Household Items and Foods that Harm Pets

By Robin White Ellis

Whether you are a dog or cat lover, a reptile person, or a bird connoisseur, most of us simply adore our pets! They are our friends, our babies and vital parts of the family. Pets provide us with companionship, comfort and unconditional love. With their cuddles and sloppy kisses, they bring happiness to our homes. Pets provide love and laughter, ultimately bringing family members even closer together while chuckling over the antics of a tail-chasing pooch or a kitty cat frantic over capturing that elusive red dot.

Most pet owners do their best to provide a safe home for their furry or feathery babies. We arrange our homes in much the same manner that new parents do for their first child. However, it is important to note that just because something is considered child-proof does not make it dog-proof. Animals have a deep curiosity regarding the world around them. They assuage this by exploring with their noses and mouths. Therein lies the danger. Scents and tastes are so vastly integral to their natures that it is much easier for them to get hold of something harmful.

Human food tempts pets like nothing else! The following list includes foods that can be extremely toxic to our pets:

  • onions and onion powder
  • yeast dough
  • tomato
  • potato
  • grapes
  • raisins
  • rhubarb
  • salt
  • avocado
  • macadamia nuts
  • coffee grounds
  • coffee beans
  • alcoholic beverages
  • chocolate
  • leftovers (chicken bones, for example, may shatter and become choking hazards)
  • sugarless gum

Common household items, such as string, yarn, rubber bands and dental floss, are potentially harmful to your pets as well. They are easy to swallow and can cause dangerous intestinal blockage. We must protect our pets from choking hazards as if they were human babies and toddlers! Toys with removable or small parts are big no-no’s! Even rawhide dog chews…which are easy to consider safe, since they are sold just for dogs…can result in choking or scratching of the throat from the small shards that break off as the dog chews. Fumes from non-stick cooking surfaces and self-cleaning ovens can be deadly to birds. Bird owners must always be cautious when using pump or aerosol sprays. Birds need to be kept away from the sprays and fumes.

Again, just as we would hide medications for a child, so we must do it for pets. Human medications, even simple over-the-counter pain relievers, can be deadly to animals. We must not assume that just because the bottle is child-proof, it is safe. My daughter was able to get into many supposed “child-proofed” items, and pets are no different! Insecticides and rodenticides are both designed to be appetizing as a lure to rodents and insects. Unfortunately, they appear the same way to dogs, cats, et cetera. Such products should never be used without first consulting a veterinarian.

I will admit to putting up stockings for my pets this time of year! However, when decorating for the holidays, keep your little sweeties in mind. Mistletoe and poinsettia are dangerously toxic to pets. Holiday decorations and lights, depending on size and other factors, can become potential choking hazards and should be kept out of your pet’s reach.

It is necessary to be aware of the signs of poisoning, some of which are listlessness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, lack of coordination and fever. Keep in mind that no one knows your pet’s normal behavior like you do…your instincts are of paramount value when it comes to your pal’s health. If you believe your pet has been poisoned, immediately take him to your vet or, if after hours, an emergency animal clinic. You may also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s hotline (888-426-4435), which is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days per week. Be prepared to provide the name of the item to which your pet was exposed, the amount of the item, and when it occurred. They will also need your pet’s species, breed, age, sex, weight and symptoms. There is a sixty-five dollar fee, so they will require your name, address, phone number and credit card information.

As a multiple pet owner…although I maintain that they own me…their safety is of paramount significance. Considering the joy and love they freely give to us, it isn’t too much to ask to keep them as secure as possible. Anatole France was quoted as saying, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened.” Personally, I agree with him.