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Preventing pet poisoning: everything you need to know


Key points

  • Symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on the substance, the time a pet was exposed to it, whether it was ingested, inhaled, or was in contact with skin, and your pet’s age, species, and health status.
  • There are things pet parents can do to reduce the risk of their pet being poisoned.
  • Acting appropriately and quickly increases the chances of a pet recovering from the poisoning.
  • Common household poisons for pets include medication, plants, food, and household products.

Sharing our home with our pets and their involvement in many aspects of family life means that sometimes there is a risk of them coming into contact with harmful substances.

Recognizing signs of poisoning early enables you to get the help your pet needs faster and increases the chances of a full recovery. However, with so many potential dangers in our homes, poisoning in pets could be overwhelming as a topic.

So, in this article, we’ll go through everything step by step, so that after reading, you’ll know everything you need to know about poisoning in pets and how to prevent it.

This article will provide answers to the following questions:

  • How can I tell if my pet has been poisoned?
  • What should I do if my pet has been exposed to something harmful?
  • What are examples of household substances which could be dangerous for pets?
  • How can I prevent my pet from being poisoned?

How can I tell if my pet has been poisoned?

Substances that are harmful to pets can cause different symptoms depending on their mechanism of action, how your pet has been exposed to them, and your pet’s age, health status, and species.

Aside from ingestion, pets can also have negative consequences after inhalation or contact with some substances.

The term ‘poisoning’ commonly refers to harmful effects following the ingestion of a substance. When it comes to pets, we also use the term poisoning when referring to inhalation or skin contact with something harmful.

The mechanism of action explains how a substance causes a harmful effect. For example, some substances harm the nervous system (metaldehyde) whereas others affect components of the blood (warfarin).

We’ve listed some signs of poisoning below:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in activity or energy level
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Change in body temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Internal bleeding
  • Painful abdomen
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Organ failure (for example the kidney or liver).

Disclaimer: Please refer to this list as a guide only. Don’t forget that the nature and intensity of symptoms vary according to your pet’s age, species, breed, and the type, amount, and length of time they have been in contact with a harmful substance.

What should I do if my pet has been poisoned?

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, try to keep calm. By staying calm you’ll be in a better position to help your pet and it will make the process of treating them smoother and faster.

We’ve created a table below to summarise what you should or should not do if you suspect your pet has been poisoned.

What to doWhat not to do

1. Move your pet away from the suspected source of poisoning or remove the source if you can.

2. Keep your affected pet away from other animals.

3. Call your veterinarian or the Animal poison control centre’s pet poison hotline and tell them all the information listed below.

4. Act according to the advice from your veterinarian.

1. Do not Panic.

2. Do not try to get your pet to vomit (using salt for example).

3. Do not give your pet any antidote unless recommended by a veterinarian

4. Do not discard the packaging or the remainder of the substance straight away, as this can be helpful to your veterinarian.


Seeing a poisoned pet is very upsetting, and you’ll want to act quickly to help them. To aid your preparation, we’ve created a list of all the information you’ll need to tell your veterinarian:

  • Your pet’s age, breed, weight, name, and information about any conditions they have or medication they are taking.
  • The substance eaten, exposed to, or inhaled (if known).
  • Your pet’s symptoms are shown by your pet.
  • The amount of substance your pet has been exposed to.
  • The amount of time that has passed since your pet encountered the poison.
  • Any other cases of poisoning (past or present).

If your veterinarian recommends you bring your pet to the clinic, they may ask you to bring some samples with you. This is especially important if you’re unsure what your pet has been poisoned with.

Veterinarians can perform tests on urine, feces, vomit, blood, and contaminated food or water to help determine the cause and the best treatment option. If you can, try to bring fresh samples with you in a plastic container.

Depending on the circumstances, veterinarians may administer an antidote, give your pet substances to help eliminate the substance or put your pet on intravenous fluids. Some cases of poisoning such as those with neurological effects may be treated symptomatically with medication.

With our Lifetime Protection Membership, you can access veterinary professionals anytime by phone, email, or live chat. So if you think your pet has come into contact with something harmful, you can get the help you need.

What are common household poisons for pets?

Below we’ve listed some examples of common household poisons for pets with the harmful component in brackets:

  • MedicationIbuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, Tylenol, flea medication (containing fipronil) and vitamin D.
  • PlantsDaffodils, cyclamens, and acorns.
  • Food and drinksChocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, chives, grapes, sultanas, currants, coffee, avocado, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners (containing xylitol).
  • Household products - Slug or snail pellets, bleach, essential oils, antifreeze, and rodenticides.

This list is intended to show some examples of harmful substances for pets. For a more complete list of poisons and more information about them, please refer to the pet poison helpline.

More information about cases of pet poisoning specific to your area, can be found on the pet poison helpline’s toxin trend page.

How can I prevent my pet from being poisoned?

In this section, we’ve listed some points that can help prevent your pet from being poisoned:

  • Store and label any medicines out of an animal’s reach.
  • Keep plants away from pets, and collect any dropped parts.
  • Ensure pesticides are out of your pet’s reach and check traps regularly.
  • Separate pets after administering a spot-on flea medication.
  • Keep human and animal medicines separate.
  • Don’t use the same products for different species, only use as prescribed by your veterinarian or as advised on the label.
  • Don’t forget that animals can ingest substances during grooming.
  • Check and clean water and food bowls regularly and put them in areas where they cannot be contaminated.
  • Keep all labels for products in your home, so that you can refer to them in an emergency.


Recognizing signs and knowing how to act, are the best ways to help your pet in any emergency and increase the chances of a successful resolution. When it comes to poisoning, there are many things pet parents can do to reduce the risk of their pet becoming sick.

With our Lifetime Protection Membership, you can access veterinary professionals anytime by phone, email or live chat, so if your pet comes into contact with something harmful, you can get the help you need.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article and would like to know more about how to reduce risks for your pet, read our articles below:


The information provided and contained herein are the opinions of Pethealth Services Inc. which are based on external publication. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Pethealth Services Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss, claims or damages arising out of the within content.

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