Don’t eat that! Common household products can be hazardous to your pets

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

We have recently seen a rash of animals that have eaten things they should not have. These things range from medications to chocolate, to coffee and on to foreign bodies that needed to be removed surgically. Most people know that if their dog wolfs down a bag of dark chocolate kisses, they need to call their veterinarian, but there are many other things around the house that not everyone knows are toxic. I will go over a list of the most commonly seen toxins. During spring cleaning (or are we back into full winter now?) you can make sure that none of these things are within pet reach.

Artificial sugar

We are seeing artificial sugar in many things now. The main issue that I cannot stress enough is gum. Even one tiny stick of chewing gum can cause issues. While the verdict is out on whether these are good for humans, they are most definitely not good for our pets. Artificial sugar is snuck into everything these days. I often warn clients to check their peanut butter and yogurt for fake sugars before feeding them to pets.

This means that we no longer just have to worry about those rare candies with artificial sugar or gum (almost ALL chewing gum contains artificial sweeteners and is toxic to pets.) Yogurts, peanut butter, and ice creams all have common versions including these sweeteners now.

Pets are unable to process these sugars, and their body releases a large amount of insulin to deal with them in the manner they would “real” calories. This results in a dramatic lowering of blood glucose, which can lead to coma and death (especially in young animals.) Xylitol is also especially toxic to the liver and often causes liver failure. Read the label closely on any human food that you are feeding to your pets for the many versions of artificial sweeteners.

Grapes and raisins

Grape/raisin toxicity is somewhat new on the toxic front and is hard for many people to remember because most fruits are good for animals. I often encourage people to feed fruits, and fruits are healthy! However, for reasons we don’t know, grapes and raisins cause kidney failure in dogs. Some dogs can eat a bushel and be completely fine, while others can eat two grapes and suffer from fatal renal failure. While a toxicity profile that tells us toxic doses is emerging for these, it isn’t complete yet. Since we don’t know which dogs suffer and why, the safe bet is to keep any grapes and raisins far out of reach. That includes trail mix, fruit salad, and any other combination.

This is one of the more important things to tell children, as this often doesn’t make sense to them. Kids know that fruits are healthy and that dogs love it when they share. Make sure your children and visitors know these are a no-no for dogs.

Macadamia nuts

While this is uncommon for us to see, I mention it because it is another food that doesn’t jump to mind as being poisonous to pets. Dogs cannot eat macadamia nuts, and suffer neurologic signs. You may see vomiting, tremors or seizures, inability to walk and hyperthermia. This is dose-dependent, so a big dog will not necessarily suffer effects from just a few. However, keep on the safe side and keep them out of reach.

Anti-inflammatory pain medication

While we reach for an Advil or Tylenol without too much thought when we are in pain, these medications are harmful to our pets. In most cases, they can’t be given at all. Since we have such a large selection of pet-specific medication, human forms are rarely used. It is always important that you don’t give pets medication without consulting with your veterinarian first. Advil causes kidney failure and Tylenol causes liver failure and a form of anemia.

Additionally, as many pain medications have a sweet coating to make them easier to take. While this is great for kids, it makes them very tempting for animals. Therefore, make sure these are out of reach. If you do suspect your pet has eaten any, call your veterinarian immediately.


This is common knowledge these days, but it still is one of our most frequent toxicities. Because it is so common around our houses and so delicious, all it takes is a moment of inattention and your dog will gladly clean it up for you. Generally, this isn’t fed but grabbed on the sly when we aren’t paying attention. To that end, make sure you have a safe place for all not-approved food where they can’t reach without thumbs.

There are many anecdotes of friends’ dogs, your previous dog or your second cousin’s dog that ate tons of chocolate and turned out fine. Please do not use these as your guide. Chocolate is toxic, and the higher the cocoa percentage the higher the chances of renal failure. Chocolate causes vomiting and diarrhea at low doses, kidney failure at higher doses and seizures and death at the highest doses. While it is true that your lab can eat an Oreo or a Kiss without issue, I have seen plenty of dogs have serious health issues after eating chocolate. It is always better to call your vet and not take the chance.

Rat/mouse poisons

These are purchased with the express purpose of killing animals, and your pets are no different. What may not be clear is that they flavor it to taste amazing and attract rodents. Since our pets are really just bigger versions of these animals (don’t tell them I said that), they will also seek it out to eat. If a rodent is poisoned with these and then your pet eats them, they will also suffer the consequences. While this may seem unlikely initially, think about how eagerly your dog will eat dead animals that they find. If your dogs leave carrion alone, then please call me with your secret.

If you have animals in the house, it is best to avoid these completely and find a different way to eliminate unwanted guests. And although these pests cause a lot of curses to fly from our mouths, these poisons cause an agonizing death for intended rodents or our pets (or any animal that eats a carcass.) Newer versions cause neurologic collapse instead of blood clotting problems. These have no treatment at this point and are my least favorite thing to see, so please use extreme caution before purchasing these.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL:

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