Pet Poisons

Some of the most common pet poisons we see on emergency at the Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg are the ingestion of toxic foods.  If you know or suspect your pet of ingesting the following foods please contact your veterinarian or the Village Veterinary Clinic of Hamburg immediately (716-646-4023).  We are available 365 days a year for emergencies!

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Most Common Toxicities in Dogs

#1 Chocolate: The toxic component of chocolate is called theobromine.  The less sweet and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your dog.  Dark chocolate is the most toxic, followed by baker’s chocolate, milk chocolate, then white chocolate.  Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and seizures in your dog.

#2 Rodenticides: Mouse and rat poisons are highly toxic to dogs and cats.  There are unfortunately several types of active ingredients for different products.  Each of these products have different mechanisms of action.  The most common cause internal bleeding and destruction of red blood cells, dangerous elevations in calcium and phosphorus, lung irritation through release of toxic fumes (can harm humans as well), and brain swelling.  These all have different treatments, and unfortunately some have no antidotes at all.  Most rodenticides are treated with a coding to make them bitter to prevent children from ingesting them. That does not work for dogs or cats.  Your pet may have no interest in that block for months, but as soon as a rat or mouse has been there… It has a whole new smell and attraction for them!  If your pet has ingested this toxin, immediate action is need.

#3 NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are toxic to dogs and cats.  These medications include tylenol, advil, aleve, excedrin, ibuprofen.  Aspirin is even controversial when given.  They do not have the same enzymes as humans do to break down the medications.  Ingestion can lead to bleeding, stomach ulcers and kidney failure.  Many well-meaning pet owners give these to their pets in hope to alleviate their pets discomfort, not knowing the dangerous consequences.  Please check with your veterinarian before you give your dog any medication!  You must also keep purses or bags containing these medications out of reach of your pet.

#4 Xylitol: Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute.  It is found in gum, candies, mints, mouthwash, toothpaste, some brands of vitamins and melatonin, baked goods, diabetic foods, nasal sprays, among many other things.  It can cause a very unsafe drop in your dogs blood sugar and can lead to liver failure.  Xylitol is becoming more and more dangerous because of its growing popularity.  Treatment is needed immediately and even a small ingestion of a product containing xylitol can be toxic to your pet.

#5 Household cleaners: This includes every thing from toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, antibacterial spray, and disinfectant products. Basically it includes anything that you use in your home to clean. Laundry pods have also become more of a concern as they gain popularity.  Signs include gastrointestinal upset to burns and pneumonia. All cleaning products have potential risks to our pets when ingested or with dermal exposure.

# 6 Grapes and Raisins: Grapes and raisins are a unique toxicity.  Ingestion of both these lead to acute kidney failure in your dog.  There is no true toxic dose for dogs, some dogs are sensitive to this toxicity and some are not.  Therefore, if your pet has been exposed we treat all cases as potentially life threatening.  The toxic component in grapes and raisins is still unknown to this day.  Pet owners also need to be aware of products containing grapes or raisins in them, such as granola bars or trail mix.  The key here is that no matter the quantity, if your dog is the dog that will be affected by raisins or grapes, this is life-threatening.

Most Common Toxicities in Cats

#1 Lilies: Lilies cause sudden kidney failure in cats. Easter lily, tiger lily, stargazer lily, Japanese show lily, Asiatic hybrid lilies, and daylilies are highly toxic. Exposure to any part of the plant, including leaves, flowers, pollen, or even the water from the vase or a pot, is problematic.  Other lilies (such as, calla lily, peace lily, and Peruvian lily) will cause more mild toxicities.  This can include gastrointestinal upset and mouth irritation.

#2 Household cleaners: This includes every thing from toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, antibacterial spray, and disinfectant products. Basically it includes anything that you use in your home to clean. Laundry pods have also become more of a concern as they gain popularity.  Signs include gastrointestinal upset to burns and pneumonia. All cleaning products have potential risks to our pets when ingested or with dermal exposure.

#3 Topical flea and tick treatments: Those that are pyrethroid based (e.g., Zodiac, K9 Advantix, Sergeant’s, etc.) cause tremors and seizures and can be deadly to cats.  Be sure to always dose your dogs and cats with appropriate flea and tick medications.  They are dosed according to weight and species. Not all products are safe for cats and if they receive a dog product it is toxic.

