9 min read

How to Keep Pets Safe from Poisoning


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/24/2023, edited: 03/12/2024


Pet parents go to great lengths to ensure their fur-babies stay healthy, like buying high-quality pet food and scheduling regular vet appointments. But when taking these preventative measures, many pet parents forget to secure toxic items around the home.

Sadly, everyday household items can have deadly consequences for our fur-babies — from drain products and dietary supplements to potted plants and paint thinner.

We’ve compiled a list of common household toxins to help you protect your pets. We’ll also provide actionable steps you can take to reduce your dog’s exposure to pet poisons and educate you on what to do if your pet ingests something dangerous. Without further ado, here’s how to keep pets safe from poisoning.

two punnets of red and green grapes, which are toxic to dogs and cats

Research human food before giving it to your pets

Many pet parents likely wouldn't think twice about feeding their dog something that's seasoned with herbs and spices. But these seemingly innocent herbs can spell big trouble for your pets. Common ingredients like onions and garlic make our food taste spectacular, but can be deadly to our furry friends.

Thankfully, it's fairly easy to prevent pets from eating toxic human foods. The obvious thing to do is to stick to feeding a quality commercial fresh, raw, wet or dry pet food that is regulated to ensure it contains no toxins. 

Foods to avoid feeding your dogs and cats

Tips for researching ingredients that are safe for pets

Another option is to research human foods to ensure they're safe before giving them to your pet. You'll find an abundance of books and online resources about pet nutrition. Here are some tips for researching what's safe for your dog to eat:

  • Talk to your vet. The internet contains misleading, outdated, and downright false information, so it’s best to run any new foods by your vet before offering them to Fido.

  • Use caution with search engines. Unfortunately, Google isn't always right. When searching for info, there's always a risk of a potentially toxic ingredient slipping through the proverbial cracks. Always double-check any answers you find on the web.

  • Look for a veterinarian's seal of approval. Any articles you read about pet nutrition should be reviewed by a veterinary professional. Wag!'s pet health articles are reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS, a veterinary surgeon based in the UK.

  • Ensure your resources are reliable. We recommend steering clear of blogs and sites that don't employ a veterinary professional. A couple of our favorite resources on all things pet nutrition include Merck Veterinary Manual and the Pet Foodology blog, maintained by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

black and brown dachshund dog standing by an overturned trash can surrounded by toxic waste

Secure your trash can and toilet

Pets are masterminds when it comes to getting something they want, and they aren’t above digging in the trash or drinking out of the toilet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of toxins pets can get into in the trash, from bottles of cleaning products to toxic human foods flavored with chocolate and xylitol.

For this reason, we suggest buying a locking trash can and a child safety lock for your toilet lid. Toilet locks will cost you about $10 each — a small price to pay for peace of mind since dogs can accidentally ingest cleaning agents when drinking out of the potty.

an assortment of colorful medications, capsules, and tablets

Lock up your medications

Our next tip is to lock up all your meds. This goes for over-the-counter meds, supplements, vitamins, gummies and chewables, pet meds, and medical marijuana. Below are the meds you should be most concerned about. 

OTC meds

Over-the-counter meds are some of the most accessible for pets. But just because they are available without a prescription doesn't mean they're safe for your pets.

NSAID pain relievers (like ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, and naproxen sodium) can cause organ failure in dogs and cats. Likewise, nasal decongestants like Sudafed can spell serious trouble for our furry friends. Ointments and creams aren't safe for our pets either, especially steroidal, analgesic, and antibacterial creams.

Vitamins & supplements

Vitamins and supplements can be very dangerous for dogs if left within their reach — particularly vitamin D. Accidentally ingesting too much vitamin D can cause intestinal bleeding, trouble breathing, heart problems, and death for dogs and cats.

Eating a lot of iron supplements can also be problematic for our fur-babies. Just 20 milligrams of iron per kilogram of weight can cause pets to exhibit signs of overdose. And just 60 milligrams per pound can be fatal, so make sure you don't leave human or pet supplements where your pet can get them.

