Toxic Human Medications
Pet owners who are serious about pet-proofing their home should start with their own medicine cabinet. Nearly 50% of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline involve human medications – both over-the-counter and prescription. Whether Fido accidentally chewed into a pill bottle or a well-intentioned pet owner accidently switched medication (giving their pet a human medication), pet poisonings due to human medications are common and can be very serious.
Below is a list of the top 10 human medications most frequently ingested by pets, along with some tips from the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline on how to prevent pet poisoning from human medications.
NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and Motrin) -
Topping our Top 10 list are common household medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which include common names such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and some types of Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). While these medications are safe for people, even one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Dogs, cats, birds and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.
Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) -
When it comes to pain medications, acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) is certainly popular. Even though this drug is very safe, even for children, this is not true for pets—especially cats. One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.
Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)
While these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Pets, especially cats, seem to enjoy the taste of Effexor and often eat the entire pill. Unfortunately, just one pill can cause serious poisoning.
ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder contain potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even minimal ingestions of these medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems.
Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
These medications are designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better. However, in pets, they may have the opposite effect. About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.
Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)
Birth control pills often come in packages that dogs find irresistible. Thankfully, small ingestions of these medications typically do not cause trouble. However, large ingestions of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, particularly in birds. Additionally, female pets that are intact (not spayed), are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.
ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace)
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (or “ACE”) inhibitors are commonly used to treat high blood pressure in people and, occasionally, pets. Though overdoses can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness, this category of medication is typically quite safe. Pets ingesting small amounts of this medication can potentially be monitored at home, unless they have kidney failure or heart disease. All heart medications should be kept out of reach of pets.
Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)
Beta-blockers are also used to treat high blood pressure but, unlike the ACE inhibitor, small ingestions of these drugs may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.
Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)
Pets — especially dogs — get underactive thyroids too. Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. Therefore, if dogs accidentally get into thyroid hormones at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate and aggression.
Cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)
These popular medications, often called “statins,” are commonly used in the United States. While pets do not typically get high cholesterol, they may still get into the pill bottle. Thankfully, most “statin” ingestions only cause mild vomiting or diarrhea. Serious side effects from these drugs come with long-term use, not one-time ingestions.
Always keep medications safely out of reach and never administer a medication to a pet without first consulting your veterinarian.
The following are some tips from Dr. Justine Lee and Dr. Ahna Brutlag at Pet Poison Helpline to help prevent pets from getting into over-the-counter or prescription medication:
It is also important to note that while a medication may be safe for children, it may not be safe for animals. In fact, nearly 50% of all pet poisonings involve human drugs. Pets metabolize medications very differently from people. Even seemingly benign over-the-counter or herbal medications may cause serious poisoning in pets. If your pet has ingested a human over-the-counter or prescription medication, please call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison control center at 800-213-6680 immediately.
In an Emergency...
If your pet does eat something he or she shouldn’t, time is critical. Call your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline immediately and be prepared to describe the following:
· What your pet ate
· How long ago
· How much
· If possible, bring some of the substance, including any available packaging, with you if you are asked to bring your pet in for an examination.
Disclaimer: Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. The only clear option for ensuring your pet’s health is to consult your vet. Using human medication of any sort for your pet carries some degree of risk and is not under the control of this website.
Table of Contents:
House Hold Dangers
When adding a furry family member it is highly important to ensure the animals safety in your home. Many of us have plants inside and out of our homes that rarely cross our mind. Many common plants harmless to use as humans are toxic to dogs. While some cause mild upset tummies some can kill. Please visit the links below for extensive lists of flowers that might hurt your new family member. These lists include plants like Lilly's, Aloe plants, and even Tomato Plants.
House Hold Dangers
Your home can hold a lot of unrecognized dangers for your pet. Many common food items or household products can sicken or even kill animals. However, a few simple precautions can help keep your pet safe.
Pets are not “mini people.” Animals react to substances in food and medicines completely differently than people do, so just because something doesn’t make a person sick doesn’t mean it is okay for a pet. Also, most pets are much smaller than people, so what may seem like a harmless amount of a food or drug can make them ill.
Pets are curious. If something smells good, they’ll eat it. If they can get into a container, they will. Be aware of what substances may be toxic to your pet, and store and use them safely.
Cleaning Products - Read the warning labels on the household cleaning products you use, and store as directed.
Outdoor Hazards- If you have a garage, shed, or garden, you probably have at least some of the following:
Plant - Learn which plants can be toxic to pets and under what circumstances. Tomatoes, for example, are in the nightshade family. Many lilies, flowers, and common ornamental shrubs can be toxic.