#4 NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are toxic to cats.  They do not have the same enzymes as humans do to break down the medications.  For example forms include of tylenol, advil, aleve, excedrin, ibuprofen, and aspirin.  Ingestion can lead to bleeding, stomach ulcers, kidney failure, even death.  Many well-meaning pet owners give these to their pets in hope to alleviate their pets discomfort, not knowing the dangerous consequences.  Please check with your veterinarian before you give your pet any medication!  You must also keep purses or bags containing these medications out of reach of your pet.  Cats are extremely sensitive to these toxicities, 1-2 tablets of aspirin or tylenol can be toxic, even deadly.

#5 Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalate crystals: These include houseplants like the peace lily, philodendron, and pothos.  They can cause oral irritation and upper GI irritation, foaming at the mouth, and inflammation when ingested.

Surprising Toxicities

Antidepressants: Antidepressants are typically a class of medication called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Ingestion by your dog or cat can lead to agitation, aggression, sedation, vomiting, and seizures.  This is one of those medications that is all about dose. The higher the dose/ingestion, the bigger the problem!  Examples include: Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, to just name a few.

Large Animal Dewormer Products: These products can be found over the counter.  They may contain the same active ingredients as your dogs dewormers, but the concentration can be 100 times the concentration that is safe for a dog.  These exposures occur can occur in several ways but the most common would be with owners using cattle or horse products to deworm their dog. Other exposures that are common are with horse owner’s deworming their horse and the paste is spit out and the dog laps it up off the barn floor,  or the medication is within reach of the dog and the container is chewed and a large dose is ingested.  Clinical signs are acute blindness, tremors and seizures.

Antifreeze: Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol (EG), is extremely dangerous to dogs and cats.  As little as a tablespoon can result in severe acute kidney failure in dogs, while as little as 1 teaspoon can be fatal to cats.  Signs include vomiting, lethargy, sedation, even death.  Treatment is needed immediately!

Zinc: Zinc poisoning can occur in dogs, cats, and birds secondary to ingesting metal pieces (e.g., nuts, bolts, hardware and other galvanized metals), certain topical ointments (e.g., diaper rash creams), or coins (pennies minted after 1964).  Zinc poisoning can lead to destruction of red blood cells, liver damage, kidney failure and heart failure. Clinical signs of zinc poisoning include weakness, pale gums (anemia), vomiting, increased breathing, increased heart rate, discolored urine, yellow gums, lack of appetite, and collapse.

Vitamin D: Many people in this area are Vitamin D deficient due to lack of sun exposure (thanks to six months of winter). As a result, many people supplement with multivitamins that contain vitamin D (often listed as vitamin D2, vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, or calcipotriene).  Dogs can be exposed through multivitamins, over dose of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D supplements, psoriasis cream or mouse and rat poisoning.  Ingestion causes unsafe elevations in calcium and phosphorus in your dog.  It can lead to mineralization of the kidneys (and occasionally the heart), resulting in acute kidney failure.

Iron: Can be found in fertilizers, multivitamins (particularly prenatal vitamins), dietary mineral supplements, some types of hand warmers, etc. If ingested can cause gastrointestinal signs, elevated heart rate, lethargy, and shock.

Cardiac Medications:There are various cardiac medications humans take to control blood pressure, heart rhythm, control blood flow, etc.  Ingestion of heart medications can cause drop in blood pressure, dizziness and weakness in your dog and cat.

Cold and Allergy Medications: Decongestants are found in cold, flu and allergy medications.  The most common are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. When ingested by dogs and cats, they can result in vomiting, dilated pupils, severe blood pressure changes, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures.

Caffeine: Coffee, coffee grounds, tea, soda, energy drinks, weightlifter supplements, OTC pills, and diet pills can contain caffeine.  Exposure and ingestion can lead to hyperactivity, abnormal heart rates, and seizures in pets.

Tea Tree Oils: Ingestion by your dog or cat is toxic.  This can cause weakness, inability to walk, tremors, coma, and elevated liver enzymes.

Avocados:  While not poisonous to dogs and cats, ingestion of avocados can cause mild stomach upset can occur if ingested.  Ingestion of the pit can lead to obstruction in pets, which is an emergency.  Persin is the ingredient in avocado that is toxic.  Birds, rabbits, and some large animals, including horses, are especially sensitive to avocados.  It causes respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death.