Lastly, any supplement containing xylitol can be deadly to cats and dogs. Manufacturers often add xylitol to sugar-free gummies, chewables, and dissolvable dietary supplements, so please keep these locked up. 

Dog flea and tick meds 

Dog flea and tick meds are highly poisonous to cats, especially those with pyrethrin as the active ingredient. Cats can be exposed by rubbing on or grooming treated dogs or by having it applied directly to their bodies.

Sadly, between 10% and 40% of cats who experience pyrethrin toxicity die, so you must avoid these medications entirely. That doesn't mean you shouldn't treat your pets for fleas and ticks — just use safer alternatives like species-specific oral medications like Trifexis.  


You may be surprised to see this one on the list since cannabis has earned a reputation for being a relatively harmless medicine. After all, CBD dog treats are made with cannabis — right? Yes, this is true, but the THC in cannabis is toxic to pets. (CBD dog treats are free of THC.)

Edibles are especially dangerous, not only because they look, taste, and smell like enticing human foods but also because they often contain pet toxins like chocolate and xylitol. 

Flavored medication made for humans

Flavored medications — especially vitamin gummies, children's meds, and chewable pet meds — are some of the most dangerous because they taste good to pets! And pets are more likely to overeat a flavored medication than a non-flavored med, which can increase the risk of overdose.

Prescription meds 

As you'd probably expect, it's never a good thing when a dog gets ahold of a prescription pill bottle. If you suspect your dog has ingested any prescription medication, call your vet ASAP.

Prescription medications used to treat the following conditions are the most dangerous for pets:

  • Psychiatric conditions 
  • Hormone imbalances
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic pain 
  • ADHD

Pet meds

Last but not least, keep your pet's meds in a place where your pet can't get to them — especially flavored meds like chewable Rimadyl. Pets can overdose on pet medication just like human meds, but they may be more inclined to eat a large amount of pet meds (which are often flavored with meat).

two stacks of off-white plastic locking tote boxes

Make household products inaccessible to your pets

Many products are poisonous and even deadly to pets. Antifreeze, cleaning products, pool chemicals, and gardening supplies are just a few items likely lying around your house that could hurt your fur-babies. Antifreeze in particular is particularly problematic because it tastes so sweet to pets.

Thankfully, preventing exposure to these toxins is simple, but it will require some work and diligence.

How to minimize your pet's exposure to toxic household chemicals

  • Store dangerous items in locking totes well out of your pet's reach.
  • Use baby gates to keep your pet out of dangerous areas of your home.
  • Put your dog in a spare room, crate, or fenced area if you're cleaning with potentially problematic products.
  • When using carpet or hardwood cleaning solutions, secure your pet in a crate or another room until the floor is fully dry.    
  • If you use weed killers, pesticides, or fertilizer, keep Fido off that part of your lawn for at least 3 or 4 days. You should also use 'pet safe' products whenever possible.
  • Store batteries (especially button batteries) in a locking tote. Button batteries can cause deadly chemical burns inside an animal's (or a child's) digestive tract).
  • If you must spray for bugs or rodents, find somewhere for your pets to stay until the fumes subside and you thoroughly mop and clean surfaces they may come in contact with. 

Poisonous antifreeze being poured into a car, very dangerous for pets

Toxic household products to look out for   

brown dog sniffing purple tulips, a plant that's toxic to dogs if ingested

Don’t overlook the dangers of plants

Gardening may seem like an innocuous hobby, but did you know toxic plants are a top cause of pet poisoning every year?

Take palm lily, for example. This plant contains steroidal saponins and glycosides, which could spell big trouble for your fur-babies. These compounds irritate the digestive tract and can cause vomiting and drooling.

Here are a few tips for keeping your pets safe from the dangers of toxic plants.

