Pet Poisons

The telephone call I hope you never have to make is to a pet poison control center. If the situation does arise, however, I hope you will have the appropriate contact information close at hand.

Two poison control organizations that I strongly recommend, and which are available to you 24/7 are the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center  (1-888-426-4435) and the Pet Poison Helpline  (1-800-213-6680). If uncertain if your pet has ingested or been exposed to something that is toxic, call one of these organizations right away. You will either be fully reassured or instructed on what course of action to take.

The Pet Poison Helpline recently released their “top ten list” of toxicities based on calls received during 2011. They are ranked below in order of frequency:

Top Ten Toxins Reported in 2011 Helpline Calls

  1. Foods- specifically chocolate, xylitol, grapes, and raisins.
  2. Insecticides- sprays, bait stations, and spot on flea and tick treatments.
  3. Rodenticides (mouse and rat poisons). By the way, rodenticides pose the potential for relay toxicity- pets can be poisoned by eating rodents that have died from the toxin.
  4. Human nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
  5. Household cleaning products (all the more reason I don’t like to clean- could be harmful for my pets!).
  6. Antidepressant drugs prescribed for people (Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Effexor).
  7. Fertilizers including bone meal, blood meal, and iron based products.
  8. Acetaminophen which is the active ingredient in Tylenol and many over the counter cough and cold remedies.
  9. Amphetamine based human drugs including Adderall and Concerta.
  10. Veterinary nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications (particularly those that are in tasty chewable tablet form) including Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Previcox.

Just for fun, I will provide you with two other top ten lists created by the Pet Poison Helpline.

Top Ten Breeds Involved in 2011 Helpline Calls

  1. Mixed breeds
  2. Labrador Retrievers (Why am I not surprised!)
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. Chihuahuas
  5. Yorkshire Terriers
  6. Dachshunds
  7. ShihTzus
  8. Boxers
  9. Beagles
  10. German Shepherds

Top Ten Dog Names Involved in 2011 Helpline Calls

  1. Bella
  2. Lucy
  3. Max
  4. Molly
  5. Daisy
  6. Bailey
  7. Charlie
  8. Lily
  9. Maggie
  10. Sadie and Buddy were tied for tenth place!

Have you ever had to call a poison control center for your pet? If so, please tell us about your experience.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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12 Comments on “Pet Poisons

  1. I forget what my dog got into one evening or weekend, but I was concerned and called the poison hotline. Immediately there was a message stating I needed a credit card to pay $50 for the call. I hung up and decided to call my vet. Left a message that must have been forwarded right away to him because he called back promptly and discussed the issue. Turned out I didn’t need to do anything but keep an eye on the dog. I never got charged, though I would have been willing and would rather have paid my vet than the crisis line.

  2. Many years ago, before our knowledge of the vast plethora of toxic substances out pets can and do get into, I had a sweet Beagle named “Pip”. While she was not a dedicated climber or chewer, on the one occasion of my panic she managed to get hold of my birth control pills ate ingested about a dozen of them.

    Poison Control were very helpful and also very amused. Indeed, she was fine but extremely affectionate for a couple of days:-)

    From then until this day, I am almost neurotic is making sure that EVERYTHING is locked away and out of reach.

  3. Dr Nancy,

    this has always confounded me. Listed as poisonous to dogs are garlic, onions and avocado. Yet these ingredients are listed in many dog foods, particularly in high end ones. I feed a homemade diet and sometimes my dogs get fresh garlic, cooked garlic, cooked onion and fresh avocado. I recall reading a few years ago that fresh garlic aids in flea control.

    So are these ingredients safe in small amounts? I am confused.

    thank you!!

  4. I dropped a synthroid tab that our 17 pound mutt immediately gobbled. The help-line was worth every penny. As predicted, he had no ill effects at all.

  5. How many raisins are toxic? I know it depends on size of dog, but I do feed raisins to robins in the winter and it’s possible my dogs could eat a few if they wanted. How many raisins would a 20 lb. dog need to eat to get sick?

  6. Are grapes also poison for cats? My cat loves grapes, cantelope, green beans, yogurt with strawberries, and anything with cheese. He doesn’t get most of this very often, except the cantelope.

  7. MUSHROOMS!!! Not the kind we eat, but as winter ends and the soil starts to warm, many species of mushrooms are sprouting. The worst is the Death Cap mushroom, an unassuming little white mushroom that smells like butter, then the smell turns to rotting fish; both smells attract dogs and ONE BITE can be fatal. Please remove ALL mushrooms that come up where your dog hangs out; if walking in the woods, be vigilant! Many dogs die from mushrooms every year.

  8. Thank goodness I had a roomie when my Aussie mix climbed up on a dresser and chewed up an old bottle of diuretics aka water pills. I had either forgotten they were there or thought they were out of her reach. I had gone to work, got a call from the roomie, he had already called poison control and taken my girlie to the vet. She spent the day there getting multiple subQ injections of fluids to counter any negative effect from the pills. We went on the assumption that she had ingested at least some of the drug, it was hard to know how much. This happened almost 18 years ago but its a lesson I have never forgotten.

  9. My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, named Linguini, found a tasty Lysol toilet cleaner and chewed on it. I first called the number on the bottle of product that was a partner to the pad he had chewed and they connected me with poison control, paying the charges for it. (Luckily it was not harmful.)

    Just a note: Be sure to have your credit card in hand when you call a Poison Control center. They will give you a case number so that if you (or a vet) has to call them again about the same situation within a certain time period there is no additional charge. Yes, it is a bit aggravating when your animal has scared you but it’s worth it to find out the proper approach.

  10. Did not have any idea about the toxictiy of grapes Have had two airedles and one loved green grapes which she would catch roll on the floor then eat. Every summer it was the dog who ate grapes. SHe was euthanized with a cancerous tumor of the snout at age 13.5…….The other airedale loved anything chocolate. Amazing these two both lived long lives and had no medical issues.

  11. Yes, my little puppy got up on my bed when I was out of the room. He took a bottle of Singular (allergy/asthema med) off my nightstand, got the top off and I so I assume some pills were consumed. I called poison control immediately and they were super helpful. It was well worth the price instead of rushing to the vet. We determined how many he might have eaten by the number left, and the doc on the other end explained that he might have some stool problems, but that for the most part, there should be any complications. I had kept the bottle on the nightstand to remind me to take the pills at night before bedtime. But removed them at that point. I have kept Poison Control’s number in my wallet for about 8 years without ever using it.

    This was the beginning of a puppy who is an incredible monkey climber and problem solver. So much so when everyone was out of the room at at a friend’s house he pushed a plastic toolbox up to the stove to get to some paper plates of defrosting dog food and a bagette. Needless to say, he is constantly monitored or crated!

  12. It is surprising how few real foods – as distinct from processed foods – can be dangrous to dogs.

    In Steve Brown’s book I think he lists onions, graps, and raisins. Real chocolate is apparently a danger, but is uncommon in the U.S., for most of us.

    I am curious if you think fipronil (Frontline) is safe for most or all dogs. My main concern is ticks.

    Thanks for your blog!