Alcohol: Alcohol poisoning can occur by giving your pets beer, liquor, or mixed drinks.  Alcohol is also present in rum-soaked fruitcake or unbaked dough containing yeast.  Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.

Bread Dough: Unbaked bread dough expands in the warm, moist environment of the stomach and can result in a bloated stomach (called “bloat”); this can then progress to a gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV), which is a twisted stomach.  All of which are life-threatening emergencies.

Onions, Chives, Leeks, Garlic: Toxic to both dogs and cats (garlic is thought to be 5x’s more toxic).  If ingested will destroy your pets red blood cells and cause them to be anemic.  Can also cause gastrointestinal upset and signs of anemia (lethargy, pale gums, an elevated heart rate, an increased respiratory rate, weakness, exercise intolerance, and collapse).

Macadamia Nuts: Ingestion can cause problems for the dogs nervous system.  Can lead to difficulty or inability to walk and tremors.

Apricots and Cherry: The stem, leaves, seeds/pit are toxic to your pet.  They contain cyanide which can lead to difficulty breathing and poor oxygen delivery in the body.

Star Fruit: If ingested the oxalate salts of the fruit bind to your dog and cats calcium and cause it to severely drop.  This results in vomiting, lethargy, bloody urine, and increased drinking and urinations.  Occasionally the kidneys can be affected.

Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats

Autumn Crocus 

There are two Crocus plants: one that blooms in the spring (Crocus species) and the other in the autumn Colchicum autumnale). The spring plants are more common and are part of the Iridaceae family. These ingestions can cause general gastrointestinal upset including vomiting and diarrhea. These should not be mistaken for Autumn Crocus, part of the Liliaceae family, which contain colchicine. The Autumn Crocus is highly toxic and can cause severe vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory failure. If you’re not sure what plant it is, bring your pet to their veterinarian immediately for care. Signs may be seen immediately but can be delayed for days.


In the same family as rhododendrons, azaleas can have serious effects on pets. Eating even a few leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhea and excessive drooling; without immediate veterinary attention, the pet could fall into a coma and possibly die.


The roots of this seasonal flowering plant are especially dangerous to pets. If ingested, cyclamen can cause severe vomiting and even death.


This popular flowering succulent plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea and heart arrhythmias if ingested by pets.


There are dangerous and benign lilies out there, and it’s important to know the difference. Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that cause minor signs, such as tissue irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and esophagus – this results in minor drooling. The more dangerous, potentially fatal lilies are true lilies, and these include Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show lilies – all of which are highly toxic to cats! Even small ingestions (such as 2-3 petals or leaves, drinking the water from the vase) can result in severe kidney failure. If your cat is seen consuming any part of a lily, bring your cat (and the plant) immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. The sooner you bring in your cat, the better and more efficiently we can treat the poisoning. Aggressive treatment and supportive care can greatly improve the prognosis.


Oleander is an outdoor shrub, popular for its evergreen qualities and delicate flowers. However, the leaves and flowers are extremely toxic if ingested and can cause severe vomiting, slow the heart rate and possibly even cause death.


Popular in many homes and offices, dieffenbachia can cause intense oral irritation, drooling, nausea, vomiting and difficulty swallowing if ingested.


These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (something that triggers vomiting). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. Crystals are found in the outer layer of the bulbs, similar to hyacinths, which cause severe tissue irritation and secondary drooling. Daffodil ingestions can result in more severe symptoms so if an exposure is witnessed or symptoms are seen, seeking veterinary care for further supportive care is needed.

Lily of the Valley

The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides which will cause symptoms similar to digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, a drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures. Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by a veterinarian.

Sago Palm

Very popular in warmer climates, this household and outdoor plant can be very harmful to pets. If ingested, the leaves and seeds can cause vomiting, bloody stools, damage to the stomach lining, severe liver failure and, in some cases, death.

Tulips and Hyacinths

Tulips contain allergenic lactones while hyacinths contain similar alkaloids. The toxic principle of these plants is very concentrated in the bulbs (versus the leaf or flower), so make sure your dog isn’t digging up the bulbs in the garden. When the plant parts or bulbs are chewed or ingested, it can result in tissue irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhea, depending on the amount consumed. There’s no specific antidote, but with supportive care from the veterinarian pet can do well.  With large ingestions of the bulb, more severe symptoms such as an increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can be seen, and should be treated by a veterinarian.

For a complete list of poisonous plants, click here: Poisonous Plants