Change up your pup's walking route 

Limit your pet's access to potentially dangerous plants by changing up their walking route so they won't run into potentially lethal plants. Typically, urban routes are safer than forested paths. 

Keep your dog leashed on walks

Keep your dog on a lead when you know they are approaching areas with a lot of plants, particularly if you cannot identify whether they are poisonous.

Know your plants

If you keep plants, researching your collection is crucial. There are many pet-safe plants out there, but there are just as many — if not more — that pose a threat to our pets. Look up the species online and cross-reference other sources to ensure they aren't toxic. You can download plant identification apps if you're unsure what a plant is. You can also get information from your local vet or houseplant groups online. 

Rehome toxic plants   

If you find out that one of your plants is toxic to pets, it's best to get ride of them. But if that isn't an option, then you need to find a way to make the plant off-limits to your pet — either by using baby gates or relocating the plant to an off-limits part of your home.

Use caution with outdoor cats

It's a lot easier to prevent poisoning in dogs than cats, especially free-roaming outdoor felines. If you let your cats outside, consider taking some extra steps to keep them safe on their adventures in the neighborhood.

Here are a few ways you can protect your outdoor cats from poisoning:

  • Invest in a GPS collar. These fancy collars let you track your cat's location in real-time using a smartphone app.

  • Limit your cat's outdoor time. This will be a lot easier said than done, especially if your cat is used to coming and going as they please. Consider shutting windows, cat doors, and other exit points at night or at times when you won't be home.

  • Know the signs of poisoning in cats. Whenever your cat returns from an outing, monitor them closely for signs of illness. Cats tend to hide when they're sick or in pain, so keep an eye out for any subtle clues like drooling or hiding away.

White lilles in a field which are very poisonous for cats and dogsTwo dogs in party hats against a pink background ready for a safe and toxin-free party

Considerations for parties, holidays, and celebrations

Avoiding pet poisoning during celebrations can be tricky since we usually focus on preparing for guests and ensuring everything is just so. Unfortunately, open spreads of food, relaxed house rules for guests, and preoccupied pet parents can make for a dangerous combo for our pets.

Guests may unwittingly leave the trash can lids up, potentially exposing your pet to a host of dangerous leftovers. And you may be too busy hosting and preparing food to realize your pet has gotten ahold of something they shouldn’t have.

Leftovers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pet dangers at events. Here’s a list of things to avoid or use cautiously when having a pet-friendly party:

  • Sugar-free desserts, cakes, and candies 
  • Certain flowers and festive plants    
  • Chocolate candies and deserts 
  • Raisins within desserts
  • Open containers of alcohol
  • Unattended batteries
  • Christmas tree water   
  • Festive plants
  • Pine needles 
  • Fireworks
  • Dry ice   

Protecting your pets from poisoning: key takeaways

As you can see, the list of pet poisons is long, and many of these substances are household staples! Keeping your house free of pet poisons is virtually impossible, but there are ways to manage their environment to ensure your pets never have access to them.

  • Being vigilant, storing dangerous items up high or in locking totes, and sticking to commercial kibble are just a few ways to make your home a little safer for your fur-babies.
  • Keep Fido on a short leash outside of the home.
  • Don't allow them to eat or lick anything you're unsure about.
  • Research any houseplants before bringing them into your home, as well as human foods before offering them to your pets.

At first, it may seem like a lot of work, but eventually, it will become second nature, and you'll be glad you did.

Finally, if you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance, take them to an emergency vet ASAP. Time is of the essence when it comes to pet poisoning, so don't delay. If you're unsure if something your dog has eaten is unsafe, use Wag! Vet Chat to get professional pet advice fast. 

You can also contact the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Hotline (but keep in mind a fee of $75 per incident applies). 

Prepare for the unexpected

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we work to protect our fur-babies, accidents, and illnesses are going to happen. Prepare for the unexpected with pet insurance. Wag!'s pet insurance comparison tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace.

Compare pet insurance plans today to find the "pawfect" plan for your pets in just a few clicks!

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