I have been pretty fortunate when it comes to issues with my dogs eating toxic substances, although I did have an awful scare recently with Leroy – I told you about it in Help, My Dog Ate a Battery! It was my fault, of course, because if I hadn’t left batteries out where he could get into them, he wouldn’t have eaten one, I wouldn’t have had to rush him to the vet after hours on a stormy night, and his health would never have been in danger.
I’m usually a lot more careful, and there are some things that I’ve always kept out of the reach of my dogs. Many are food items, and I talked about them in Your Dog is Not a Human, So Don’t Feed Him Like One. Following the battery fiasco, though, I decided to do a bit more research on things that can be poisonous to dogs, and I was nothing short of amazed at some of the things I didn’t realize could be extremely harmful, as well as a few of the things that didn’t I thought could be deadly, but really aren’t.
For instance, I’ve never had poinsettias in my home during the Christmas holidays, because I’d always heard that they were deadly to animals, and I really didn’t think to question that belief. It turns out though, that they just get a bad rap, and the risk of any serious level of toxicity is so low that it’s practically non-existent. Worst case scenario if your dog eats a poinsettia, he might vomit a bit, have some diarrhea and maybe a bit of redness and irritation in his eyes. It’s very unlikely that he will require medical treatment.
That said, though, there are several items that you should eliminate from your home if at all possible. If you absolutely must have any of these things around, make sure they’re well-secured somewhere that the dog can’t get at them.
This is something that, if you have it in your home, you can’t be without. This is because it is a very powerful drug that is used to treat serious forms of cancer. If a human in your household needs it, it’s not as if you can just say “I think we’ll give it a pass.” However, make sure that your dog does not come into contact with it. Ideally, you should ensure that the dog is secured in another room when the drug is being administered, because if he ingests this drug, he will most likely develop seizures along with severe vomiting. His bone marrow could also become suppressed, and death is a very real possibility.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic that is often prescribed to humans in order to control the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Most animals cannot tolerate it to any degree, and dogs are no exception. It can be fatal, and even small amounts, if ingested, can lead to seizures and coma.
3. Caffeine Pills
These are practically a staple in many homeowners’ medicine cabinets, because they provide the energy boost of several cups of coffee without the need to drink the brew. So, humans who are preparing for a long drive, or pulling an all-nighter while studying for an exam and who either don’t like coffee, or don’t like the multiple bathroom trips that result from drinking a lot of it, rely on these pills.
Trust me, though, the last thing you want is a dog on a caffeine rush. If you must use caffeine pills, keep them well away from your dog, because they can cause high blood pressure, an irregular or elevated heart rate, tremors and even seizures.
Organophosphates are the main ingredient in various insecticides and herbicides. They are common in agricultural products, but also find their way into chemical preparations that might be used by the homeowner to get rid of troublesome garden pests or weeds. If you must use these products, keep them well away from your dog, because they can cause diarrhea, vomiting, drooling and damage to the heart.
Ask your vet about safer alternatives, or better yet, consider using home-made products that contain ingredients that won’t harm your dog. Just as an example, I’ve found that a simple preparation of water, salt and vinegar makes short work of even stubborn weeds. The proportions don’t seem to matter all that much – I’ve found several recipes online, and they vary quite a bit. I usually just use about a pint of water to a quarter cup each of salt and vinegar and shake it all up in a spray bottle, spritz it on the weeds, and in a couple of days, they’re dead. A couple of tablespoons of salt to a gallon of water will also repel most insects if sprayed directly on plants.
5. Sago Palm
This plant grows naturally in the southern states, so if that’s where you live, you should definitely consider eradicating any that might be growing in your yard. The sago palm is also a very attractive plant, and often finds its way into stores that sell ornamental house plants. In fact, while researching this post, I discovered to my horror that I had one in my home.
Now, first off, I didn’t know when I bought it that it was a sago, because it was simply labeled “tropical plant” in the store. I also didn’t know that even a small amount can cause liver failure in dogs. Fortunately, Janice and Leroy have never shown any interest in chowing down on house plants, but just the same, I got rid of that pretty killer immediately. I also devoted a lot of time to researching the other plants in my home. After all, just because my Boxers have never eaten a house plant, that’s not proof in and of itself that they never will, and I’m not taking any chances.
6. Japanese Yew
This is another ornamental plant, commonly grown outdoors all over North America. No part of this plant is safe for animals. From the leaves right on down to the stems and roots, this plant is a killer – it can cause seizures, heart failure and finally, death. If you have this plant anywhere on your property, get rid of it.
