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Bad Habits, Dangers, and Toxins in Your Household

Treats - the Not So Good, and the Emergency Room

Sneaking your pet a nibble of “people food” from your plate. Being a sucker for those big, begging eyes and giving extra treats. You do these because you love your pets and it makes them SO happy. But in some cases, these little acts of love can have devastating effects, either long term or immediately. A few simple rules and a list of foods to avoid can keep your pet healthy and safe.

Chronic Conditions and Allergies

The first rule of any type of feeding is to know your pet’s needs. The most important ones concerning food are, of course, digestive issues and food allergies. Continued irregular stool, vomiting, and signs of discomfort can signal digestive problems, and, coupled with other behaviors such as drooling, crying, and hiding could signal digestive distress (or exposure to a harmful food or substance). With a food allergy, the primary symptom is usually persistent itching. Both require tests at the vet, and possibly special diets.(1)

Too many treats

The second rule of proper feeding is the same as for people: everything in moderation. Too much of any good thing can lead to obesity, and again, just like with humans, obesity can lead to diabetes, kidney issues, heart conditions, and joint problems. Dog and cat treats are fine, but some of them say it’s fine to feed 8 or more a day! Dr. Rachel Barrack gives an easy tip: “Keep these additions to less than 10 percent of your dog’s caloric daily intake.”(2)

Dr. Tory Waxman, the founder of Sunday’s dog food, says, “Human food is fine,” with one caveat: “Just not from the table.”(2) Your meal could include things that could potentially have toxins - think onions - and feeding often enough from the table can encourage begging. Also, there are some foods that are safe as occasional treats, but can potentially cause issues if overdone, such as cooked tuna, liver, cheese, and milk for cats (many cats are lactose intolerant). For more information on safe food, check out "The Best Dog Treats, According to Experts" and "Cat Treats and Snacks: What's Healthy?"

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center List of Foods to Avoid

These foods, in large amounts or fed frequently can be fatal or cause permanent damage. (5)

**If your pet has ingested large amounts of any of these all at one time, try to gauge the amount and time and contact the ASPCA Poison Hotline at (888) 426-4435 or the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) at (888) 426-4435.**

  • Alcohol (call Poison Hotline immediately)

  • Avocado

  • Caffeine, Coffee

  • Chocolate (dark/baking chocolate is especially dangerous)

  • Citrus

  • Coconut, Coconut Oil, Coconut Water (water is high in potassium)

  • Grapes and Raisins

  • Fats and Fatty Foods (also avoid treats and pet foods with a high fat content)

  • Macadamia Nuts

  • Milk and Dairy

  • Medications

  • Mushrooms (some varieties) are particularly dangerous to dogs

  • Nuts

  • Onions, Garlic, and Chives* (especially dangerous to cats - call the hotline for large amounts)

  • Raw or Undercooked Meats, Fish, Eggs - there is a danger of salmonella in raw foods (although there is a school of thought that cats should eat a diet of raw foods)

  • Bones - these can splinter and cause choking and/or punctures in the throat or digestive tract

  • Salty Snacks

  • Xylitol - Call the hotline for large amounts (this is a sugar substitute, found in some peanut butters, baked goods, toothpaste, gum and candy)

  • Yeast dough


Bringing new plants home, or letting your pet chew or even rub on some of them can be lethal. Letting your pets rub, smell, dig in, or taste them can also have bad side effects. These are the most dangerous houseplants. For a list of all dangerous plants, inside the home and out, visit the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.

For Cats

  • Lilies (There is no plant more toxic to cats than lilies. Call a poison hotline immediately.)

“While veterinarians are not sure which toxin in lilies causes poisoning in cats, exposure to the plant's leaves, flowers, pollen, or even water from the vase may result in acute kidney failure. Exposure of just two or three petals or leaves calls for an immediate visit to the veterinarian, as delaying treatment for more than 18 hours can result in permanent kidney failure.” (6)

  • Asparagus Ferns (this fern is in the lily family)

  • Essential Oils

If digested or exposed to concentrated amounts, they are highly toxic, as cats lack the enzyme necessary to process them. Many, such as eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are extremely toxic, whether they are applied to the skin, used in diffusers or licked up in the case of a spill.

  • Sago Palms

  • Tulips and Hyacinth

  • Autumn crocus (another member of the lily family)

  • Azalea

  • Cyclamen (the roots especially dangerous to pets, if ingested)

  • Daffodils

  • Devil's Ivy, or Golden Pothos

  • Jade plants

  • Kalanchoe

  • Lily of the Valley (while not a true lily, it contains a toxin that can induce vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, and possibly seizures)

  • Philodendrons (they have a defense mechanism that shoots needle-like crystals when animals bite into the plant. The spiny crystals in Philodendrons and other members of the Araceae family of plants (like Oleander and Dieffenbachia) can irritate mouth and throat tissues and, in rare cases, can cause breathing problems).

For Dogs

You will notice that many of the plants listed for cats are also poisonous to dogs.

  • Castor Bean

  • Cyclamen (the roots are especially dangerous to pets, if ingested)

  • Dieffenbachia

  • Hemlock

  • English Ivy

  • Mistletoe

  • Oleander

  • Certain Mushroom Varieties

  • Aloe vera

  • Begonia

  • Carnation

  • Coleus

  • Dahlia

  • Daisy

  • Sago Palms

  • Tulips and Hyacinth

  • Autumn crocus, another member of the lily family

  • Azalea

  • Daffodils

  • Japanese Yew Lavender

  • Wandering Jew

  • Poinsettia

Household Products

Finally, these are the most common harmful items or irritants that can be found in the home. The best way to avoid a vet visit is to make sure that all products are tightly sealed and in a place pets can’t reach.

  • Bleach

  • Carpet Fresheners

  • Carpet Shampoo

  • Essential Oils (for cats)

  • Fabric Softener Sheets

  • Febreeze

  • Grout

  • Scented Litter (poorly ventilated areas or for cats with respiratory issues)

  • Toilet Cleaning Tablets

  • Vinegar and Water

If Your Pet Has Ingested or Come Into Contact With a Toxin...

Keep your veterinarian’s telephone number in a convenient location. You should also keep the address and number of a nearby emergency clinic handy. This will give you a plan and help save time, although since neighborhood veterinary or emergency clinics rarely take walk-in poison cases, it is essential that you first call one the poison control centers: ASPCA Poison Hotline at (888) 426-4435 or the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) at (888) 426-4435.

They will take your information (what food, plant, or household product is involved); be sure to be as thorough and detailed as possible. They will then contact your vet or emergency clinic to give them treatment instructions. (10)


(1) Update on Food Allergy in the Dog and Cat

(2) The Best Dog Treats, According to Veterianras by Dominique Pariso, The Strategist, New York Magazine

(3) Cat Treats and Snacks: What’s Healthy

(4) People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

(5) Dangerous Foods For Dogs

(6) 16 Houseplants to Avoid if You Have Cats

(7) Poisonous Plants

(8) Complete Guide to Poisonous Plants for Dogs

(9) Poisonous Household Products

(10) Pets and Poisons

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