Many dangers lurk in households around Australia. Listed below are plants and household items which are found commonly in backyards and houses which may cause problems if they have contact with or are ingested by your pet.

Outside, garden

  • All members of the oleander family.
    • These plants are toxic, to dogs, cats, and to people if ingested. Oleanders cause heart arrythmias, and death is more likely for pets than for people.
  • Lilies
    • VERY TOXIC! Lilies and all members of the lilliacea family are toxic to cats even if they are mouthed, and not swallowed. Lilies cause acute kidney failure, and most of the time, despite aggressive treatment, many cats die from this toxicity. Christmas time is a common time for the giving and receiving of floral bouquets (and lilies are a very popular flower in bouquets), so be extremely careful with cats and kittens around Lilies.
  • Yesterday, today, tomorrow plant (brunfelsia australia or grandiflora)
    • A potentially fatal toxicity which starts with drooling, eye rolling, unresponsiveness, hallucinations and seizures.
  • Wandering dew (and all members of the Tradescantia family)
    • Wandering Dew is not fatal to pets, but in dogs it can set off a chronic allergic dermatitis which can take several months to eradicate. If you have a pet who has an itchy tummy, armpits and groin and you have this in your garden, it is best to remove the plant or restrict your pet’s access to it.
    • Other plants which cause allergic dermatitis in pets are Turtle Vine (callisia repens), Inch Plant (Callisia fragrans), Zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina), moses-in-a-cradle (Tradescantia spathacea), Purple Heart (Tradescantia spathacea), philodendrons, ivies, azaleas, morning glory, foxglove, nightshade, rhododendrons, hydrangeas.
  • Cycads
    • cycads have three toxic substances to dogs, which affect their gastrointestinal, hepatic and neurological systems (gut, liver and brain). Cycad toxicity claims a mortality rate of well over half all pets which ingest them.
  • Poinsettias
    • The milky white sap in poinsettias is poisonous and may make your dog or cat very sick for a while, but it is unlikely that it will cause fatality unless a significant amount of poison was ingested. It will cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and may result in significant irritation in areas the sap comes in contact with – including eyes and sensitive areas.
  • Holly
    • When Christmas holly is ingested, it can result in severe gastrointestinal upset, thanks to the spiny leaves and the potentially toxic substances. If ingested, most dogs and cats lip smack, drool, and head shake excessively due to the physical injury from the spiny leaves.
  • Mistletoe
    • As for mistletoe, most of us hang it high enough so it’s out of reach of our dogs and cats – nevertheless, it can also be toxic if ingested. Mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation are seen, although if ingested in large amounts, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death have also been reported.

Outside

  • Compost heap
    • Compost heaps can provide a veritable smorgasboard of foods for your dog – but with that comes the smell of rotting food and plenty of bacteria. This brings some digestive upset for pets, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. Keep your compost heap covered and restrict your pet’s access to it.
  • Pebbles/Rocks
    • We commonly find pebbles and rocks lodged in the intestines of dogs – they can be mistakenly swallowed if played with, getting stuck and being unable to move through the system, requiring a surgery to remove them. If you wish to play with your dog, stick to larger, less swallowable toys.
  • Branches / Throwing sticks
    • Thrown sticks are an inexpensive toy, but often the bark or stick shards can get lodged in your dog’s mouth and teeth. Dog’s aren’t always very graceful either, and accidents happen, where sticks can get lodged in throats or penetrate the neck, leaving small amounts of bark and wooden shards behind.
  • Small Balls/Bouncy Balls/Tennis Balls
    • Balls given to dogs should never be small. In the excitement of play, balls can be accidentally swallowed, lodging in the intestines, or if they don’t get that far, they can get stuck in the oesophagus, blocking off airways, causing choking and death. Toys should never be smaller than 5cm in diameter for small dogs, or 10cm in medium sized dogs or larger.
    • Tennis balls are a good size, but the fabric coating mixed with saliva acts as a sandpaper to your dog’s teeth. Dogs wear down their teeth very quickly playing with tennis balls.
  • Toys with small parts
    • Like small balls, small toys can be swallowed and get stuck in their intestines or oesophagus.

