21 Things Your Dog Should Never Ingest (and a bonus)


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In Your Dog is Not a Human, So Don’t Feed Him Like One, I talked about a lot of human foods that people think it’s okay to give to their dogs, and the horrible results that can occur from doing so. The thing is, though, dogs are a lot like kids – they just don’t know any better when it comes to things that they shouldn’t be eating. And often, we don’t think about pet-proofing our house in the way that we kid-proof it. So, with that in mind, here are 21 things your dog should never ingest. 10 are plants, 10 are medications, and one is a bonus.

Plants Your Dog Should Never Eat

Okay, so you guys know I’m always telling you stories. This one has to do with a pet I had when I was 13 years old. His name was Brave Sir Robin (named after the knight in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail), and he was a hamster. One day, he somehow pulled part of a philodendron into his cage, and I was beside myself with worry. At the time, there was no such thing as a pet poison helpline, so I ended up on the phone trying to explain my situation to someone who was pretty much focused on humans. “How much does the child weigh,” she asked, and I was like, “Um… about an ounce.”

“No, said the worker, “Not how much philodendron – how much does the child weigh?” And I’m saying “Um….”

Anyway, long story short, my hamster ended up being fine. The poison control person recommended milk of magnesia, and by the next day, BSR was once again chowing down on his seed mix and running around in his little exercise wheel, none the worse for the wear.

It doesn’t work out that way all the time, though. Each day, the pet poison helpline gets dozens of calls from people whose pets have ingested questionable things. Most of the time, pet owners hang up the phone and heave a sigh of relief, because there are literally thousands of things out there that a pet could eat, but not all that many of them are poisonous. It only takes one thing, though, to lead to huge vet bills at best, and heartbreak at worst. So, here are just 21 things that your pet should never consume.


1. Autumn Crocus

One of the most delightful harbingers of spring is the crocus – a beautiful, low-growing flower that comes in shades of white, blue, purple and yellow and often pokes its pretty head up out of the snow. Don’t confuse this with the autumn crocus, though, which is not a true crocus. It’s actually a member of the Iridaceae family, and if eaten by your dog, could be extremely toxic. It contains colchicine, which can causes gastrointestinal bleeding, severe vomiting, kidney and liver damage, and even respiratory failure. It’s a sneaky killer, too, because signs might not appear until days after the plant is ingested.

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2. Azalea

Most people know that rhododendron is toxic, but they don’t think of azaleas, which are actually part of the same plant family and can have equally horrible effects. Just a few azalea leaves can cause diarrhea, vomiting and drooling, and if the dog is not seen right away and treated, he could become comatose and even die.

3. Cyclamen

Cyclamen is a flowering plant, but the leaves and the flowers are not the issue. It’s the roots – if your dog loves to dig, and he should happen to dig up and ingest cyclamen roots, he could end up vomiting profusely, and could also die depending on how much of the root he ingested.

4. Kalanchoe

This is a popular succulent that, if eaten, could cause vomiting and diarrhea. Heart arrhythmia can also result. While not usually immediately fatal, if you suspect that your dog has ingested kalanchoe, you should still take him to the vet right away for treatment.

5. Lilies

Some lilies are very dangerous, and others not so much. It’s interesting that if you were to plant lilies in a pasture with horses, the animals would instinctively avoid the harmful varieties while chowing down on the benign ones. Dogs aren’t that smart, unfortunately, and will just as easily eat “bad” lilies as “good” ones. Even a few leaves of the undesirable variety can cause irritation to the digestive tract. Usually a dog that ingests “bad” lilies will need IV fluids, kidney monitoring and other supportive care.

6. Oleander

Oleander is so very pretty, with its delicate flowers and evergreen leaves. The trouble is that they’re pretty, but deadly, and if your dog ingests the leaves and flowers, he could begin to vomit, experience a suppressed heart rate, and possibly even die.

7. Dieffenbachia

This is a popular houseplant that, if eaten, can cause nausea and vomiting. It will not usually prove fatal, though, unless ingested in large quantities.

8. Daffodils

Daffodils, if eaten, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmia, abdominal pain and respiratory suppression. Your dog is not likely to die from eating daffodils but should still be taken to the vet to have the symptoms treated.

9. Lily of the Valley

Don’t you love these pretty little bell-shaped flowers that appear in the early spring? If your dog loves them to the point of eating them, though, you might expect diarrhea, vomiting, cardiac difficulties and even seizures. If your dog has eaten lily of the valley, he should be taken to the veterinarian to have the symptoms

10. Sago Palm

This plant grows naturally in warm climates, and is often also kept as an indoor plant. The seeds and leaves, if eaten, can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, liver failure, and sometimes death.

11. Tulips and Hyacinths

These beautiful breaths of spring contain toxins in the bulbs that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and drooling. Ingesting the bulbs is seldom fatal, but the symptoms should still be treated by your veterinarian.

