How to Prevent Accidental Pet Poisoning

How to Prevent Accidental Pet Poisoning

National Animal Poison Prevention Week is observed the third week of March, falling this year from March 19-25. This important week is dedicated to educating pet owners about household items that are poisonous to pets, how to identify signs of poisoning, and what steps to take if your pet exhibits symptoms.

In 2022, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experienced a 22 percent increase in calls over the prior year, assisting 401,550 animals across all 50 U.S. states. This jump in cases led to the APCC reaching the unfortunate milestone of 4 million cases of pet toxicity since its inception 45 years ago. In recognition of these startling stats and the upcoming National Animal Poison Prevention Week, let’s explore how pet owners can prevent their pets from becoming part of these statistics.

Poisonous Household Items

The first step in preventing your pet from inhaling or ingesting toxic products is to be aware of everyday household items that pose a threat. Following are the top toxins that accounted for 79 percent of accidental poisoning cases from 2021 to 2022.

Top household pet poisons include:

  • Human prescription medications, including antidepressants, cardiac, and ADHD medications. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause gastrointestinal upset and kidney failure in pets.
  • Food products, including protein bars and shakes, xylitol, garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, coffee beans, and chocolate. The APCC averages more than 103 cases of chocolate ingestion per day, which is more than one case every 15 minutes.
  • Indoor and outdoor plants, including Easter lily, tulips, mistletoe, holly, azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, rhododendron, and Japanese yew.
  • Pest and lawn care products, including rodenticides, insecticides, and fertilizers.


Cat biting unsafe plant

Safety Steps to Avoid Accidental Pet Poisoning

Now that you know which household items are poisonous to your pets, take the necessary precautions to keep them out of reach.

  • Store human prescription medications in a latched medicine cabinet or locked storage container. Just because a bottle is child proof does not make it dog proof!
  • Gather all food products in your home that are toxic to pets and store them on the top shelf of your refrigerator, cabinet, or pantry, and keep your pantry or cabinet door closed at all times. Explain to children which foods to avoid feeding to pets.
  • Take a walk around your property and identify any of the plants listed above, and make a plan to remove anything toxic that you discover.
  • If you store household cleaning products under your kitchen sink, use a child safety latch to keep the cabinets secured.
  • Store lawn care chemicals in your garage, inside a secure tote or locked container.


Signs of Pet Poisoning

Pet poisoning symptoms vary depending on the substance ingested, the volume consumed, and whether it was inhaled or eaten.

The most common signs of pet toxicity include:

  • Diarrhea or blood in the stool that is bright red or dark and tarry
  • Vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Lethargy or unsteadiness when standing or walking
  • Bruising or bleeding, especially on the gums, inside the ear flaps, and groin area
  • Nose bleeds or blood in the urine
  • Green or corn-like substances in the feces, which could indicate rodenticide ingestion


Cute tabby cat sniffs on medicine capsules.

Emergency Steps if Poisoning is Suspected

Every pet owner should have the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handy, which is 888-426-4435. This toll-free number connects pet owners to a staff of veterinarians and licensed technicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, they should also have the phone number of their closest emergency clinic readily accessible. It’s best to keep both numbers in your cell phone for immediate action.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a poisonous household item:

  1. Immediately call your veterinarian for guidance or the APCC at the number above if your veterinarian’s office is closed.
  2. DO NOT try to induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by a professional.
  3. Closely observe your pet so you can articulate their behavior to your veterinarian.
  4. Communicate your pet’s symptoms, including when you first noticed them, where your pet has been for the past few hours, and whether they were inside or outdoors.
  5. Collect any vomit, stool samples, food products, medication bottles, or anything else you think might be connected to the poisoning.
  6. Get your pet and the above items to your veterinarian or the closest emergency clinic.

The American Kennel Club provides additional emergency resources for accidental pet poisoning.

Don't have a vet in your area yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian.

Contributing DVM