Poisons in the household - toxic food, medications, baits and more

Treating our companions to some of the foods we relish can be very dangerous to pets. Find here a guide to some of the common dangers in a household including a list of toxic foodstuffs, human medication, poisons, plants, and more.

Protecting your pet

There are a number of things every pet owner can do to protect their pet, here are a few pointers:-

  1. Ensure all household chemicals are stored in a safe place and out of reach from pets.
  2. Be wary of pets that scavenge food and items from your household bin, making sure you safely dispose of medicines, chemicals and food.
  3. If you are using poisons in the house or garden, prevent your pet from entering the contaminated area.
  4. Use alternatives to baits (ie rat and snail baits). If you must use cockroach baits keep them well out of reach from pets.
  5. Only give your pet medication that is recommended by your veterinarian
  6. Feed your pet a nutritionally balanced diet.

A pet doesn't have to directly eat or drink a toxin to become poisoned. For example if a cat lies in a garden that has been sprayed with insecticide or weed killer traces can get on the cat, which the cat will then ingest during grooming.

Human medication

human medication

Human drugs including common pain killers can cause severe complications in pets. Please ask your veterinarian before giving your pet any human medication or drugs. Cats are extremely sensitive to both aspirin and acetamaminophen (such as Panadol) and can be poisoned by "human" sized doses.

Chocolate toxicity

Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. When affected by an overdose of chocolate, a pet can become excited and hyperactive. Theobromine will either increase the dog's heart rate or may cause the heart to beat irregularly. Death is quite possible, especially with exercise.

chocolate toxicity

After a pet has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within 24 hours.

Cocoa Powder & cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. A 10-kilogram dog can be seriously affected if it eats a half of a 250gm block of cooking chocolate. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake can make a pet unwell.

This includes cakes with the above ingredients especially mud cakes. Read more about chocolate toxicity here

Onions & Garlic

onions and garlic

Onions and garlic contain a toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the red blood cells rupture while circulating in the body.

At first, pets affected by onion poisoning show gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhoea. They can show no interest in food and can be dull and weak. Breathlessness can occur because there are reduced number of red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body.

Onion poisoning can occur with a single ingestion of large quantities or with repeat meals containing small amounts of onion.

Poisonous plants

Your pet may have a sensitivity or allergy to a plant resulting in toxicity. Always contact your veterinarian immediately, if you think your pet may have ingested a poisonous plant. Select this link to read more on pets and poisonous plants

Snail baits - a special note on 'pet friendly' baits


Various manufacturers claim their snail baits are 'pet friendly'. They make this claim on the basis that the bait includes a bittering agent. Bittering agents only act as a deterrent. There are some pets that will still eat the baits which are extremely toxic. We recommend that these products are used with great caution. If your pet does ingest these baits please contact us immediately.

Parasite control products - species specific

Please read the instructions carefully on all parasite control products. Some common supermarket flea treatments for dogs are toxic to cats.

List of toxic household items to pets

(Please note: this is not a complete list of items that may be toxic to your pet)


Acetaminophen (Paracetamol)
Aromatherapy oils
Avocado flesh and pips
Boric Acid
Broccoli (large amounts)
Brake Fluid
Cleaning Fluid
Cigarette, tobacco, cigars
Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine)
Deodorants and deodorizers


Furniture Polish
Hops (used in home brewing)
Lead - read more about lead poisoning here
Macadamia nuts
Metal Polish
Mineral Spirits
Mouldy /spoiled foods
Nail Polish& Remover
Paint Remover Preservatives
Pear pips, the kernels of plums, peaches & apricots, apple core pips (contains cyanogenic glysides resulting in cyanide poisoning)


Potato peeling & green looking potatoes
Raisins & grapes
Rat and Ant poison (including Ratsak)
Rhubarb leaves
Rubbing Alcohol
Shoe polish
Snail/slug bait


Tomato leaves & stems (green parts)
Weed killer
Windshield washer fluid
Yeast dough


What to do if your pet is showing signs of poisoning


If you suspect your pet is acting out of the normal or may have had access to a potential toxin do not delay in seeking veterinary attention.

There are several signs of poisoning but these also vary on the type of toxin involved. Here are just some of the signs that indicate toxicity:-

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • increased urination
  • restlessness
  • hyperactivity
  • muscle twitching or shaking
  • seizures

If your pet is showing any of these signs - do not delay in seeking veterinary attention! Contact us immediately!

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Pet safety - common problems and dangers

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