Common pet toxins and hazards

With the holidays quickly approaching, I wanted to discuss some common toxins and general hazards to be aware of during this time.  Many of the items on this list are well known while others may be a surprise. 

Common Hazards:

Electrical cords-New cords used to plug in holiday decorations can be very tempting for pets.  Hide or conceal these cords when possible. 

Costumes-While cute to look at, costumes can sometimes be dangerous if left on an unsupervised pet.  Common concerns would be choking, intestinal blockage and strangulation.

Wrappers/Sticks for candies-These can put pets at risk for choking and intestinal blockage.

Trick or Treaters-The ringing of the doorbell as well as children and adults dressed in costume can cause pets to experience anxiety.  If your pet is bothered by the holiday traffic, you may want to consider boarding your pet.

Other Animals-With the holidays, we always see a few dog fights associated with holiday visitors bringing their own pets along with them.  If you need any instruction on introducing your dog to another, unfamiliar dog, contact the office and we will be happy to help.

Common Toxins:

Xylitol-This compound can be found in many sugar-free gums and candies.  This is a serious toxin that can cause life-threatening liver necrosis. 

Chocolate-For most dogs, a few M&Ms are not an issue although discouraged.  The most concerning forms of chocolate in regards to toxicity are baking chocolate and dark chocolate.  Symptoms you may see are hyperactivity, vomiting, seizures and collapse.  Chocolate toxicity can be potentially fatal.  Pancreatitis can occur as well due to chocolate’s high fat content.

Raisins, Grapes, Currants-The mechanism of toxicity isn’t fully understood but what we do know is that ingestion can cause potentially severe, acute renal failure in any quantity. 

Onions, Garlic, Chives and Leeks-Of the four listed, garlic is considered the most toxic.  Life-threatening anemia  can result from a pet eating any of these substances.  Symptoms are usually delayed by several days after pet consumes toxin.  Surprisingly enough, the Japanese breeds are more sensitive than others to this toxin.

Macadamia nuts-This toxin affects nerve function.  Symptoms you may see are joint stiffness, vomiting, tremors and even acute hind limb paralysis.

Unbaked bread/dough-Ingestion of dough can be a serious problem for pets.  After ingestion, the dough will expand in the stomach and could cause bloating of the stomach.  This in turn can lead to Gastric-Dilitation and Volvulus (GDV) which is life-threatening.  The fermenting yeast in the dough produces alcohol which is also very serious.

Alcohol-Alcohol that is ingested or from consumption of dough can result in low blood sugar, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizures, respiratory failure and death. 

Fatty Foods-Pancreatitis and gastroenteritis are the biggest concerns with ingestion.

Glow Sticks-These products contain phenol which can cause a caustic burn to tongues and sensitive tissues in the mouth.  You can see drooling and anorexia. 

Poinsettia-This plant is not as toxic as many people once thought but should still be kept out of reach.  Common signs of ingestion are drooling, vomiting and anorexia.  If signs do not resolve or are severe, veterinary care is recommended.

 Mistletoe-Signs of toxicity can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.  Common signs are vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, seizure, collapse and even death.

Holly-The spiny leaves can irritate the mouth and gastrointestinal tract which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, drooling and head shaking.

Lilies-There are many types of lilies which are toxic and others which cause just minor problems.  The most concerning are those of the Lillium or Hemerocallis species.  These include tiger, day, Asiatic hybrid, Easter, Japanese Show, rubrum, stargazer, red, Western, and wood lilies.  Other lilies that we don’t worry about too much are Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies.  Toxic lilies can cause acute, severe kidney failure especially in cats.  Lily of the Valley is not in this class but can cause cardiac toxicity.  Please have your pet examined immediately if any of these toxic lilies are ingested by your pet.

Human medications-The list is enormous in this category but any medications used to treat pain, depression, ADD/ADHD, sleep disorders, heart conditions or muscle pain are all considered potentially toxic.  Most people know to keep these drugs out of the reach of their pets but holiday visitors may not be so knowledgeable. 

A wonderful resource for more information on pet poisons is  This website contains a wealth of information on pet toxins.  They also have a helpline to call in case your pet ingests a toxin.  The number is 855-681-3186.  There is a $39 fee to use this service.  Peroxide is always great to have on hand but do not give without talking to your veterinarian or consulting with a poison helpline.  Some substances can do more damage if vomiting is induced.  As always, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have!  281-486-1509


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