Common Household Toxicities

By Kelli Klein, DVM

Dogs and cats are notorious for getting into things that we try to keep from them.  It almost like they know we don’t want them to eat that plant so they make it a mission to get to it.  This is even more common in our puppies and kittens because the world is one big toy to them.  One of the most common questions I get as a veterinarian is “my dog ate this plant is it toxic?”  I have tried to come up with a list of the most common toxicities that our pets tend to get into.

Sago palm is everywhere in Charleston and while it is beautiful and plentiful it is very dangerous to dogs.  The entire plant is poisonous and there is no specific amount which a dog needs to ingest to cause a possible reaction.  Dogs that eat sago palm will often develop vomiting and diarrhea very quickly as well as lethargy.  However, in some cases it can take a while for signs to become evident.  The plant can cause liver failure which even with aggressive treatment can not always be cured.  If you see your pet ingest any part of a sago palm it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately.  Depending on the time frame of how long it was between eating the plant and getting to the veterinarian the first thing they will likely do is to induce vomiting.  From there they will discuss further options in work up and treatment.  Determining factors in the treatment plan depend on previous medical conditions, time of ingestion, if your pet is already showing clinical signs of illness, and results of blood work.

We all love getting flowers from friends and loved ones but they can be dangerous to our pets (especially cats).  Certain types of lilies are highly toxic and can lead to kidney damage.  Unlike with dogs it is very difficult to induce vomiting in a cat so once they eat something toxic it is harder to prevent absorption.  Signs that can be seen with lily toxicity are vomiting, decrease in appetite, lethargy, or changes in urination or water consumption.  If you know your cat has ingested any part of a lily please have him/her seen right away.  You can find a list of toxic lily species online at

Keeping a clean house is very important for not only the humans that live in it but for our pets as well.  However, some of our most commonly used cleansers can be very toxic to dogs.  Bleach can be damaging to mucous membranes and lead to ulcerations in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.  This can lead to very serious problems and if nothing else can cause discomfort when eating.  Certain types of laundry pods can be very toxic as well as dryer sheets.  Lastly, body soap can look like something fun for a puppy to play with but like bleach can lead to some trouble with mucous membranes and GI upset.  Bottom line, do not let your pets try to help keep the house clean!

Medications are another common household item which pets tend to get into and can lead to serious complications.  Out over the counter pain relievers (aspirin, Tylenol, ibupreofen, aleve, etc) are very dangerous to our pets.  In some cases it can take ingestion of only 1 or 2 tablets to cause serious problems.  If your pet eats any of these types of medications call your veterinarian immediately.  Remember it is never safe to give anything to your pet for pain without consulting with your vet.  If your pet seems uncomfortable and you can not get in touch with your veterinarian (or an after hour emergency clinic) the best thing to do is make them a comfortable bed and keep them in a calm and quiet place.

Pets are very curious and sometimes no matter how diligent we are about protecting them mistakes can happen.  The best thing to do if your dog or cat gets into something not meant for them is to call your veterinarian.  You can also contact an animal poison control hotline and they will also be able to provide you with helpful information.  Below is a list of websites and phone numbers for animal poison control.


Phone number for animal poison control:  (888) 426-4435