Pest poisons -Poisons meant to kill rodents, insects, or weeds are very common causes of poisoning in pets. Be very careful how you apply and store any poisons around your home. If you apply rodent bait, be aware of your pet getting ahold of the deceased rodent.
Garden products -Cocoa mulch, fertilizers, and compost piles are also unsafe for pets. Make sure any mulch or fertilizer you apply to your yard is safe for pets to play in (and possibly eat). Keep your pet out of areas treated with toxic products. Compost piles can grow bacteria and fungi that are highly toxic to pets, so if you have a compost pile, make sure your pet cannot get into it, and don’t compost dairy or meat items.
Garage chemicals- Any chemical in your garage can be dangerous to pets. Antifreeze, in particular, can be deadly. Store all chemicals out of reach of your pet (just as you would for children), and carefully mop up any spills.
Veterinary medicines that are given incorrectly (e.g., wrong medicine, wrong amount )- Pets are like children, keep all medical supplies picked up and safely away from wondering noses.
Household cleaners -Common products such as Windex or Bleach might smell good to dogs, or their bottles are fun to chew on and it can lead to your pet getting seriously hurt or even their death. Keep any and all cleaners locked away in cabinets that cannot be easily reached or accidently left open for your dog to explore.
Garbage Cans- These contain our waste, plastic, glass, cans, dangerous items our pets might get into and consume, if not toxic to the pet it could lead to intestinal damage. Ensure all harmful chemical/ poison items are thrown away outside in locked bins and not in household cans. Tall lock lid garbage cans prevent nosey pups from getting into trouble, or consider placing the can in a locked cabinet or closest where the dog cannot get into for its safety.
Choking Hazards/Blockages- From children's toys to parts of their own toys they managed to get off dogs are at risk of blockage or choking when chewing on objects that are not food. Never leave rubber or easily destroyed toys with your pet unattended. Do not leave the single hole treat balls with your pet unattended (cases of dogs getting cheeks/tongues stock in them or even getting them stuck in their throat and choking have been reported), and always be aware of what your pet is putting in its mouth. Keep dangerous items, or items that should not be chewed on picked up and to prevent many issues start training early.
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Foods that are perfectly suitable for human consumption, as well as other animals, may be toxic and even poisonous to your dog, posing a serious threat to its health and well-being. Why? Because all animals have very different rates of metabolism. Metabolism is basically the process of breaking down food and turning it into energy.
Please note that while we’re attempting to add every food we can find that is potentially unsafe for dogs, there are certain foods that we may miss, so don’t consider a food safe to feed to our dog just because it’s not on this list. Do your research if you are uncertain and let us know by emailing our tech support @ email@example.com with your new information so that we can keep this list updated. If you are worried about something your pet consumed, please call your vet promptly.
Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death. Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol.
Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine -
These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee, and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.
The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.
Coconut and Coconut Oil-
When ingested in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products are not likely to cause serious harm to your pet. The flesh and milk of fresh coconuts do contain oils that may cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea. Because of this, we encourage you to use caution when offering your pets these foods. Coconut water is high in potassium and should not be given to your pet.
Grapes and Raisins-
Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. Until more information is known about the toxic substance, it is best to avoid feeding grapes and raisins to dogs.
Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and can last approximately 12 to 48 hours.
Milk and Dairy-
Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other dairy-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts, contain high amounts of oils and fats. The fats can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets.
Onions, Garlic, Chives-
These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. Note using garlic to worm your pets is highly dangerous and a MYTH. Please do not try to worm your pet by forcing them to eat cloves of Garlic.
Salt and Salty Snack Foods-
Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. As such, we encourage you to avoid feeding salt-heavy snacks like potato chips, pretzels, and salted popcorn to your pets.
Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. Commonly found in Peanut Butter, check your products ingredients before using for your pets
Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach to bloat, and potentially twist, becoming a life threatening emergency. The yeast produce ethanol as a by-product and a dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk (See alcohol).
Apple Seeds –
The casing of apple seeds are toxic to a dog as they contain a natural chemical (amygdlin) that releases cyanide when digested. This is really only an issue if a large amount was eaten and the seed were chewed up by the dog, causing it to enter its blood stream. But to play it safe, be sure to core and seed apples before you feed them to your dog.
Avocados contain Persin, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and heart congestion.
Baby Food –
Baby food by itself isn’t terrible, just make sure it doesn’t contain any onion powder. Baby food also doesn’t contain all the nutrients a dog relies on for a healthy, well maintained diet.
Baked Bones –
When it comes to bones, the danger is that cooked bones can easily splinter when chewed by your dog. Boiled or large Raw (uncooked) bones, however, are appropriate and good for both your dog’s nutritional and teeth. Please only allow your pet to have bones while you are monitoring, and if at any point your pet can fit the bone fully in its mouth take it away to prevent choking. Your pets bone should be large enough to 'hold' and chew but not swallow whole.
