Common Household Items

Common Household Items that Can Be Hazardous to Dogs and Cats

Always call your veterinary if any medical emergency occurs or in the slightest doubt as to your pet’s condition.

This information sheet is designed to help non-veterinary people evaluate the health of cats and dogs. Its not a comprehensive guide and will not give you all the answers. Also, its not meant to replace veterinary care or advice

The easiest way to keep a pet healthy and safe is to think of them as the most curious of children. Err on the side of safety! 


Antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol has a sweet taste that attracts animals but is deadly if consumed in even small quantities; one teaspoon can kill a seven-pound cat. The HSUS recommends pet owners use a safe antifreeze in their vehicles. Look for antifreeze that contains propylene glycol, which is safe for animals if ingested in small amounts. Ethylene glycol can also be found in common household products like snow globes, so be sure to keep these things out the reach of animals.

Cocoa mulch contains ingredients that can be deadly to pets if ingested. The mulch, sold in garden supply stores, has a chocolate scent that is appetizing to some animals.
Chemicals used on lawns and gardens, such as fertilizer and plant food, can be easily accessible and fatal to a pet allowed in the yard unsupervised.

De-icing salts used to melt snow and ice are paw irritants that can be poisonous if licked off. Paws should be washed and dried as soon as the animal comes in from the snow. Ice melt on driveways and stairs can easily become stuck to paws and fur. When an animal cleans itself, ingesting the chemicals in the ice melt, there can be harmful reactions including skin irritations, seizures, and even death. Other options include doggie boots with Velcro straps to protect Fido’s feet, and making cats indoor pets.

Cans and garbage can pose a danger when cats or smaller dogs attempt to lick food from a disposed can, sometimes getting their head caught inside the can. To be sure this doesn’t happen, squeeze the open end of the can closed before disposing.

Traps and poisons. Pest control companies frequently use glue traps, live traps and poisons to kill rodents. Even if you would never use such methods to eliminate rodents, your neighbor might. Dogs and cats can be poisoned if they eat a rodent who has been killed by poison (called secondary poisoning). Snail poising can be extremely deadly


Cedar and other soft wood shavings, including pine, emit fumes that may be dangerous to small mammals like hamsters and gerbils.

Insect control products, such as the insecticides used in many over-the-counter flea and tick remedies, may be toxic to companion animals. Prescription flea and tick control products are much safer and more effective. Pet owners should never use any product without first consulting a veterinarian.

Laundry detergents and fabric softener sheets can smell sweet and intrigue a curious pet. If ingested, these can cause digestive problems, irritation of the mouth and tongue, and even death. Never put a fabric softener sheet in a pet’s bed or kennel to make it smell fresher.

Human medications such as pain killers (including aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen), cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins, and diet pills can all be toxic to animals. Keep medication containers and tubes of ointments and creams away from pets who could chew through them, and be vigilant about finding and disposing of any dropped pills.

Mouthwash contains boric acid, which can be extremely harmful to your pet. Never rinse your pet’s mouth with an antiseptic intended for humans. And keep the liquid out of reach as the smell can attract dogs and cats.

Poisonous household plants include azalea, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), lilies, mistletoe, and philodendron, among others.

String, yarn, rubber bands, and even dental floss are easy to swallow and can cause intestinal blockages or strangulation.

Toys with movable parts—like squeaky toys or stuffed animals with plastic eyes—can pose a choking hazard to animals. Take the same precautions with pets as you would with a small child.

Rawhide dog chews may be contaminated with Salmonella, which can infect pets and humans who come in contact with the chews. These kinds of chews should be offered to a pet only with supervision, as they can pose a choking hazard as well.

Holiday decorations and lights pose a risk to cats and dogs. Keep these items out of the reach of animals, and if possible, confine your pet to an undecorated area while you are out of the home. 

Kitchen Dangers

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Fumes from nonstick cooking surfaces and self-cleaning ovens can be deadly to birds. Always be cautious when using any pump or aerosol spray around birds.

Leftovers such as chicken bones easily shatter and can choke a cat or dog. Other human foods to keep away from pets include onions and onion powder; alcoholic beverages; yeast dough; coffee grounds and beans; salt; macadamia nuts; tomato, potato, and rhubarb leaves and stems; avocados (toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats); grapes; and anything with mold growing on it.

A Special Note of Caution to Bird Owners

Just like dogs and cats, most hazards listed here apply to your pet bird, particularly if it is allowed to roam freely outside of its cage. In addition, birds have unique respiratory tracts that are especially vulnerable to inhaled particles and fumes from aerosol products, tobacco products, certain glues, paints, air fresheners and any other aerosolized matter. Birds should never be allowed in areas where such products are being used. Never clean an oven or use self cleaning oven with a bird near by. As a rule, birds should never be kept in kitchens because cooking fumes, smoke and odors can present a hazard.

