Household Hazards

Pets are wonderful for many reasons; they are lovable, fun, and bring joy to a home.  But pets are also curious and inquisitive, and that can get them in trouble! Here are a few of the common (and preventable!) hazards we see in households.  This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you have any concerns about something in your house, be sure to call your vet!

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1. Plants:  

Cats are particularly susceptible to toxicity from eating household plants because as obligate carnivores they are not adapted to eating vegetation.  Plants in the lilium species (such as the beautiful Stargazer lily or Easter lilies) are extremely toxic; even the water from a vase holding lilies can potentially cause kidney failure!  Read Dr. Chuck’s full page on Lilies and Cats here! Sago palms are also very deadly and can cause liver failure. The ASPCA has a great site with just about every plant you can think of and whether or not it is toxic to your cat or dog! Look up the plants in your house and yard, and make sure any new plants you may purchase or receive as a gift are safe for your animals! And if someone sends you a bouquet of lilies; say thank you but no thank you!


2. Food:  

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There are many potential hazards lurking in our kitchens for our pets.  High fat foods (such as a greasy Thanksgiving turkey!) can cause stomach upset, pancreatitis, and even liver disease, while the bones can cause obstructions or perforations!  Onions, garlic, and other related plants can cause kidney failure in cats and dogs. Chocolate and caffeine (such as coffee or soda) can cause heart arrhythmias and seizures. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Xylitol, a fake sugar found in a wide variety of items (especially sugar-free gum), can cause dangerous low blood sugar levels in dogs and cats. Chip bags and related items can cause suffocation.  Almonds can cause obstructions in cats and small dogs, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, and avocados are toxic to birds! Who would have guessed? Oof! The list goes on and on! When in doubt call your vet, and make sure your pets stick to pet food!  


3. Human medications/supplements:  

You should assume ANY human medication is toxic to your animal! If you think your animal may have ingested your medication, call your vet immediately!  And of course, NEVER give a human medication to an animal without talking to your vet first! Pain medications in particular can be extremely dangerous to animals, and every year animals die after well-intending owners accidentally poison them!  Supplements are likewise potentially dangerous (with Vitamin D being a common culprit), so keep them away from pets!


4. Rat/Mouse poison:

 Rat and mouse poisons are made to kill mammals, and they do it well! Call your vet right away if you think there is any chance your animal got into a batch of poison.  Symptoms for these poisons usually don’t occur for a few days, so it may seem like your animal is OK, but really the poison is hard at work. It’s best not to keep rat or mouse poison anywhere on your property; not even the garage!  New homeowners should very carefully examine their house to make sure the previous owner didn’t leave any poison or bait behind!


5. Aerosols:

 Birds are extremely sensitive to any aerosolized...anything!  Candles, cleaning supplies, teflon cookware (which is odorless! be careful!), construction dust... there is an endless list of things that might harm a bird’s very sensitive respiratory system.  Make sure your birds are kept away from any aerosolized chemicals or new cookware, and as a rule: if you can smell it it’s potentially a hazard!


6. Cleaning/painting/construction supplies:

Of course anything poisonous to humans is probably poisonous to your pet! Be sure to keep cleaning products, paint, paint thinners, glues, antifreeze, and other chemical materials safely away from prying noses and tongues!  Likewise, old lead paint that has begun flaking can also be a source of toxicity. Follow instructions carefully for chemicals you use in the house to make sure they are properly dried or sealed before letting your pet near them!  


7. Socks, Strings, and other swallow-ables:  

One of the most common emergency surgeries for young dogs and cats is a swallowed toy, sock, string, or other small item that is blocking the intestines!  These are absolutely critical emergencies that require IMMEDIATE attention, so do not hesitate to call your vet or go to the emergency clinic if you think your animal swallowed something inappropriate.  Of course we all do our best to keep the house picked-up, but even the most attentive of us can miss a stray toy or ball from time to time. If in doubt, call your vet!


8. Wrong medication/wrong pet:

We can’t give dog medication to cats, or give cat medication to dogs!  This includes flea and tick products your might find over the counter, which can also be a concern if given to the wrong size of dog or cat.  As always, if in doubt, call the vet!


9. Power cords:  

Any animal can chew a power cord, and rabbits in particular seem to enjoy them.  Never leave a roaming rabbit unattended!

As mentioned earlier, these are just some of the more common household hazards we see at the vet clinic.  For more household hazards, check out the American Veterinary Medical Association’s list of common household hazards here:


And when in doubt, call your vet!

-Dr. Chuck