find others below more surprising.

Pet Dangers

Always have the phone numbers of your Vet and closest Pet Emergency Clinic handy for emergencies.

Here are the most common dangers I have seen in my practice, including tips for prevention and the key steps to take if treatment is required.


  • Usually seen in young puppies and kittens


  • Most likely cardiogenic (heart) shock

  • Acute difficultly breathing

  • Often a blanched, burned area across the lips or tongue


  • Rush the animal to your veterinarian or a Veterinary Emergency Clinic immediately, as this is a serious emergency. If possible (via another member of the family or on cell phone), give the Vet or Emergency Clinic an advance notice of what happened and that you are on the way, so they can immediately act upon your arrival.


  • NEVER leave a young animal around electric cords. Keep them out of the vicinity, or keep the electric cords completely hidden where your pet cannot access any part of them.


Most Common Toxic Household Chemicals Include:

  • Rat and Mouse Poisons

    • These can taste good so animals will be inclined to eat them

    • SYMPTOMS include lethargy, easy bruising (dark spots on the skin), bleeding from nose or mouth (due to internal bleeding), blood in urine or feces

    • TREATMENT: Induce vomiting. Note how much (if any) of the product is vomited up. These products have long-term effects on the body's ability to clot. Treatment with Vitamin K (prescription item) is usually necessary.

    • PREVENTION: Use pet (and people) safe mouse and rat traps such as the Victor Electronic Mouse Trap and Victor Electronic Rat Trap. The Victor Electronic Traps irresistibly lure mice and rats in, and then quickly (humanely) eliminates them with a quick electric shock. Its unique tunnel makes it very safe around children and pets, unlike traps that snap shut or poisons. Plus it avoids the unpleasant site and messy clean-ups of other traps.

  • Common Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol

    • Has a sweet taste that attracts animals but can be fatal if consumed in even small quantities (a single teaspoon can kill a seven-pound cat, a tablespoon can kill an average sized dog.)

    • SYMPTOMS: Excessive thirst, diarrhea, panting, vomiting, convulsions, wobbling and increased urination.

    • TREATMENT: If you suspect antifreeze poisoning, RUSH your pet to the Vet or Veterinary Emergency Clinic

    • PREVENTION: Do not use the common antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol. Use antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, which is safe for animals if ingested in small amounts. Do not leave any antifreeze in the vicinity of pets, and quickly and thoroughly clean up spills.

  • Phenol and Phenol Derivatives, such as Pine-Sol and Lysol

    • Phenol and derivatives such as creosote, naphthol, wood tar and others

    • Especially toxic to cats

    • SYMPTOMS: Muscle twitches, depression, coma, respiratory distress, jaundice. Contact Vet immediately.

    • PREVENTION: Use safe home cleaning and other products instead of those with phenol (which is obtained from coal tar) and phenol derivatives. Read The Health Dangers of Phenols Found in Common Household Cleaners for more information on this important topic.

  • Insecticides (organophosphates, carbamates, synthetic pyrethrins)

    • These include certain flea and tick products. Cats are especially sensitive to these chemicals and can get seizures or even die from products intended for dogs that are mistakenly used on cats.

  • Lawn & Garden Chemicals, like fertilizers, plant food, pesticides

    • This can be dangerous and even fatal. Keep pets away from lawns, gardens and plants that have been treated in any manner, and if you suspect poisoning contact the Vet immediately.

  • De-Icing Salts

    • Many people are not aware that salts used to melt snow and ice can be toxic if licked off and can irritate paws. If your pet comes in contact with de-icing salts, wipe their paws off as soon as possible.

General Toxic Chemical Treatment and Prevention:

  • Remove the poison.

  • Identify the poison.

  • Call Vet or Emergency Vet and ask if inducing vomiting is indicated.

  • Use Hydrogen Peroxide to induce vomiting: 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds. If you aren't sure you can do this with out getting bitten, TAKE THE ANIMAL TO THE VET.

Topical Poisons:

  • In addition to dangers of ingesting toxins, anything not intended for topical use that gets on your pet's coat can pose a risk. This includes gasoline, tar, motor oil, ice melting chemicals, lawn chemicals, and others.

  • TREATMENT: Prevent your pet from licking at the chemical and bathe the animal with a degreasing detergent like Dawn dish soap.


