Can You Guess the No. 1 Toxin for Pets?

Every year, many pets are rushed to the vet for ingesting something toxic. Too often, potential hazards aren’t kept out of their reach, or their guardians just don’t know any better. And the animals’ noses and curiosity end up getting them in serious trouble — with some items being more frequent hazards than others. Here are the 10 most common pet toxins of 2018, according to data from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

10. Garden products

  • Share of cases in 2018: 2.3 percent

There are many products used on lawns and gardens that can be toxic to pets. “Fertilizer, bone meal and compost are all garden products many dogs find irresistible,” according to the ASPCA. Plus, animals can be exposed to herbicides and other lawn chemicals simply by walking through treated areas. And even if you don’t think they came in contact with that much of the product, remember they can ingest a toxic amount by licking it off their paws. “Keep dogs and cats away from treated lawns until they are dry,” VetStreet recommends. “Check the product packaging, though, since some products must be rinsed into the lawn before it is safe to walk on.”

9. Plants

dog sitting in a garden with flowersCredit: Liuhsihsiang/Getty Images

  • Share of cases in 2018: 5.5 percent

Many plants — both indoors and outdoors, as well as cut flowers — can pose a serious risk to pets of all species. The ASPCA provides an extensive list of toxic and nontoxic plants for cats, dogs and horses that’s always worth checking if you’re thinking about bringing some new greenery into your home. Some commonly grown toxic plants include certain types of lilies, sago palms and tulips. But it’s also important to remember that even the consumption of nontoxic plants can cause gastrointestinal upset for pets. So it’s ideal to prevent your pet from chewing on the greenery.

8. Insecticides

  • Share of cases in 2018: 6.2 percent

Insecticide cases decreased slightly in 2018 for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center compared to the previous year. But they’re still cause for concern. “Insecticides includes items such as ant baits, bug sprays and yard products,” the ASPCA says. “Ant baits use attractants like peanut butter which unfortunately attract pets as well as ants.” Don’t forget to read the label closely on all products, even ones especially made for pets. “Flea and tick products labeled ‘for use on dogs only’ should never be used on cats or other species, as serious or even life-threatening problems could result,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

7. Rodenticides

  • Share of cases in 2018: 6.3 percent

Rodenticide cases actually increased from the previous year. “Unfortunately pets, along with rodents, find baits very tasty,” the ASPCA says. Animals can experience mild to severe toxicity based on the ingredients. “Several common ingredients, like warfarin and coumarin, can cause blood clotting problems and hemorrhaging,” according to VetStreet. And some rodenticides have “no known antidote,” the AVMA says. It’s best to look into more humane methods of banishing rodents, such as sealing holes and removing potential food sources. That way, you’re not putting your pets at risk.

6. Household items

  • Share of cases in 2018: 7.3 percent

Household items form an expansive category that includes products, such as paint, glue and cleaning solutions. The good news is a lot of these items aren’t very tasty to pets — and consequently aren’t as desirable to ingest. But the bad news is some can be incredibly toxic if they do ingest even a little bit. “Products containing bleach … can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration,” the AVMA says. “In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce serious chemical burns.” Aim to keep pets out of the area when you’re using potentially hazardous items. And above all, safely store products in tightly sealed containers out of the reach of pets.

5. Veterinary products

cat sitting being examined by a veterinarianCredit: Vasyl Dolmatov/Getty Images

  • Share of cases in 2018: 9.3 percent

Yes, even veterinary products meant for your pets can cause toxicity. “Flavored medications and misread labels are a big reason pets run into trouble with veterinary products,” according to the ASPCA. Scrutinize labels and confirm instructions with your vet before giving your pet any product. Plus, never treat your pet with old medication for a new health issue unless your vet says it’s OK. And just like any other potential hazard, be sure you store veterinary products out of the reach of pets. “All pet owners should be reminded that child-proof does not mean pet-proof when it comes to containers,” the ASPCA says.

4. Chocolate

  • Share of cases in 2018: 10.1 percent

Most people know chocolate is toxic to their pets. Yet the sweet treat actually moved up a spot from the previous year on the ASPCA’s list of most common pet toxins. Its Animal Poison Control Center helped with almost 60 chocolate cases per day on average. In fact, the high volume of chocolate-specific cases is why the ASPCA separates chocolate from the general food category. “Chocolate can cause seizures and death in dogs and cats,” VetStreet says. “Darker chocolate, such as unsweetened baker’s chocolate, is more toxic than milk or white chocolate. Even cocoa bean mulch, when eaten in large quantities, can be a problem.”

3. Food

  • Share of cases in 2018: 11.4 percent

There’s chocolate, and then there’s every other toxic food. “Xylitol, grapes and raisins, and onions and garlic make up most of these cases,” according to the ASPCA. Xylitol is a sweetener often used in items, such as sugar-free gum, baked goods and, yes, even chocolate candies. “In dogs, it can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar and liver failure,” VetStreet says. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, even in small amounts. And onions and garlic can result in gastrointestinal upset and anemia. So be sure you’re storing food (including trash) in a place where your pet absolutely cannot reach it.

2. Human prescriptions

medicine cabinet with pill bottlesCredit: smartstock/Getty Images

  • Share of cases in 2018: 17.5 percent

Apparently the medicine cabinet isn’t doing its job to keep medications safe. “ADHD medications, antidepressants and heart medications make up a significant amount of these cases,” according to the ASPCA. Toxicity of human prescriptions can vary for animals, but if your pet ingests any medication a call to the vet or poison control center is in order. “[Medications] are commonly ingested by pets when pills are dropped on the floor or left on counters,” VetStreet says. “Even a small dose can cause problems.” To prevent accidents, it’s good advice to take your medication in a room away from pets, such as behind a closed bathroom door. And safely store pill bottles immediately after use.

1. Over-the-counter medications

  • Share of cases in 2018: 19.6 percent

Over-the-counter medications were the most common pet toxin for 2018, according to ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center data. “This is a diverse group of medications including items such as vitamins, OTC pain medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen), herbal supplements, antihistamines and cold and flu medications,” the ASPCA says. Ingestion is usually accidental, which is why it’s crucial to store all of your drugs in a safe, pet-proof place. It’s also important that you check with a vet before ever giving your pet a human medication. After all, the best way to combat poisoning is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.

Main image credit: THEPALMER/Getty Images


Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson2 days ago


Peter B
Peter B3 days ago

thank you

Mike R
Mike R4 days ago


Ingrid A
Isabel A4 days ago

thank you for posting

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer4 days ago

We should teach children about this - ie chocklate is bad for the dog

Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride5 days ago

Thanks for the information.

Elaine W
Elaine W5 days ago

Important information impacts pets and sometimes children too.

Steven W
Steven W6 days ago

Thank you.

Leo C
Leo C7 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Danuta W
Danuta W7 days ago

Thank you for sharing,