This is just a partial list of plants that could harm your dog. There are others, so if your dog has eaten anything that might be in question, contact the pet poison helpline or your vet immediately.


Most people make sure that their kids can’t get into their medications, but it often shocks me that so many dog owners will leave medicines out on the countertop where curious dogs could get ahold of them. You might be surprised to know that more than half of the calls that the pet poison helpline receives relate to human medications that the dog has gotten hold of. Sometimes, it’s a “counter surfing” situation, but other times well-meaning owners have accidentally confused their dog’s medication with their own. Either way, it’s not uncommon for dogs to end up poisoned by ingesting human medications.

Following are some of the human medications that your dog should not have.

12. NSAIDs

These non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are sold under names like ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, and Advil. They’re safe for people, but even a very small dose can you’re your dog. Common effects include ulcers in the stomach and intestines, as well as kidney failure, and that’s just when the medication is given accidentally. If a dog actually gets hold of a full bottle of NSAIDs, then it’s time for a trip to the vet right away.

13. Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)

Most people prefer Tylenol over Aspirin, because it works better. Tylenol is also usually a very safe drug for humans, but that’s not the case for pets. Even a single tablet can lead to liver failure, so please, don’t give Tylenol to your dog, ever.

14. Antidepressants

Sometimes, veterinarians provide antidepressants for pets. I personally know of a couple of incidents where dogs were prescribed Prozac because another dog in the family had died, and the surviving dogs were having trouble dealing with grief. This is not a case where you should decide that your dog might benefit from a bit of your Xanax, Elavil, or other anti-depressant drug. Some of these drugs can be very toxic to dogs, so if you suspect that your dog is depressed, don’t try to take matters into your own hands. See your vet to make sure that your dog gets the right medication at the right dosage.

15. Ritalin

I’d be the first to tell you that sometimes I’ve suspected one of my dogs of having ADHD. But before you decide to slip him or her a pill from time to time out of your kid’s stash, keep in mind that even ingesting a bit of this type of medication can cause seizures and heart problems.

16. Sleep Aids

I totally understand that sometimes it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep, and once or twice I have relied on a sleep aid. The thing is, though, if you give sleeping aids to your dog, it can actually have the opposite effect – the dog can actually become agitated. Some of these medications can also cause liver failure in dogs.

17. Birth Control Pills

Okay, this is going to come under the category of “so stupid I can’t even believe it.” I’m a “live and let live” kind of person, but I had to once take a total strip off a complete idiot who was getting two doctors to prescribe birth control pills – she was taking one prescription and having the other filled for her dog, in the misguided belief that she wouldn’t have to have her dog spayed.

If you’re considering this, please, stop! If your dog accidentally eats one or two of your birth control pills, no harm is likely to result (to the dog, at least – you might be another matter, mommy!). But a steady diet of estrogen pills can be poisonous to your dog. Have her spayed if you don’t want a litter.

18. ACE Inhibitors

These are blood pressure medications that are used in humans, and sometimes pets as well. So if your dog eats a few of your blood pressure pills, it’s probably not the end of the world, unless he has kidney or heart problems. Err on the side of caution, though, and keep these meds out of your dog’s blockers

19. Beta-blockers

This is another type of blood pressure medication, but it’s different from an ACE inhibitor in that even a bit of the medication could cause your dog to be poisoned, by suppressing the heart rate and lowering the blood pressure to a dangerous level.

20. Thyroid Hormones

This type of medication is used to treat an under active thyroid. Usually, if a dog swallows a pill or two it won’t be a big deal because, interestingly enough, this is one medication that has to be delivered in much higher doses to a dog than to a human in order to have the desired effect. If your dog swallows a whole bottle, though, he could end up with muscle tremors and a high heart rate, so the best course of action is to take your dog to the vet and make sure that he is monitored for any side effects.

21. Cholesterol Medications

I’m offering up this one more as just information rather than “get to the vet now.”  If you have high cholesterol and you’re taking medication like Zocor, Lipitor or Crestor, and your dog gets into it, there’s not likely to be a long-term effect. The dog might vomit or have diarrhea. Long-term effects will only happen with long-term ingestion. So, keep your dog out of your cholesterol meds, but don’t sweat it if it’s a one-off. I’m only adding this because cholesterol meds are so common.

Basic Guidelines

Don’t leave your medication out on the countertop. Keep meds in a cabinet where your pet can’t reach it. Also, don’t keep your meds close to anything that’s been prescribed for your dog – it’s too easy to confuse them, and you wouldn’t be the first person who accidentally gave your medications to your dog.

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The Bonus

We’re so close to the holidays right now, and there’s so much that our dogs can get into. Snow globes and bubble lights are so pretty, but they contain chemicals that can be very toxic for dogs. In bubble lights, for instance, there’s methylene chloride. It can cause eye and skin irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort and depression. So keep your pets safe from poisonous compounds at all times of the year, and be especially vigilant during the holidays.