10 Most Toxic Substances for Dogs

June 2, 2015

I once had a Golden Retriever that you would think had been trained as a sniffer dog for chocolate. No matter whether it was dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, bakers chocolate, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, brownies or candy bars, Megan would pace the house restlessly until she found it. We had several close calls, and I will never know how she reached the batch of Christmas chocolates at the back of our very deep kitchen counter. Our knowledge of the toxicity of chocolate to dogs probably saved her life. We acted quickly a couple of times and minimized the danger of her scavenging.

But chocolate is not the only substance found in your home that would be toxic to your dog. Below you will find a list of the 10 most prevalent substances that poison dogs in the home.

  1. Chocolate is the number one most prevalent toxic food eaten by dogs! Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter are the most dangerous times of the year for obvious reasons. Chocolateingestions can be very serious for dogs. Signs of chocolate toxicity may be delayed by many hours and is one of those exposures that is best treated before signs occur. Dogs can die from consuming chocolate!
  2. Insecticidal Products such as ant bait stations are often eaten by dogs and are generally not a big concern. They usually contain a food source and this can make your dog get really aggressive with chewing these bait stations and they often end up eating the whole thing--plastic and all! This can cause bowel obstruction.
  3. Fertilizers and Plant Food can be a real issue in the spring and fall. This has become a bigger problem in recent years because of the organic products that are now being used. Many of these organic products contain animal meals of some sort; bone meal, blood meal, feather meal, fish meal etc. Dogs being meat eaters can consume very large quantities of these products. Few of these are poisonous, unless they contain iron, but large quantities ingested can cause gastrointestinal upset and bowel obstruction.
  4. Dewormer Products given should be those made for dogs and not for small cattle or small horses. The concentration can be 100 times the concentration that is safe for a dog. The result of this can be acute blindness and can also be life threatening. Do not administer any treatment to your dog without checking with your veterinarian first.
  5. Rat and mouse poisons. Most people believe that dogs will not eat poisons or things that taste bad. Most rat and mouse poisons are treated with something that makes them bitter. This works well with keeping children from eating them, but it does not work as well for dogs. Most dogs are natural hunters so as soon as the traps are visited by a mouse they become very interesting to a dog.
  6. Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is is very popular because is promotes dental health in sugar-free products. Originally it was found in gums, mints, and dental products. Now we are finding it in vitamins, food, candy, as well as prescription and non-prescription medications. It is poisonous to dogs.
  7. Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen are sometimes given to a dog by a pet owner trying to find comfort for a dog in pain.  A dog will not tolerate the same medications that we tolerate. Put your medications, your purse, your workout bag and backpack out of reach of your dog as these medications seem to be something your pet enjoys!
  8. Household Cleaners, everything from toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, antibacterial spray, disinfectant products and laundry pods expose dogs to a major threat.  The effects of these poisons on dogs range from minor gastrointestinal upsets to burns and pneumonia. All cleaning products have potential risks to our pets when ingested or exposed to skin, so they are best kept out of reach or out of sight.
  9. Grapes and Raisins can cause renal failure and are potentially life-threatening to dogs. It is not understood what is in them that causes this toxicity. Further, they do not seem to affect every dog and we cannot predict which dog will be affected.  Raisins or raisin paste are ingredients in many products such as granola bars. It is essential to seek veterinary help immediately to monitor your dog's kidney function no matter what quantity of raisins or grapes your dog has eaten.
  10. Antidepressants. The number of accidental exposures in our pets has increased as antidepressant use has increased.  This is one of those drugs that is all about dose--the higher the dose, the bigger the problem. Signs to watch for when your dog has eaten these pills are lethargy, ataxia (walking like they are drunk), sedation, agitation, tremors (whole body shaking), vocalization, hyperthermia (fever), mydriasis (dilated pupils), vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heat beats) , tachypnea (panting), weakness, and possibly seizures.

Only through knowledge and increased awareness can we limit the exposure our beloved four-legged friends have to dangerously toxic substances. It is impossible to eliminate the exposure, but with education, many more pet owners know where the risks lie and can get timely treatment, changing the prognosis from poor to excellent for that poisoned pet!