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Pet Poison Prevention: Common Household Toxins for Dogs and Cats

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

There are pros and—surprisingly—cons to learning more and more about your pet’s health. One of those surprising cons is paranoia: what’s on your floor that your dog might be trying to lick off? What happens if your cat is a little too curious when it comes to batting pill bottles off the counter? Is there truly a pet poison lurking around every corner in your home?

But that’s what we’re here for at RDBK: rather than lying awake and stressing about all the things your pet could get into, let’s take advantage of Poison Prevention Month and get ahead of the issue. We’ll be looking at some of the most common household toxins and what you can do to either remove them or replace them with something that’s pet-safe, or how you can store them safely out of reach from even the tallest dogs or most ambitiously curious cats!

Pet Poison Prevention: Common Household Toxins for Dogs and Cats

Jump to:

  • Medications

  • Cleaning Products

  • Pet-Safe Cleaning Products

  • Plants

  • Scents


Whether they’re prescription or over-the-counter, human medication or veterinary medication, pills are among the most common household toxins for our pets. If you have both a cat and a dog, you may notice some collaboration when it comes to sneaking medications—your cat may swipe an incorrectly-closed pill bottle off the counter, and your dog may be curious enough to sample a few. Pet-specific medications are often flavoured to make them more palatable, so it can be easy for your dog or cat to overdose on what they might think is tasty pet candy!

This is a risk for all pet parents—everyone has at least a bottle of ibuprofen hanging around! But it doesn’t matter if it’s painkillers, antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medication, or even medical marijuana; even a small amount of any of these can be hazardous to our pets.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Accidental Medication or Drug Ingestion

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lethargy or hyperactivity

  • Lack of coordination

  • Odd behaviour

  • Loss of appetite

  • Excessive salivation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Seizures

  • Coma

  • Potential death

How to Protect Your Pet from Medications

The best way to protect your pet from accidental medication ingestion is to keep all medications out of reach and/or impossible to access. Ensure the container is properly closed, and store them in a secure cabinet or drawer. Never leave pills or other medication on the counter or in a floor-level cupboard where your pet might be able to get to them, even if it’s still in a closed bottle or blister package. And if you drop a pill, make sure you find it, otherwise, a curious pup or kitten might!

And if you suspect your pet did get into some medication? Don’t jump straight to inducing vomiting—in some cases, this might cause more problems than it could prevent. Call your vet immediately or try the Pet Poison Hotline and follow their directions, which may include inducing vomiting, depending on what your pet has ingested.

And on that note, if your pet does throw up, take note of how many (if any) undigested pills or pill capsules come back up—this can give your veterinary professional a baseline of how much may be in their system. At the very least, the most important piece of information you can bring with you to the vet is what kind of medication they’ve gotten into. The best practice involves bringing in the remaining package (or a few of the pills if the package is destroyed) so the vet can determine exactly what emergency measures may be needed. Whatever it is, be honest: your vet is there to help your animal as quickly and efficiently as possible, not to judge.

Poison prevention from household cleaners for pets

Cleaning Products

Just like it would be for people, common household cleaning products like bleach, chlorine, ammonia, phthalates, and other disinfectants, can be toxic to pets if ingested. This goes further than ensuring your pet simply can’t get into these bottles—they can be exposed through their skin, by inhaling the product, or licking their paws after walking through a still-wet floor.

If these are products you simply cannot do without, then use caution when cleaning around your pets. Some best practices might include keeping your pets in a separate room while cleaning and airing out/completely drying the room before letting your dog or cat back in.

Of course, the better solution would be to use non-toxic and pet-friendly friendly cleaning products whenever possible. After all, you’d be reducing your own exposure as well!

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Exposure to Toxic Cleaning Products

  • Rashes/chemical burns on their skin or mouth

  • Irritated eyes

  • Sneezing frequently on exposure

  • Abnormal breathing

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Lethargy

  • Seizures

  • Coma

  • Potential death

How to Protect Your Pet from Household Cleaning Products

The best way to protect your pets from cleaning product toxins is to keep all cleaning products out of reach. Store them in a secure cabinet or closet, and always read the label before use to ensure they are safe to use around pets.

If your pet comes into contact with cleaning products, immediately wash their skin with water and mild soap. If your pet ingests a cleaning product, contact your veterinarian immediately to get instructions and prepare for an emergency visit. DO NOT attempt to induce vomiting unless instructed by your vet, as this could potentially cause more damage to your pet’s mouth and esophagus as the caustic chemicals come back up.

What are Some Pet-Friendly Cleaning Product Alternatives?

Finding a pet-friendly cleaning solution at the store isn’t always a simple task—half the time, you can’t even pronounce most of the ingredients on the bottle, and even if you can, it’s not always easy to tell what might be harmful to your pet. Here are a few easy and pet-friendly cleaning concoctions you can whip up at home with ingredients you likely already have!

