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6 Everyday Items That Can Hurt Your Pet

These foods, plants and products can spell danger for your dog or cat

By Sara Schwartz and

(This article previously appeared on

Keep your beloved pet safe from these items found in most homes.

Ibuprofen and other medications

Pills are a way of life — and all around us. Most people over 60 take at least one prescription drug a day and almost 30 percent take more than five per day. But many of these medications are harmful, if not downright deadly, for pets.

“Human medications pose a significant threat to the health of our pets,” says Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The No. 1 most ingested pill by pets: ibuprofen, partly because it seems innocuous if dropped on the floor, plus pets are attracted to its sweet outer coating, he adds. Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in pets.

Other potentially harmful medications include “prescription drugs — such as heart medications, antidepressants and ADD and ADHD medications — and over-the-counter medications — such as pain relievers, acetaminophen and antihistamines,” San Filippo says.

Note: Never give human medication to a pet, unless you consult a veterinarian first. (Even if your Chihuahua is having a serious meltdown at the mailman.)

For a complete list of harmful human medications, visit

Flea-and-tick products

When used properly, flea and tick deterrents are a godsend, protecting pets from itchy bites and infestations. But be warned: Cats should not be treated with dog flea-and-tick products, and vice versa.

“For most toxins, the degree of damage increases with dose, as is the case here,” says Robert Goggs, lecturer, emergency and critical care in the Department of Clinical Sciences at College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. “Drug dosages and the concentrations of medications for dogs are frequently higher than for cats. There are also interspecies differences in the way drugs are metabolized or in their effects on organ function. Remember cats are not small dogs — just using less of the drug will not always make it safe!”

Macadamia nuts

The undisputed inventors of “puppy dog eyes,” dogs can pry the last bite of food from your hand with one mournful, glistening glance. But before you give Buster some of your prized macadamia nuts, consider the consequences.

"Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, although the mechanism of this toxicity is currently unknown," Goggs says. "Toxicity has been reported with relatively low-level exposure (as few as five nuts for a 44-pound dog)," resulting in weakness, depression, vomiting, lack of coordination and tremors. Fortunately, the symptoms typically resolve themselves within 48 hours.

Beyond macadamia nuts, dietary dangers abound for dogs and cats, and some foods even pose an immediate risk if ingested. According to Goggs, some common ones include: caffeine (coffee grounds, diet pills, etc.), chocolate (especially dark chocolate or high cocoa percentage baking chocolate), cough drops with menthol, grapes and raisins (dogs), tea, vitamin supplements and the artificial sweetener xylitol.

For a complete list of toxic foods for pets, visit

Lilies and certain flower bulbs

File these under the beautiful-but-deadly category. If you have a cat or dog in the house, either keep these poisonous flowers out of reach or out of the house, says the AVMA:

  • Lilies: Described as “highly toxic to cats,” certain species (lilium and hemerocallis) can lead to kidney failure if ingested, even in very small amounts.
  • Lily of the Valley, oleander and foxglove can cause heart problems.
  • Peace lily, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, philodendron, hibiscus and hydrangea can result in intestinal distress.
  • Azalea, tulip/narcissus and rhododendron bulbs can result in intestinal and heart problems, depression and even death.

Have a cat or dog who loves chewing on indoor greenery? San Filippo suggests treating plants and flowers with a nontoxic substance that tastes unappealing (try spraying plants with water and then sprinkling with cayenne pepper) or providing nontoxic plants for them to chew on — and reward them for doing so.

For a complete list of plants that are toxic and nontoxic for pets, visit

Wires and cords

Between smartphones, tablets, computers, Internet connections, earphones and the like, our connected lifestyle calls for a heck of a lot of wires and cords. While cords create a tripping hazard for humans, they pose a more acute risk to pets, especially sharp-toothed kittens who find cords particularly irresistible.

“Wires and cords are a household risk for pets that may lead to electrocution or electrical burns,” San Filippo says. “They can also pose a choking hazard if they become wrapped around your pet’s neck.”

To keep curious cats and dogs away from electrical wires, vets recommend first that you stow anything you can in drawers and cabinets. If wires must remain out, spray them with a nontoxic repellant spray, such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple, or wrap them in Crittercord, a chew-proof, citrus-scented clear plastic sheath.

Cleaning products containing bleach

While a small amount of diluted bleach, such as a few milliliters of residue in toilet water, won’t cause any damage, a small amount of concentrated bleach can be toxic.

“The degree of damage increases with dose, in this case concentration and duration of exposure [to bleach],” Goggs says. “Ingestion of only a small amount of concentrated bleach is likely to result in severe damage to the mouth, throat and food pipe. Many household cleaning products are irritating to skin and are potentially damaging if ingested or with prolonged contact.”

If bleach-cleaned surfaces near your cat or dog make you nervous, just remember this general safety rule: Make sure cleaned areas are well aired out and completely dry before letting pets back in, Goggs says. “If your pet does come into contact with a household cleaning product it is generally safe to wash the coated areas off with a mild soap and lukewarm water,” he adds.

Other dangers

The AVMA has a full list of household dangers for pets, which also includes:

  • Insecticide
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Soaps, toothpaste and sunblock
  • Liquid potpurri
  • Mothballs (the napthalene in just one mothball can cause serious damage if ingested)
  • Pennies and batteries
  • Car maintenance liquids
  • Paints and solvents
Sara Schwartz Read More
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