A Look at Common Household Toxicities(Part 1.)

As everyone knows pets love to get into things they shouldn’t. Home medications, favorite sweets, or your favorite household plant can provide an irresistible lure and are potentially life threatening treats for your pets.  In this article I will cover the top toxicities seen most commonly in small animal emergency. However, if you see your pet eat something and are unsure if it may be toxic there is a number you can call. The Pet Poison Helpline is available 24hrs a day, seven days a week to answer your questions.  They are reachable at 1-800-213-6680 or on their website

Anyone who has had cats and household plans together knows, cats love to eat plants. There are several plants that can be toxic to your cat, but I am only going to discuss Lilies here. When ingested Lily’s are toxic to your cat’s kidneys and can be potentially lethal. Both the leaves and flowers of the lily can cause renal failure. As little exposure as biting a leaf can cause an onset of symptoms.  If your cat has ingested or been chewing on a lily prompt treatment is necessary for a favorable outcome. Treatment consists of induces vomiting, charcoal treatment, and aggressive intravenous fluids. If your cat develops full renal failure, peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis should be considered.

               Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in small quantities in certain fruit. Because it is sugar free, xylitol has been used as a sweeter in many foods, candy, and gum. When ingested, xylitol causes a sudden drop of blood glucose due to an increase in insulin secretion. Effects can often be seen in as little time as fifteen minutes after ingestion. Clinical signs include collapse, lethargy, vomiting, and weakness. Treatment consists of inducing vomiting, serial blood glucose monitoring, and intravenous fluids +/- dextrose.

Another often seen toxicity is ingestion of chocolate. Understandably our pets often love chocolate just as much as we do! Both the amount and type of chocolate ingested change the prognosis. Cocoa beans, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate are the most toxic to your pet. Milk chocolate is still toxic, but requires a larger amount to have the same effect. The most common signs of chocolate toxicity are hyperexcitability, tremors, a fast heart rate, and even seizures. Severe or fatal doses produce a drop in blood pressure, a slow heart rate, and can even lead to a coma. If your pet has recently ingested the chocolate vomiting can be induced to help them clear it. In addition activated charcoal with a cathartic can help to bind and move the toxic components of chocolate out of your pet. Further treatment consists of intravenous fluids, gastric lavage, and serial ECG monitoring.

As you may have noticed, although there are many toxins that can affect your pet, prompt identification and treatment is the most important step you can take. If your pet ingests one of the toxic items listed above please contact your local veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline promptly. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic please don’t hesitate to call quickly. We are here to help!


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