All-Purpose Cleaner

Mix into an empty spray bottle:

  • 3 cups of hot water

  • 2 tbsp of baking soda

  • A dash of lemon for a fresh scent

Glass Cleaner

Mix into an empty spray bottle:

  • 1 cup of water

  • 1 cup of rubbing alcohol

  • 1 tbsp of vinegar

You might want to crack a window for this one—the smell can be quite strong. However, we don’t recommend adding essential oils to this mixture, as they won’t leave your windows streak-free.

Floor Cleaner

Mix into your mop bucket:

  • 4–5 litres of hot water

  • 1 cup of distilled white vinegar

This one also has quite a strong scent, but you can add a few (only a few!) drops of essential oils to cover the smell. Be sure to pick pet-safe scents like lavender, frankincense, rosemary, or bergamot.

Toxic Household plants for dogs and cats

Toxic Household Plants to Pets

Many common household plants can be toxic to pets, particularly cats, who, unfortunately, are more likely to go investigating, sniffling flowers, sampling leaves, and drinking plant water. Some of the more toxic household plants include lilies, daffodils, and azaleas, all of which can cause serious health problems if ingested.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Toxic Plant Ingestion

  • Salivating or foaming at the mouth

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloody stool

  • Vomiting or nausea

  • Lethargy or weakness

  • Difficulty breathing—rapid or laboured

  • Loss of appetite

  • Increased heart rate

  • Twitching or seizures

How to Protect Your Pet from Toxic Plants

Beyond removing harmful plants from your home, the best way to protect your pets is to keep all potentially toxic plants out of reach from even the most adventurous, tightrope-walking cats.

If you suspect that your pet has ingested a toxic plant, contact your veterinarian immediately. Make a note of which plant they got into and how much you suspect they ingested—and from where! Did they take a bite out of a leaf? Eat a bud? Drink some of the plant water? All of this can be valuable information for your vet to determine which measures they need to take to help your pet. Take a picture of the plant or take it with you if you need to go to the vet for care.

Scent Poisoning in Dogs and Cats

Having a dog or cat in your home means you’re not just battling ever-collecting amounts of hair but smells as well! As tempting as it would be to plug in an air freshener and call it a day, it’s not always that simple when we’re keeping our pets in mind. Some air fresheners have harsh chemicals that can cause caustic burns in your dog or cat’s mouth and throat, and some candles release carcinogens that can harm you both in the long run. Using essential oil diffusers can also irritate our pets’ sensitive noses, so this is another practice we don’t recommend.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Scent Poisoning

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty walking or uncoordinated gait

  • Drooling

  • Lethargy or weakness

  • Muscle tremors

  • Pawing at the mouth or face

  • Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin

  • Vomiting

How to Protect Your Pet from Scent Poisoning

In general, stay away from wall-plug air fresheners, as they can often overdose your home—and pet—with contain harmful chemicals. When it comes to candles, avoid paraffin wax; use soy or pure beeswax instead. Additionally, be cognizant of how the candle is scented, as certain essential oils can irritate your pet, such as clove, juniper, or pine scents.

Finally, a simple container of potpourri has its own hazards. When it’s dry potpourri, it can be an irresistible temptation to snack upon, which can cause digestive upsets, choking, or obstruction—certainly not worth it for a little scent boost! On the other hand, the mixture of essential oils and mixing detergents in liquid potpourri also makes it a no-go for a pet household.

What are Some Pet-Friendly Home Scent Alternatives?

Simmer pots are a great alternative to air fresheners, and you can be as creative as you’d like to meet your pet’s needs. Here are two pet-friendly recipes to try out!

The Summer Refresh

In a small pot filled about 1 inch to the top with water, add:

  • ~6 sliced strawberries

  • 1 tbsp of lime juice

  • 1–2 full handfuls of basil

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for a fresh, summer-y scent.

The Quick n’ Cozy

In a small pot filled about 1 inch to the top with water, add:

  • 1–2 apples, quartered

  • 3–5 cinnamon sticks

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and resist the urge to curl up on the couch with a blanket and your dog or cat. Or don’t resist—who are we to judge?

Remember to continue to top off the water as needed. When you’re done, pour the cooled contents into a mason jar or other sealable container and refrigerate to use again. These mixtures keep for about 1 week in the fridge.

Keeping an Eye Out for Hazards

There’s something about living with pets that’s a little like having a rambunctious toddler in your home—you never know what they will try and put in their mouth next. Staying on top of every hazard and toxin in your home can sometimes feel like a stressful, never-ending battle. Fortunately, once you start looking around with the mindset of avoiding unintentionally poisoning your dog or cat, you’ll start to become more mindful of what you’re bringing into your home until it becomes second nature.

With that being said, accidents can happen to even the most attentive of pet parents, so staying prepared for emergency scenarios can take a load off your mind. We recommend keeping the pet poison helpline phone number—+1 (855) 764-7661 in the US and Canada—somewhere you can easily access even in a moment of panic.


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