7. Golden Malrin
If you’re anything like me, you probably absolutely loathe house flies. There are few creatures as annoying, with their maddening tendency to want to land, over and over, on your exposed skin. Of course you want to be rid of them, but this type of fly bait, if ingested by dogs, can be every bit as bad as organophosphates, with similar effects. If you use it, the chances of your dog getting into it are quite good, since the method is to place it in pans in areas where flies congregate. Golden Malrin works so quickly and is so deadly that there have even been reports of animals being found dead with their nose in the pan.
I won’t have anything like that anywhere near Janice and Leroy. I use fly strips instead – I’m not sure what they’re treated with, but since they’re hung from the ceiling and I destroy them once they’ve reached their limit of use, it’s not something I have to worry about.
8. Baking Xylitol
This is a sugar substitute, often sold under the brand name Truvia. It is used for baking, in essentially the same proportions as you would use sugar. The supposed benefits are that it delivers fewer calories, and also does not contribute to tooth decay. The trouble is that xylitol is very, very bad for dogs, and it takes very little to cause damage.
Just to set the stage for you, let’s pretend that I’m baking a batch of cookies. The recipe calls for a cup of sugar. Instead, I decide to use xylitol. I accidentally drop the cup containing the xylitol, and it goes all over the floor. Now, Boxers are big dogs, right? And of course they shouldn’t be ingesting sugar, but by the time I shoo them away from a cup of sugar and get it all cleaned up, they’re not going to come to any harm.
Here’s what’s scary about xylitol – chances are I won’t be able to shoo them away in time, because all it will take to cause liver failure in a full-size Boxer is actually less than a teaspoon. So please, if you love your dogs, live with the calories, and brush your teeth a little more often. Just use the sugar!
9. Rodenticides that Contain Bromethalin or Vitamin D
The whole concept behind a rodenticide is that you want the rodents to eat it and die. So, it has to be appealing. The trouble is that often these rodenticides are equally appealing to household pets. Often, rodenticides come with little traps in which you can place the toxic material, and supposedly this prevents the animals that you actually want to keep alive from being poisoned.
I doubt that they work, though. I’ve never yet examined a rodent trap that would stand up to the jaws of a determined dog, of any size, never mind my two. The danger with bromethalin is that it causes swelling of the brain. The issue with Vitamin D is that it can lead to kidney failure. If your dog ingests either of these compounds, you might as well just kiss him goodbye, because there are no antidotes. Don’t use these products. They’re deadly to more than just rodents, and you can’t rely on the trap.
This is a type of Vitamin D – actually, it’s a synthetic, but it’s even more potent than other forms of Vitamin D. In dogs, it reaches toxicity level at the point of about a gram for every ten pounds of the dog’s weight. If your doctor has prescribed this medication for you, make sure to keep it safely stored so that your dog cannot ingest it.
This is another pesticide that you want to avoid. It’s commonly present in slug and snail baits, and if ingested by dogs, it can lead to hypothermia, seizures and tremors. So again, if at all possible, avoid this product and instead consider mixing up a natural pesticide that won’t harm your dog.
12. Easter Lilies
Now that Christmas has come and gone, our next holiday up (I don’t count Valentine’s Day, but maybe we’ll talk about the reasons for that in another post!) is Easter. You know those pretty, trumpet-shaped lilies that people love to give you at Easter? You can actually keep them if you have a dog.
The reason I’m throwing them in here is that more than a few people have cats along with dogs. Your dog won’t come to any harm if he ingests the lilies, but if you also have a cat, even the pollen can be fatal. The cat doesn’t even have to eat the pollen – just getting it on his face can be enough.
This isn’t commonly found in homes, but there has been an increase in cases of tuberculosis over recent years. If you’re being treated for TB, this is most likely the medication that your doctor will have prescribed, and it is not safe for domestic animals. Even a small amount can cause diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, heart damage and liver failure.
14. Ethylene Glycol
This is the main ingredient in many types of anti-freeze. Dogs are often attracted by its sweet taste, and can end up suffering kidney failure if they ingest it. Fortunately, there are now types of anti-freeze that are “pet safe,” so check the label before you fill your car’s radiator.
15. Grapes and Raisins
I love grapes. Raisins (which are dried grapes) not so much, although I used to use them sometimes in baking. I don’t buy either anymore. When you consider that just a couple of grapes or raisins can lead to kidney failure, I just don’t consider it to be worth the risk. I can’t see why anyone needs them, either, or why they’d take the chance with their dog’s health. Think of it this way – can you be happy without grapes and raisins? Now, can you be happy without your dog?
The Final Word
If you can rid your home of these toxic items, then you should. If you absolutely can’t, then make sure that you take proper precautions so that your dog is not harmed.