Safety first!

We recommend that pet owners use all household products with caution and keep a pet first aid kit. See how to make your own first aid kit. (for dogs and cats) If all of your precautions fail, and you believe that your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary service immediately. Signs of poisoning include listlessness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, lack of coordination, and fever.

Don’t wait! Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call your veterinarian or the The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center operates a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-426-4435 for a fee of $60 per case. If you call, you should be prepared to provide the name of the poison your animal was exposed to, the amount and how long ago; the species, breed, age, sex, and weight of your pet; and the symptoms the animal is displaying. Keep the product container or plant sample with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.

You’ll also be asked to provide your name, address, phone number, and credit card information.

Always call your veterinary if any medical emergency occurs or in the slightest doubt as to your pet’s condition. This information sheet is designed to help non-veterinary people evaluate the health of cats and dogs. Its not a comprehensive guide and will not give you all the answers. Also, its not meant to replace veterinary care or advice


Some foods that are considered good for people can be very dangerous for pets. The list below highlights some of the most common foods that can be dangerous to animals. This is not an exhaustive list and any decision to provide your pet with food not specifically intended for animals should be discussed with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

The following foods may be dangerous to your pet: 

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Apple seeds
  • Apricot pits
  • Avocados
  • Cherry pits
  • Candy (particularly chocolate, which is toxic to dogs, cats and ferrets, and any candy containing the sweetener Xylitol)
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
  • Grapes
  • Hops (used in home beer brewing)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Moldy foods
  • Mushroom plants
  • Mustard seeds
  • Onions and onion powder
  • Peach pits
  • Potato leaves and stems (green parts)
  • Raisins
  • Rhubarb leaves
  • Salt
  • Tea (caffeine)
  • Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
  • Walnuts
  • Yeast dough


The materials inside a pet first aid kit can be used to treat minor emergencies and to assist you and your pet in case a major emergency occurs. As you build your pet first aid kit, familiarize yourself with materials and methods that may be needed to help your pet in an emergency.
Recommended Materials:

Thermometer and small jar of Vaseline: if your pet ever seems like he or she is not feeling well, or if the pet is unconscious or is in an emergency situation, it is important to quickly take the pet’s temperature to ensure that the pet is not in a life threatening temperature situation such as hypothermia or hyperthermia. To use the thermometer apply a small amount of Vaseline, and place the thermometer in the pet’s rectum. The normal temperature for dogs is between 100.0 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and the normal temperature for cats is between 101.5 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hydrogen Peroxide and a plastic syringe: hydrogen peroxide is an emetic which induces vomiting. Only use this emetic when warranted, such as if a veterinarian or poison control center tells you to immediately administer it. Purchase a syringe from a pharmacy or a veterinarian that is the right size for your pets. Dogs and cats should receive 5 – 25 cc’s of hydrogen peroxide (orally) for every 10 pounds of weight. If vomiting does not occur in 15 minutes repeat the dose.

Muzzlea muzzle by be needed in an emergency to help restrain your animal if it becomes aggressive due to shock and pain.

Karo SyrupIf hypoglycemia is suspected (a condition that can occur in diabetic pets and in small dogs with low blood sugar), Karo Syrup can be rubbed in the pet’s gums to help increase blood sugar levels.

Medical bandages, gauze, or used cloth: in the event of bleeding emergencies, these materials can be used to apply pressure to the bleeding areas. These materials may also be used to stabilize an injured limb. Try to pack the emergency kit with enough materials to suit the size of your pet.

Small flashlight: A small flashlight can be used to check for any injuries within the mouth or any objects or materials that could be blocking respiration in the upper part of the throat.

StethoscopeA stethoscope can be used to check the pet’s heart rate in the event of an emergency. You may also want to ask your veterinarian to show you how to check your pet’s femoral pulse.

Air SplintThese emergency splints can be used to immobilize a limb if a break is suspected.

Hot/Cold Pack: Use the emergency packs that can be stowed in an emergency kit and will change temperature when broken or shaken.

Emergency Heat BlanketThese thin foil-like emergency blankets should be used if an animal’s temperature is decreasing due to shock or exposure. Always take the pet’s temperature first before using.

TweezersThese items can be used to remove any small painful objects. Keep in mind though if the pet has a serious wound such as a gunshot wound, or has been impaled by an object, do not remove the object yourself. Instead, stabilize the area and take the pet to a veterinarian immediately.

Saline SolutionThis solution can be used to clean out wounds and flush the eyes.
A card with the phone number and a map to your veterinarian’s office, the phone number and map to the nearest 24 hour emergency veterinarian clinic, and the phone number to a 24 hour pet poison control center.