Cat Food –
Not that they would want this anyway, but cat food contains proteins and fats that are targeted at the diet of a cat, not a dog. The protein and fat levels in cat food are too high for your dog, and not healthy.
Corn on the Cob–
This is a sure way to get your dog’s intestine blocked. The corn is digested, but the cob gets lodged in the small intestine, and if it’s not removed surgically, can prove fatal to your dog. Additionally, too much corn kernels can upset the digestive tract as well so be cautious to not feed too much.
Raw Fish –
The primary fish that you need to be careful about are salmon and trout. Raw salmon can be fatal to dogs if the fish is infected with a certain parasite, Nanophyetus salmincola. The parasite itself isn’t dangerous to dogs, but is often infected with a bacteria called Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which in many cases is fatal to dogs if not treated properly. If diagnosis occurs early on, the dog has a great chance of recovering. Cooked salmon is fine as it kills the parasite.
An ingredient in beer that can be toxic to your dog. The consumption of hops by your dog can cause panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and even death.
Human Vitamins –
Some human vitamins are okay to use, but the key is comparing the ingredients (all of them – active and inactive) to the vitamins your vet subscribes for your dog (often you can get the human equivalent for much less money). Make sure there’s no iron – iron can damage the digestive system lining, and prove poisonous for the liver and kidneys.
In small amounts, liver is great but avoid feeding too much liver to your dog. Liver contains quite a bit of Vitamin A, which can adversely affect your pup’s muscles and bones.
Just as the wrong mushroom can be fatal to humans, the same applies to dogs. Don’t mess with them.
Persimmons, Peaches and Plums –
Peach pits are not only a choke hazard they contain amygdalin, a cyanide and sugar compound that degrades into hydrogen cyanide (HCN) when metabolized. Pear seeds also contain trace amount of arsenic and are dangerous. So if you live in an area that is home to persimmon, peach, or plum trees, look out. Persimmon seeds and peach and plum pits can cause intestinal obstruction and enteritis. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any wild persimmon or other fruit trees that produce seeds growing in your backyard. If you notice your dog pooping all over the place, and see a bunch of seeds or pits in their waste, you’ll need to break out the saw and chop down some trees.
Rhubarb and Tomato Leaves –
These contain oxalates, which can adversely affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems.
Spices containing Capsaicin –
Capsaicin, found in chili powder, paprika, and just about any other pepper (bell, chili, etc.), is an irritant for mammals of all shape and size
While not a food itself, foods can often contain or be similar to string (ie. meat you’ve wrapped for the oven). If your dog were to eat a string, it could get stuck in their digestive tract and cause complications.
This applies to any food containing sugar. Make sure you check the ingredient label for human foods – corn syrup (which is a less expensive form of sugar or glucose) is found in just about everything these days. Too much sugar for your pup can lead to dental issues, obesity, and even diabetes.
Plain, air-popped, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn may be okay in small amounts. But let’s be honest: how often are you enjoying plain, unsalted, unbuttered, un-delicious popcorn? For dogs, high levels of fat and sodium typically found in popcorn can lead to dehydration in the short term, and obesity in the long term. In addition, the hard, un-popped kernels can hurt teeth and gums on the way in.
There are many types of cherries, all of which are pretty popular snack foods. It’s no wonder why – they’re delicious! While the pulp of the fruit is safe for dogs to eat, the plant and pit are moderately toxic to our dogs, and can result in respiratory failure and death. In fact, the plants and pits contain cyanide, so it’s no surprise that they are toxic. Be sure to keep your dog away from cherry plants, and feed only the pulp if you’re going to share with your pooch.
While you might be familiar with grapes and raisins being dangerously toxic to dogs, currants might catch you by surprise. But currants carry the same level of severe toxicity that grapes and raisins do. Even if you don’t notice sudden vomiting and diarrhea after your dog consumes currants, take your dog to the veterinarian. Just like the other small fruit, currants can cause severe renal failure.
Green/ Raw Potatoes
This might seem surprising, considering potatoes are often found in quality dog foods. But unripe, green, potatoes are toxic to our dogs and raw potatoes can put them at risk of bacteria like E- Coli. Symptoms of potato toxicity in dogs include nausea, vomiting, seizures and heart irregularities. To be safe ensure the potatoes are ripe, boiled and unseasoned. For some extra fun try freezing after cooking for a nice treat for the pups!
Like cherries, the seeds, leaves and stems of apricot plants are toxic to dogs. While they are able to consume the pulp of the fruit with no ill effects, caution should be taken if your dog has access to any other parts of the plant. These plants also contain cyanide, and can result in respiratory failure and death.