  • Generally seen in hot months


  • Panting, rapid heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, collapse


  • Cool animal down immediately with COOL (not cold!) water.

  • Take animal to Vet or Vet Emergency Center as soon as possible


  • NEVER leave a dog or cat in a parked car if the outside temperature is above 68 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Do not leave pets outside without shelter or water in excessive heat

Pet Dangers

Please do not feed the dog or cat chocolate, coffee, onions, raisins, grapes and the other foods listed at the left!

Dangerous FOODS to Your Pets

  • Chocolate: Even small amounts of chocolate can be dangerous. Dark chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate. Theobromine is the active ingredient. Clinical signs: excitability, restlessness, tremors, seizures, increased urine output. Diagnosis based on history of ingestion. Treatment -- if recent ingestion, induce vomiting. If symptoms already evident, call your vet.

  • Coffee: Caffeine poisoning. Similar to chocolate ingestion.

  • Onions: Can cause anemia. Symptoms: pale gums, weakness, lethargy.

  • Raisins / Grapes: Can cause kidney failure. Symptoms: decreased or increased urination, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, weakness.

  • Cooked Chicken Bones and other sharp food products from leftovers can choke dogs and cats, or cause punctures of the stomach or intestines, so discard properly

  • Alcohol: Symptoms: staggering, inability to stand, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures.

  • Anything from the Garbage that might be spoiled can cause food poisoning. Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, lethargy.

  • Large Quantities of High-Fat Food like bacon, pork fat, and suet can cause Pancreatitis.

    • SYMPTOMS including vomiting, tense and painful abdomen, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

    • TREATMENT: Potentially fatal -- requires IV fluids and hospitalization.

Dangerous DRUGS to Your Pets

Human OTC and prescription drugs including aspirin, acetaminophen, amphetamines (Ritalin and other ADHD drugs), tranquilizers, antidepressant drugs, hypertension drugs, heart medications (including Statins used to lower cholesterol), and recreational drugs.

Keep all medications and drugs intended for human use sealed and out of pet's reach. Try to identify the drug and contact vet immediately if suspected ingestion by your pet.

Other Pet Dangers to Watch For:

  • Many Household Plants (see The Ten Most Common Poisons Among Kids for a list of some of the common ones). Keep ALL household plants out of pet's reach.

  • Rubber Bands, String, Coins and other small and hard items can choke pets,or cause obstructions in the intestines, so keep floors and other surfaces pets roam on free of such items

  • Kidde Knighthawk Carbon Monoxide AlarmThe top-rated Kidde Knighthawk Carbon Monoxide Alarm is UL approved & provides
    peace of mind that your home is free of the poisonous, odorless gas that is a serious danger to both pets and people.

    Read More Now

  • Carbon Monoxide: See "The Six Silent Killers in Your Home" for more information. All homes should have a top-quality carbon monoxide detector/alarm such as the Kidde Knighthawk Carbon Monoxide Alarm Kopp-3.

  • Insects: The usual troublemakers are spiders and stinging insects (bees, wasps, hornets, etc.)

    • SYMPTOMS: intense itching (rubbing or chewing at area), swelling, possible breathing difficulties.

    • TREATMENT: Try to identify the insect if possible and call your vet for the appropriate treatment.

Further Reading:

The Health Dangers of Phenols Found in Common Household Cleaners

Winter Dangers to Your Pet: Don't Let Fido and Fifi Freeze!

The Six Silent Killers in Your Home: How to Detect and Eliminate Them

About Dr. Kitti Wielandt, DVM:

Veterinarian and columnist Dr. Kitti Wielandt has been in small animal practice since graduating in 1987 from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

She practiced in Illinois from 1987 to 1996 and in Virginia from 1996 to the present. Her focus is on small animal medicine and surgery, Veterinary Chiropractic, Veterinary Acupuncture and Massage therapy on people and animals. She has a special interest in behavior and training, and in nutrition.

Dr, Wielandt is owned by Ceri, her 15 year old Tonkinese cat, and by Pen, her 7 year old American Pit Bull Terrier, who shows in conformation, weight pull, obedience and Rallye obedience.

Dr. Wielandt lives in the woods near a small town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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