Toxins around your house and garden

Do you know the toxins around your house and garden?

  • Top 10 Toxins in the Kitchen
  • Top 11 Toxic Plants

Top 10 Toxins in the Kitchen

Chocolate 1. Chocolate:Contains Theobromine which has gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects. The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa and the higher the theobromine content. As little as 5-10g of chocolate per kilogram of body weight of dark chocolate can have toxic effects on dogs. Cocoa powder is even more toxic. Another toxin in chocolate is caffeine, which acts as a stimulant to the heart and nervous system. White chocolate does not contain theobromine and milk chocolate has lower levels of theobromine so is less toxic then dark chocolate.
Grapes 2. Grapes, Raisins and Currants: The toxin is not known but ingestion of 19g/kg body weight of grapes and 3g/kg of raisins can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea within a few hours of ingestion. This progresses to loss of appetite, increased thirst and abdominal pain. Kidney failure can develop within 48 hours.
Sugar Free Gum 3. Xylitol: Is used as a sweetening agent in sugar free gum and sweets. Ingestion of as little as 0.1g/kg can cause rapid life threatening drops in blood sugar. Larger amounts are toxic to the liver leading to liver failure. Symptoms include weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremors, seizures, jaundice, black-tarry stools, coma and death.
Alcohol 4. Alcohol:  Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Central nervous system depression is very marked resulting in drowsiness, weakness and in-coordination and can lead to seizures and respiratory failure.
Onions 5. Onions and Garlic: contain organosulfoxides which can lead to damage to the Red Blood Cells. This causes the cells to break up leading to anaemia. Cats are more sensitive to these toxins then dogs. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, rapid heart rate, pale gums and yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
Compost 6. Compost: Often contains fungal toxins which can be toxic. Signs include agitation, elevated temperature, panting, drooling, vomiting and may progress to in-coordination, tremors and seizures. Symptoms can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion and even small amounts can be toxic.
Uncooked dough 7. Unbaked Bread Dough: When ingested can expand in the stomach leading to bloat, carbon dioxide can also be released causing further bloating and fermentation can lead to release of alcohol leading to further toxicity.
Macadamia Nuts 8. Macadamia Nuts: Can be toxic to dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, in-coordination, weakness, fever, muscle tremors and depression. Macadamia nuts are only toxic to dogs. Poisoning is non fatal but requires supportive care to avoid complications.
Household cleaners 9. Household Cleaners: Similar to humans caustic cleaners can cause serious damage to the gastrointestinal tract as well as irritating the respiratory tract. Strangely it is often cats that suffer as they are attracted by bleach and will often lick the cleaners remaining after cleaning is completed causing ulceration of the tongue and mouth and excessive salivation.
Medications 10. Human Medications: Many of these are highly toxic to both cats and dogs. Topping the list are common household medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which include common names such as ibuprofen (e.g. Nurofen) and naproxen (eg Naprogesic). These can cause severe gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure. Another pain medications, acetaminophen (e.g. Panadol) is very popular. This drug is especially toxic to cats. One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage. Another class of drugs that is toxic to pets is Antidepressants such as Fluoxetine (eg Prozac or Anafrinil). While these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, in-coordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (eg Ritalin) contain potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even minimal ingestion of these medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems. Beta-blockers (eg Propranolol) are used to treat high blood pressure and small ingestion of these drugs may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate. This is by no means a complete list, with many other medications harmful to pets.

If your pet ingests any of the above or any other medications or chemicals in your home please contact Weston Creek Veterinary Hospital immediately to get advice on your best course of action.


Top 11 Toxic Plants

While there are a vast number of species of plants and flowers, only a few of these plants are poisonous to your pet. Make sure you check which plants are most deadly and remove them from your backyard or home to avoid your dog or cat from getting into these toxic plants!

Autumn Crocus 1. Autumn Crocus (Colchicum Autumnale: Liliaceae Family): This plant contains Colchicine, which is highly toxic causing severe vomiting, diarrhoea, bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, liver and renal damage, and respiratory problems. Signs may occur immediately but can be delayed for days. The more common crocus plants are those that flower in spring and are part of the Iridaceae family and cause general vomiting and diarrhoea but are not highly toxic. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested this plant contact the veterinary clinic immediately.
Azalea 2. Azalea: These are in the same family as rhododendrons. Azaleas can cause serious problems for pets. Eating even a few leaves can result in vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive drooling. Prompt veterinary attention is needed or your pet could fall into a coma and possibly die.
Cyclamen 3. Cyclamen: Family Primulaceae. It is the roots (or tuber) of this seasonal flowering plant that are especially toxic to pets. If ingested, cyclamen can cause severe vomiting and even death. They are common plants available for use as indoor plants in the winter months.
Kalanchoe 4. Kalanchoe:  Part of the Crassulaceae family. This popular flowering succulent plant contains cardiac glycosides which can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and heart rhythm disturbances if ingested by pets. It is frost tender so in Canberra is likely to be an indoor or greenhouse plant.
Lilies 5. Lilies: Not all Lilies are toxic. Peace, Peruvian, and Calla lilies contain oxalate crystals that can cause minor signs, such as irritation to the mouth, tongue, pharynx, and oesophagus – this results in 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 can result in severe kidney failure. If your cat is seen eating or chewing on any part of a lily, take your cat (and the plant) to the veterinary hospital immediately for medical care. The sooner you bring in your cat, the better the chance to treat the poisoning. Decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal) is imperative in the early toxic stage, while aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, kidney function monitoring tests, and supportive care can improve the prognosis.
Oleander 6. Oleander: It is a very popular outdoor shrub, with evergreen leaves and delicate flowers. However, the branches, leaves and flowers contain cardiac glycosides and these are extremely toxic if ingested. Ingestion of the plant can cause severe vomiting, slowing of the heart rate and potentially even cause death.
Dieffenbachia 7. Dieffenbachia: Popular indoor plants in many homes and offices, dieffenbachia can cause intense oral irritation, drooling, nausea, vomiting and difficulty swallowing if ingested.
Daffodils 8. Daffodils: These flowers contain lycorine, an alkaloid with strong emetic properties (substance that triggers vomiting). Ingestion of the bulb, plant or flower can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and even possible irregular heart rate 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 also result in more severe symptoms so if you see your pet chewing at a daffodil plant or bulb or symptoms are seen, we recommend you seek veterinary care for treatment.
Lilies of the Valley 9. Lily of the Valley:The Convallaria majalis plant contains cardiac glycosides which will cause symptoms similar to digitalis (foxglove) ingestion. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, a slowing of the heart rate, severe heart rhythm disturbances, and possibly seizures. Pets with any known exposure to this plant should be examined and evaluated by your veterinarian and treated if needed.
 Palm 10. Sago Palm: In the Cycad family, this very popular household and outdoor plant (in warmer climates) 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 grape hyacinths 11. 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 oesophagus. Typical signs include profuse drooling, vomiting, or even diarrhoea, depending on the amount ingested. There’s no specific antidote, but with supportive care from the veterinarian (including rinsing the mouth, anti-vomiting medication, and possibly intravenous fluids), animals do quite well. With large ingestions of the bulb, more severe symptoms such as an increase in heart rate and changes in respiration can be seen.

This is only a partial list of poisonous plants.  For a more complete list of plants poisonous to cats and dogs, visit

If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these plants or any other questionable substance, call Weston Creek Veterinary Hospital for assistance. Accurate and timely identification of the ingested material is very important. Having the container, package, or label will save valuable time and may save your pets life.

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