A major toxic hazard for dogs (and humans). The effects nicotine has on dogs are far worse than on humans. Nicotine can damage your pup’s digestive and nervous systems, increase their heart rate, make them pass out, and ultimately result in death.
Marijuana can adversely affect your pup’s nervous system and heart rate, and induce vomiting. Read more about Dogs and Marijuana.
* Another thing to take into consideration when feeding your furry family member 'human' treats is allergy risk. You do not know until it happens and it is a great risk. Many dogs are allergic to grains, chicken, even nuts! Be prepared just in case and always keep a close eye on your pet.
When in Doubt, Ask a Vet-
If your dog is acting strangely, or experiencing even minor symptoms including weakness, lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. and you think he or she may have consumed something they shouldn’t have, seek a veterinarian’s attention immediately. If you wait too long, your dog might not make it.
Keep Your Dog on a Healthy Diet-
Choosing to raise a dog is a big responsibility. Just as with a child, you’ve welcomed another living being into your household and family. We probably don’t have to tell you to take care of your dog, but what people often don’t realize is that as similar as the two can be, they also have very different needs when it comes to food. Ask your veterinarian what kind of food might be best for your particular dog breed as well as age and any special needs.
What If You Cannot Reach Your Veterinarian? -
In an emergency when your veterinarian cannot be reached you should contact your local animal emergency clinic or call the animal poison hotline at 888-232-8870. You can also try the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Depending on the nature of the item ingested the animal poison hotline or your veterinarian may induce vomiting to regurgitate the item that has been ingested. If the item is something that is likely to cause further damage to your dog on the way back up, vomiting will not be induced and other methods of helping your dog will be discussed such as having your dog ingest an item which will bind to the offending food and neutralize it or surgery to remove the item that is causing your dog’s problems.
Safe Human Foods for Dogs -
There are human foods that are permissible to feed to your dog; however, even these foods should be kept to a minimum. Things that you can feed to your dog without worrying about side effects include:
Lean Meat – Lean meat includes meat without bones that has had excessive fat removed. If feeding chicken and turkey, the skin should also be removed as it can be a source of fat. Lean meat includes the white meat from chicken or turkey and provides a tasty treat for your dog as well as a good source of protein. Both raw and cooked, lean meat is great source of nutrients and protein for your pup.
Eggs – The most obvious problem here is salmonella, but Raw diet enthusiasts tout the power of a raw egg in your dog’s diet. While the white contains the Avidin enzyme, which inhibits the absorption of vitamin B (Biotin), the yolk contains more than enough Biotin to even out the enzyme. So, when fed raw and whole, or cooked and whole, eggs are an excellent source of protein and a host of vitamins for your pup.
Fruits – Not including the fruits listed above, dogs can safely enjoy bananas, apple slices, strawberries, blueberries and watermelon. The seeds should be removed from these fruits or in the case of watermelon it should be a seedless melon as most fruit seeds contain a trace amount of arsenic which is poisonous (it’s a small amount but why risk it?). Fresh fruits are a great treat to assist in training your dog and can also provide your dog with a great way to cool down on a hot summer day!
Vegetables – Certain vegetables like carrots, green beans, cucumber slices or zucchini slices all make great treats for your dog. It’s a good idea to replace commercial dog treats with baby carrots if you are looking to slim your dog down a little bit. Vegetables make great low-calorie snacks and good training tools as well. But stay away from canned and pickled vegetables as they contain too much salt.
Baked Potatoes – A plain baked potato is okay to feed your dog but honestly it is not something that should be done frequently and should never include any toppings. A few slices of cooked baked potato can make a great treat for a patient dog at a meal time though.
White Rice and Pasta – White rice and pasta are frequently referred to as a potential meal for a dog with an upset stomach. Generally boiled white chicken and white rice are used to help firm up stools as well as nourish a dog that is having trouble getting any nutrition from food as a result of illness.
While there are certainly some human foods that are safe to feed your dog there are many which are unsafe and potentially poisonous when ingested by your dog. As a general rule of thumb, it is far better to be safe than sorry so avoid feeding your dog any human food unless recommended by your vet. Dogs that are not given human food or table scraps are generally better behaved than dogs who do receive people food anyway, they do not beg because they know they won’t receive any scraps and they also tend to drool less and bother visitors to your home less because they understand that human food is for humans and not for them.
Disclaimer: Information published on this website is intended for reference use only. The only clear option for ensuring your pet’s health is to feed commercial grade dog foods and treats only. Feeding human foods of any sort carries some degree of risk and is not under the control of this website.