Outside, Garage

  • Ethylene glycol – (antifreeze)
    • Ethylene glycol is the additive in radiator fluid which prevents radiator fluid from freezing. It is quite sweet to taste, so it can be very palatable for dogs and cats alike. Toxicity from ethylene glycol starts with vomiting with increased thirst and urination, which progresses to neurological signs.
  • Snail bait
    • Snail bait can be quite alluring to dogs – it is made with grains that are similar to that in dog food, also, the presentation of the pellets sometimes resemble dog kibble. First of all, dogs will not be able to walk properly, like they’re drunk, and may also vomit or salivate. If left untreated, affected animals will begin to exhibit severe, generalised tremors, followed by seizures. These tremors and convulsions significantly raise the body temperature which can lead to permanent brain damage and ultimately death.
  • Lead based paint
    • Ingestion of lead-based paints is the most commonly identified source of lead in poisoned cats and dogs. Lead toxicity starts with vomiting and diarrhoea, abdominal pain, then leads to tremors and seizures, with behavioural changes, such as hysteria.
  • Rat poison
    • Rat poison contains warfarin, in high concentration. Warfarin is used in people to reduce the capacity for the blood to clot – in very small doses. In high doses, the blood has no capacity to clot, so that dogs will often suffer from internal bleeding, and will have visible bleeding through urine and faeces, and through orifices (eyes, nose, mouth, prepuce/vulva) and will have significant bruising of the skin. Pets will not need direct access to the baits to become poisoned – dogs and cats that ingest the dead carcasses of poisoned rats and mice can lead to poisoning.
  • Pesticides / Insecticides
    • Many of the pesticides and insecticides that we use around the home you may notice may say “Caution” or “Poison” or “Dangerous Poison” on the top of the bottle in red letters – any of these pesticides will cause poisoning in pets if not correctly used.
  • Fish Hooks/Baits
    • Fish are quite tasty for pets, and the smell of the tacklebox or the fishing boat is quite alluring. They may try to eat or step on fishing hooks, lures or bait, and that can mean an unexpected trip to the vet to have it removed. Try to keep fishing equipment away from intrigued noses.

Kitchen

  • Chocolate
    • Dog chocolates are a great treat for dogs, however stay away from the real stuff. Cocoa turns to theobromine in your dog’s body, and theobromine is toxic. The higher the cocoa percent, the less your dog needs to consume a fatal dose. For example, bakers chocolate, which has >14g/kg cocoa, eating 1.3g/kg bodyweight of chocolate to cause toxicity. That’s about ¼ of a teaspoon, for each kilogram of your dog!
    • Theobromine is not only found in cocoa, it can be found in tea, cola beverages and acai berries.
  • Kitchen hotplates
    • Hotplates are hot. We all know it, but your curious kitties may not. Keep handles pointing back away from open areas where pets may jump and pull utensils on themselves.
  • Macadamia nuts
    • Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs. It causes depression, vomiting, tremors and seizures and weakness. Most of the time Macadamia nut toxicity will not be fatal, but if the nuts are covered in chocolate, the toxicity becomes more serious, as kidney failure results.
  • Onions
    • Onions, and onion juice causes major issues in pets – the toxic part of onions will actually destroy your pet’s red blood cells, causing anaemia. If this gets bad enough, your pet will require a blood transfusion.
  • Garlic
    • Garlic, in any form, attacks your dog’s liver. Your pet needs to eat much less garlic than onion to become sick, but even tiny amounts over long periods of time will slowly destroy your dog’s liver. There are several theories about flea and tick prevention that include feeding your pet small amounts of garlic on a daily basis, although this is very dangerous.
  • Artificial Sweeteners (Xylitol)
    • Artificial sweeteners are much more common now than 20 years ago, and unfortunately, your pet’s pancreas can’t tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and glucose, causing the pancreas to release insulin. Without glucose in the system to ‘put the insulin to use’, your pet becomes hypoglycaemic very quickly, causing muscle tremors, seizures, and eventually, coma. Just one stick of chewing gum can be fatal to small to medium dogs.
  • Corn Cobs
    • Corn cobs are delicious to dogs – however usually they will find that once eaten, and often whole, it can’t be passed. Corn cobs are a very common intestinal obstruction culprit.
  • Grapes and raisins
    • Grapes and raisins should not be fed to dogs, cats or other pets, as they are toxic – it attacks the kidney, causing kidney failure and this can be fatal.

Bathroom

  • Tea tree oil
    • Tea Tree Oil has been widely used as a topical preventative for fleas, ticks and other nasty parasites. However, it should never be used undiluted, used on small dogs or cats, and should never be allowed to be licked or eaten.
  • Pharmaceutical medications
    • Pharmacy medications are sometimes used in veterinary medicine. But just because your own medication may be the same name as your pets medication, does not mean you can uses your own medication for your pet. Veterinary medications are diluted for use in much smaller bodies, and depending on the size of your pet, or the medication given, a human-grade preparation may be up to 50x the amount of drug your pet needs! Even if you are aware of all the side-effects listed for the drug for your own use, there are many drugs in human medicine which make pets very sick.

Laundry

  • Washing Powder / Detergents
    • Washing powder is not exactly something that will harm your pet, if your dog or, less commonly, your cat, chews on washing powder, they will vomit profusely. Its not a sweet or even nice-tasting powder, so most dogs will learn from their mistake. The vomiting is self limiting – as once the washing powder has left the system it is not longer toxic.
    • The exception to this rule, however, is detergents and washing powders contained in dissolvable plastic packaging – they can be swallowed and can reach the stomach before vomiting will occur. Keep washing and dishwashing ‘tablets’ out of reach of your pets, otherwise you may have an even bigger mess to take care of.
  • Washing machine/dryer doors
    • Laundry can be a nightmare! Especially while you’re sorting your laundry, and your cat or kitten hops into the open washing machine while you have your back turned! Cats and kittens chase warmth, and a warm washing machine or dryer would be heaven to them. Always try to keep your washing machine doors closed, and always do a final check of your washing machine before pressing the ‘spin’ cycle.