March is Pet Poison Prevention Month

Mar 8, 2022Blog Posting

A picture containing cat, indoor, plant, mammal, pet poison prevention

Preventative health care is the best way to give your pet a healthier, happier life! Knowing what the common pet poisons might be around your pet is crucial as a pet parent. And along with the start of spring, there are more poisons your pet can be exposed to from cleaning products, mulches, fertilizers, and such. So, March has been designated Pet Poison Prevention Month. We will help you know what poisons to be on the alert for and what you should do if your pet does get poisoned.

Cleaning Products

Many cleaning products are fine to use around your pets. However, your cleaning product may have special instructions to ensure the safety of your animals.

For instance, if the label states, “keep pets and children away from the area until dry,” follow those directions to prevent possible health risks. Products containing bleach can safely disinfect many household surfaces when used correctly. However, they can cause stomach upset, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, severe burns if swallowed, and respiratory tract irritation if inhaled in a high enough concentration. In addition, skin contact with concentrated solutions may produce severe chemical burns. Some detergents can create a similar reaction, and cats can be particularly sensitive to ingredients such as phenols. Phenols are organic compounds that you find in many products.

As a rule, store all cleaning products in a secure cabinet out of the reach of pets and keep them in their original packaging or a clearly labeled and tightly sealed container.

Air Fresheners

Some forms of air fresheners can be quite toxic, especially to animals (and children!) who might ingest the substances or cannot avoid the parts of the home where air fresheners are used.

The ingredient list for most air fresheners are volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature. These substances can cause a long list of maladies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the health effects of VOCs may include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination, lethargy, and nausea
  • Damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause it in people

Essential Oils

Essential oils, which are included in many air freshener products, can be very toxic, especially to cats. If you simply must have essential oils in the home, make sure they are kept in a location where your pets cannot come into direct contact with them.

For more information about air fresheners and essential oils toxicity to pets, you can read an article from PetMD on them here.

Poisonous Plants

Some of the common plants to ensure your pets avoid here in California are:

  • Lily of the valley
  • Poison ivy
  • Crocus
  • Lilies
  • Foxtail
  • Rhododendron

For more information about toxic plants in California (toxic for anyone, not just pets), you can visit the California Poison Control System website.


As with household cleaners, read and follow label instructions before using any type of insecticide, pesticide, herbicide, or rodenticide in your pet’s environment. For example, flea and tick products labeled “for use on dogs only” should never be used on cats or other species, as severe or even life-threatening problems could result. Always consult with your veterinarian about the safe use of these products for your pet.

If you can’t keep your pets away from such toxic chemicals, play it safe and find non-toxic alternatives. Here are some sites to give you some ideas:

The All American Turf
Daily Paws
Better Homes & Gardens

If a pet ingests rat or mouse poison, potentially serious or even life-threatening illness can result; therefore, when using any rodenticide, it is important to place the poison in areas completely inaccessible to pets. Some newer rodenticides have no known antidote and can pose significant safety risks to animals and people.

Foods Poisonous to Pets

Food is in the top three of the most common things that poison pets. Food that is safe for humans can be deadly for pets. To be on the safe side, you should never allow your pet to have any of the following things:

  • Coffee – either the grounds, beans, or the drink itself. Caffeine of any kind can be deadly if ingested in sufficient quantity.
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Salt
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Alcohol
  • Foods with a lot of fat
  • Macadamia nuts

Human Medication

Pets ingesting medication meant for humans is the number one reason people call the emergency animal poison control number.

You should never give your pet any human medication unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. That includes:

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen (Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, etc.)
  • Antidepressants or anxiety medications
  • ADHD drugs (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.)
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Prescription medications for medical conditions
  • Vitamins and supplements. * Note, there are vitamins and supplements made specifically for pets that are safe. If you would like to find out more about them for your pet, please feel free to ask us.

If you have a question about a particular medication, call us at 661-253-9300


Tobacco products are not safe for any pet and are particularly deadly for birds and pocket pets like guinea pigs or hamsters. Just a small amount of tobacco from a cigarette butt can cause serious poisoning if ingested. The toxic dose for nicotine in pets is 0.5 to one mg per pound of pet body weight while the lethal dose is four mg per pound of pet body weight

Below is a chart to put this in relation to quantities of tobacco products:

Veterinary Partner®

To put this in some perspective, a 1 ½ pound Guinea pig would only need to eat 1 cigarette butt to become poisoned. A 40-lb dog would need less than a quarter teaspoon of e-juice.

Signs of Poisoning

As a pet owner, you want to keep yourself informed so you can tell as rapidly as possible if your furry friend needs medical attention. These are some of the common things to watch out for:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Lethargy
  4. Irregular/stumbling gait
  5. Lack of appetite or water intake

This is not a fully comprehensive list, but if you observe any of these indicators, you should act as quickly as possible because the faster you get help, the better the chances are that there will be no long-term adverse effects for your loved one. To find more signs of pet poisoning, you can go here.

How to Handle Pet Poisoning

If you see signs that your animal may be poisoned or suspect they ingested something poisonous, don’t wait! Call:

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control: (888) 426-4435 They have all of the poisonous ingredients and treatments to guide you and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can also send us their information and treatment directions so we can all work together to help your pet.

You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661

The faster you act, the better the chances are that your furry family member can make a full recovery.

As an important reminder: do not induce vomiting in your pet after poison ingestion unless you are directed to do so by a trained professional.

Final Words

Please keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control number and the Pet Poison Helpline in an easily accessible place. If your pet does ingest something poisonous, try to remain calm contact one of them immediately.

The doctors and staff of Cinema Veterinary Centre believe in the value of the human-animal bond. We understand that you always want whatever is best for your pet, which is exactly what we want too. We hope this article has helped you have a better understanding how to keep your pets safe from common pet poisons, and what to do if your pet becomes poisoned.


Jaimie Ronchetto, DVM
Cinema Veterinary Centre

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