Discussion of household items that can be toxic for your dog: important to consider when choosing dog foods for allergies or just simply keeping your pet safe!

With the current discussion and controversy  regarding dog foods for allergies, grain-free diets, and commercial dogs foods, we tend to forget that there are common household foods that are toxic to our pets. Canine Skin Solutions, Inc. outlines household items that should be kept away from the animals in your household.  Keep in mind that some of these listed are very toxic, while some are minimally toxic (like ant baits and silica packs). When in doubt, call your vet or Pet Poison Helpline to make sure there won’t be a problem. Take special care to keep these toxins out of your pet’s reach and pet-proof your house! 

Top 10 Pet Toxins  as reported by the Pet Poison Helpline in 2014

Common foods considered toxic in DOGS:

1.  Chocolate :  Primarily Bakers chocolate and dark chocolate are problematic.  This type of toxicity is most often encountered during holiday seasons.  Halloween candy, candy Easter eggs, Christmas treats, Valentines Day gifts, etc. all signal trouble for the Pet Poison Helpline and veterinary emergency clinics!

Chocolate is derived from the roasted seeds of Theobroma cacao, which contains certain properties that can be toxic to animals: caffeine and theobromine.  These two ingredients can also lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal for your dog.


Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity 

* vomiting and diarrhea

* Increased body temperature

  Increased reflex responses

  Muscle rigidity

  Rapid breathing

  Increased heart rate

  Low blood pressure

  Advanced signs (cardiac failure, weakness, and coma)


The amount and type of chocolate ingested is also important, as they are the determining factors for the severity of the toxicity.


The three types of chocolate:

Milk Chocolate-


Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.7 ounces per pound of body weight is ingested; severe toxicity occurs when two ounces per pound of body weight is ingested (or as little as one pound of milk chocolate for a 20-  pound dog).


Semi-Sweet Chocolate – 

Mild signs of toxicity can occur when 0.3 ounce per pound of body weight is ingested; severe toxicity occurs when one ounce per pound of body weight is ingested (or as little as six ounces of semi-sweet chocolate for a 20-pound dog).

Baking Chocolate – 

This type of chocolate has the highest concentration of caffeine and theobromine. Therefore, as little as two small one-ounce squares of baking chocolate can be toxic to a 20-pound dog (or 0.1 ounce per pound of body weight).


2.  Xylitol :  This is a common artificial sweetener found in sugarless gum, candy, nasal sprays, and some medications.  In fact, Gabapentin is a frequent medication used in dogs to treat pain, itch, obsessive compulsive disorders and even seizures.  The capsules work very well, and safely, in our canine patients. The liquid form contains xylitol as a sweetener for human patients.  This form is, obviously, avoided in the dog!




After ingestion, xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a potent release of insulin from the pancreas, which causes a marked decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia).  This lowered blood sugar can occur within 10-60 minutes of eating the xylitol. Untreated, hypoglycemia can be life-threatening. 

The dose of xylitol that can cause hypoglycemia in the dog has been reported between 50 milligrams (mg) of xylitol per pound of body weight (100 mg per kg). The higher the dose ingested, the more the risk of liver failure. The most common source of xylitol poisoning in the dogs is due to ingestion of sugar-free gum. Depending on the brand of gum, anywhere from 2- 9 pieces of gum can result in severe hypoglycemia in a 45 pound dog, while 10-45 pieces would need to be ingested to result in liver failure.  There is a wide range of xylitol in each different brand and flavor of gum.

Xylitol is estimated to be 100 times as toxic as chocolate to dogs. 

Symptoms of xylitol toxicity develop rapidly, usually within 15-30 minutes of consumption. Signs of hypoglycemia may include any or all of the following:



   Incoordination or difficulty walking or standing (walking like drunk)

   Depression or lethargy




3.  NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs):  Advil, Motrin, Aleve.  This group of medications is quite ubiquitous in our households.  Dogs are curious and eager to explore your handbags and briefcases. Caution!

Symptoms of NSAID toxicity include:


* Diarrhea


  Abdominal pain

  Sluggish behavior

  Loss of appetite (anorexia)

       * vomiting (sometimes with blood)

  Loss of bladder control)

  Pale mucous membranes

  Abnormally rapid heart beat


Seizures and coma may also occur if larger amounts are ingested.

Also, sudden death due to a perforated stomach ulcer.

4.  “OTC” cough, cold, allergy medications often contain decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine which are toxic to dogs.


Clinical signs of toxicity include:

*vomiting and diarrhea




*high blood pressure



*cardiac arrhythmias


5.  Rodenticides are toxins placed in the house or yards to kill rodents (mouse poisons).  There are a number of different types of rat-poison.  Many are anti-coagulants and cause bleeding.  The dog may simply appear pale and lethargic while danger of more serious problems of internal bleeding may not be immediately apparent. 

6.  Grapes and Raisins……not something we would typically consider toxic….but they are!

7.  Insect Bait Stations do not seem appetizing but to a curious dog….they seem interesting!

8.  ADD (attention deficit disorder) & ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) medications (Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Vyvanse).  These drugs have become all too common in our medicine cabinets and have been targeted for abuse by teenagers and college students as well as posing a risk to our pets.

9.  Glucosamine joint supplements  (Cosequin and Move Free) are often flavored for ease of administration to our pets.  They are, thus, considered as a treat by many dogs.  Overdose can lead to toxicity.  Reminder!  Keep all flavored medications out of sight and access from all pets.

10. Oxygen absorbers and silica gel packets

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