Dangers for pets

Pets, especially young ones, are naturally inquisitive and can get themselves into trouble by eating things that they were not supposed to eat. It is not always obvious to us humans exactly what our pets will find appealing. Click here if you would like to download an information sheet on Common Pet Toxins.

Below are some of the items that we have seen animals eat along with some tips for keeping your pets out of danger. Remember that if your pet does ingest something that you are concerned about, you should contact your veterinarian or the Animal Emergency Centre as soon as possible to see whether treatment is required. Knowing your pets’ weight, what they have eaten, how much and when it was eaten is very helpful when having this discussion.

Border Collie Dog Sitting On Its Back Legs


AVOID the following items that could cause problems for your pet:

  • Chocolate (baker's, semi-sweet, milk chocolate) - Chocolate contains two forms of methylxanthines, theobromine and caffeine, and their amounts vary with the type of chocolate. Unsweetened baking chocolate is more toxic than dark chocolate which is more toxic than milk chocolate. White chocolate is the least toxic variety.
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
  • Mouldy or spoiled foods and compost
  • Onions, onion powder
  • Fatty foods
  • Salt
  • Sultanas (in Christmas cakes etc.)
  • Yeast dough
  • String wrappings around rolled roasts
  • Absorbent pad found under meat when wrapped on trays


Keep all prescription, over-the-counter and illicit drugs out of the reach of your pets, preferably in closed cabinets. Remind guests staying with you to store their medications safely away too. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants, vitamins, and diet pills are common examples of human medication that could be potentially lethal even in small dosages.

During the holidays, veterinary clinics may have limited office hours. In some cases, pet owners try to medicate their animals without their veterinarian's advice. Never give your animal any medications unless under the directions of a veterinarian. Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when used inappropriately. Less than one regular strength paracetamol tablet can be fatal to a cat. One regular strength ibuprofen tablet can cause stomach ulcers in a 5kg dog.

Alcohol and Cigarettes

Animals will drink a variety of alcohols, ranging from methanol found in windshield washing solutions to vodka at a party. Unbaked bread dough is another source of alcohol. Tobacco products may also be attractive to pets. These contain varying amounts of nicotine and butts have about 25% of the total nicotine content. Alcohol and cigarettes should be kept out of the reach of pets.

Other household and garden products

  • Pieces of cloth such as socks, underwear, ribbons etc
    Personal items such as tampons and sanitary pads and condoms (often used!!)
  • Batteries
  • Cleaning products – these often contain acidic or alkaline ingredients, which can cause caustic or corrosive lesions in the stomach or intestines.
  • Fertilizers
  • Glow in the dark jewellery - these jewellery pieces are filled with dibutyl phthalate, which causes profuse salivation and possibly vomiting in animals that bite into them. This response is due to a taste reaction rather than a toxicosis. Give a treat, such as milk or tuna juice, to dilute the taste of the chemical and contact your veterinarian.
  • Liquid potpourri
  • Painting and varnishing products - household paints and varnishes are relatively harmless and usually only cause mild GI upset. However, pet owners become concerned when paint gets on the animal's fur and make the mistake of trying to remove it with paint thinners, such as turpentine or mineral spirits.
  • Turpentine and methylated spirits - these products are extremely irritating to the skin and footpads and can also affect the breathing and brain. The best method of removing paint thinners is by bathing with a dish washing detergent and cool water. Further treatment ma be required. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
  • Silica gel - this is used as a desiccant in newly purchased clothing, shoes, and purses. It is an inert ingredient and is not toxic. The only time it is of concern is when a small animal swallows a large amount, which can expand with water and possibly cause an obstruction or diarrhoea.
    Soaps and shampoos – usually cause mild gastrointestinal signs
  • Mothballs - Naphthalene is the most common active ingredient found in mothballs. Most common signs seen with mothball ingestion include vomiting, anaemia, lethargy and seizures. Hepatitis is a rare effect and if seen would occur 3-5 days post exposure. Treatment of mothball ingestion includes early decontamination. Consult your veterinarian if your pet has or you suspect that it has ingested mothballs.


Poisons designed to kill insects, rats and foliage can be poisonous to our pets too. This includes;

  • Ant and roach baits
  • Weed killers
  • Moth Balls
  • Rat baits
  • Snail baits

These poisons should be kept out of reach of pets in lockable, high cupboards….or not used at all in households with pets.