3 Dangerous Household Poisons for Dogs and Cats

To kick off the March designation as Poison Prevention Month (and for us that means Pet Poison Prevention), I wanted to discuss the topic of accidental poisoning in pets.

The other day, an emergency veterinarian colleague was telling me about the recent number of cases he’s seen where a dog or cat was exposed to household items that can be poisonous.

These poisonings can be prevented! That’s why we’re focused on helping prevent future poisonings. Most of the time, the lives of these poor animals are needlessly cut short because common items are left where pets could get at them.

The problem is, people aren’t aware that certain household items can be life threatening to their pets! For instance, we see the following three categories causing serious health problems or even death without treatment — simply because the pet was accidentally exposed to them.

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs: even small amounts can be very dangerous to dogs and cats.

Photo to represent Tylenol poisoning in dogs and cats

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a serious poison danger to dogs and cats

If you use Tylenol or or other common NSAIDs (like Advil, Aleve, Motrin, etc.) for pain relief or to reduce fever, be very careful! Never leave these dangerous medications on the counter or other places curious pet can reach (like on a table or in your purse). Why?

While Tylenol and NSAIDs are generally safe at the recommended dose for humans… for dogs and cats, they can be harmful, which means poisonous or deadly!

Whether you have it in tablets, capsules, gel caps, melt away forms, rectal suppositories and liquid forms… a single pill or even a small piece of a pill may be toxic or deadly to any animal species.

Please be sure to secure Tylenol (and any medicine) in a closed cupboard or drawer.

2. Paints and varnishes are potential dangers to dogs and cats.

Photo depicting MyPetED caution about paint and varnish poisoning in dogs and cats

Please make sure your dog or cat avoids exposure to paints and varnishes!

Some paints and varnishes may contain lead and solvents that are very harmful if accidentally inhaled into a pet’s lungs (while drinking or after vomiting) or eaten/swallowed. Inhalation can become life threatening when the lungs become inflamed and infected (aspiration pneumonia), and ingestion can cause diarrhea that leads to more serious conditions.

When you’re painting around the house, you can expect your pet to be curious and potentially walk through your work area, supplies, or freshly painted surface. Your dog or cat may then ingest a small amount of paint while grooming or licking off paint… or inhale paint fumes.

Please keep pets away from paints and varnishes at all times if possible! If your dog or cat is exposed to paint (through licking, etc.) or trapped in a room with paint fumes, symptoms could occur.

3. Zinc can be deadly if swallowed by a pet.

MyPetED blog post photo U.S. pennies are poisonous to dogs and cats

U.S. pennies are extremely dangerous to dogs and cats because they contain high levels of zinc.

Zinc is an essential diet element for pets and people, and it’s found naturally in some food and mineral sources. But zinc is also used in many common household products and metal items… and too much zinc can cause serious health problems in a pet.

You’ll find zinc in four main categories around the house:

  • Metal items such as nuts, bolts, zippers, toys, staples and many other common items
  • Skin creams (diaper rash cream, sunscreen, etc.), shampoos, deodorants
  • Vitamins and over-the-counter cold remedies and lozenges
  • U.S. pennies (pennies minted after 1982 contain a high level of zinc)

Pennies are one of the most dangerous items containing zinc. A single penny can cause life-threatening poisoning in a dog or cat.

If you know or suspect that your pet has swallowed anything containing metal (objects or creams), do not induce vomiting or give your pet anything to eat or drink unless specifically instructed to do so by your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline. Always call for guidance first.

Even if you don’t see symptoms but you know or think your pet has swallowed or inhaled a poisonous item, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline* (800-213-6680) immediately! And, NEVER induce vomiting or give anything orally to your pet unless specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian. This could make the situation worse.

To see a complete list of potential pet poisons, visit the Pet Poison Helpline’s* Poison List.

Has your pet ever been exposed to these poisons? Do you have a story about getting help for poisoning? Post a comment if you wish to share it.

*Pet Poison Helpline is an animal poison control service available 24 hours, 7 days a week for pet owners and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Pet Poison Helpline is not directly affiliated with LifeLearn.


4 thoughts on “3 Dangerous Household Poisons for Dogs and Cats

  1. 3 month old Bernese mountain dog chewed through a tube of desitin. Not a lot appeared to be ingested, but holes punctured throughout tube and torn at bottom. We’ve been monitoring her for 30 minutes, she appears ok? What should we do?

    • Chris,
      As you can see, my response time isn’t quick enough for emergency situations, so I can only hope that your dog did well after chewing the tube of Desitin. This product is safe for babies to use topically and isn’t really toxic, so I’m assuming all is well with your dog!
      Dr. Lynn

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