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A sock is an attractive plaything for many dogs. You might think it’s a harmless toy but this isn’t always the case. A dog can easily swallow a sock – and once a sock is in your pet’s gut, it’s not necessarily going anywhere. The result can be an impacted intestine and surgery.


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Beautiful to look at and to smell but lilies are deadly for your pet cat. Eating or even licking any part of a lily puts the animal at immediate risk of kidney damage. Without prompt veterinary attention, this will often prove fatal. If you have pet cats, it’s best not to include any type of lily in your floral arrangements.

Grapes and raisins

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Grapes are poisonous to dogs. Some dogs are more profoundly affected than others, and even a single grape may prove fatal. You can’t know which dogs are likely to suffer such a severe reaction so it’s safest to keep grapes – and grape vines – away from all dogs. Don’t forget raisins, sultanas and currants, as these can be even more toxic.


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Cocoa is another common foodstuff that’s toxic to dogs. With its high cocoa levels, good quality dark chocolate is more likely to pose a problem than white or milk chocolate. Due to their size, small dogs are often more affected than larger ones. However, chocolate poisoning is a potential veterinary emergency in any dog.


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Even a small amount of antifreeze is potentially lethal to your pet dog or cat. Sadly, tragedies are fairly common thanks to curious pets licking antifreeze that’s leaked from a car radiator. Keep your pet away while you’re topping up your radiator and wipe up any spillages.


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Every horse owner understands the risk that ragwort poses to their animal. Toxins in the plant build up over time in the liver and can ultimately prove fatal. Small pets, like guinea pigs and rabbits, are also at risk if dried ragwort ends up in their hay. Be careful about where you source your hay and make sure you know what dried ragwort looks like.

Oral contraceptives

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You might guess that human oral contraceptives aren’t ideal for pets – but do you know why? If a female dog eats them, hormones in the tablets may disrupt her estrus cycle. While this may not be a problem for a spayed dog, it can be an issue for a breeding animal, although any disruptive effect is usually temporary.

Insecticides and pesticides

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Insecticides and pesticides are potentially toxic to pets. Use them with care and always follow the instructions on the bottle. However, pay particular attention if you are using insecticides in a house where you keep stick insects as pets, such as Madagascan hissing cockroaches or others. Additionally, although they’re not technically insects, don’t forget that insecticides could also kill your pet spider.


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Mothballs contain high concentrations of insect repellent. All types are potentially toxic to pets (and humans) but the old-fashioned type, containing naphthalene, are most problematic. Cats are more sensitive to the chemicals than dogs but dogs are, of course, more likely to eat a mothball. Contact your vet if you suspect your dog has eaten a mothball.


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Unchewed, undamaged alkaline dry cell batteries may pass through a dog’s digestive tract but it’s not worth the risk. A damaged battery can leak chemicals that can cause necrosis in the skin or mucus membranes. Lithium batteries are even more dangerous, especially if they lodge in the esophaghus. Even undamaged, they can still cause tissue necrosis – and death – very rapidly.


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An overdose of medication containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol (Paracetamol), can be as dangerous for your dog as it would be for you. An overdose has a similar effect on the canine liver as on the human one. Unfortunately, as with humans, any liver damage may not become apparent for several days. By then, it may be too late to save the dog’s life.

Unbaked bread dough

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Baked bread is safe for dogs and cats, provided it doesn’t contain raisins or other forms of dried grape. However, unbaked bread dough is dangerous. Once in the stomach, the uncooked yeast in the dough will ferment the carbohydrates to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. This can result in bloat, unproductive retching and breathing difficulties.


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Onions are toxic to dogs. Although a large dog may manage to eat a small quantity of onion with no apparent ill-effects, it’s important to understand that onion can cause long-term anaemia in canines. This can also cause ongoing lethargy and intestinal symptoms. As members of the same family, garlic and leeks have similar effects.

Laundry pods

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All forms of laundry and dishwashing detergents are toxic to pets. However, laundry pods are particularly problematic. Even a splash of the contents onto the fur or into eyes is dangerous and needs immediate rinsing off. Eating a pod is even more dangerous. There’s no antidote but a vet may be able to provide supportive treatment to help the animal recover.


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The majority of fertilizers used in the garden shouldn’t do more than give your dog or cat an upset stomach. However, a fertilizer that contains a pesticide, herbicide or bone meal is more dangerous. In particular, call your vet straightaway if you notice bloody diarrhea, breathing difficulties, tremors or seizures.


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Most household bleach is an irritant but not actually a corrosive agent. This means that you can usually treat exposure or ingestion at home. Wash affected skin and fur, and encourage your pet to drink water. Ultra-concentrated bleach is a different matter and requires urgent veterinary attention.


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Nicotine is toxic to dogs and cats. Even low doses are potentially very dangerous to small and young animals. Signs that your pet is affected might include dilated pupils, hyperactivity, an increased heart rate, and tremors or even seizures. Cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum and e-cigarettes are all potential sources of the poison.


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Few pets would choose to consume kerosene but accidental ingestion or inhalation can cause serious problems. Skin irritation, fever, abnormal heart rate, kidney damage, ulceration of the mucus membranes, and aspiration pneumonia are just some of the reasons why veterinary attention is essential. Consequently, don’t be tempted to use kerosene to remove ticks or fleas from your pet.

Macadamia nuts

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Do not feed macadamia nuts to your dog. The results can include profuse vomiting, lack of coordination (ataxia), and overheating (hyperthermia). The precise mechanism of poisoning is unclear, but even relatively small amounts can affect a dog. Inducing vomiting and using activated charcoal may help to reduce symptoms.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

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Although used in veterinary medicine as well as for humans, keep these common drugs away from curious dogs. An accidental overdose can result in a dog with severe gut damage and possible kidney problems. Intestinal ulcers can cause internal bleeding and damaged kidneys can ultimately stop working.


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Just as it is for humans, every part of the foxglove plant is toxic to pets. Take care to avoid including the leaves in forage for rabbits or guinea pigs, and keep scavenging dogs away from the plant. Bear in mind, too, that in some highly susceptible individuals, even inhaling the pollen can provoke a reaction.

Sago palms

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Although not poisonous to touch, eating any part of a sago palm risks severe illness or even death. The plant contains several toxins, which are most highly concentrated in the seeds. However, even the prickly fronds contain a quantity of the poisonous substances, and it’s best to keep the entire plant away from pets.


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As you’d expect, rodenticides are lethal to rodents. Keep them well away from pet rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and, also (though they’re not rodents), rabbits. However, depending on the type of poison, other animals and wildlife are also a risk. Take great care when choosing rodenticides and when deciding where to place them.


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This artificial sweetener is a common sugar substitute in many human foods. However, it’s particularly lethal to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. Take particular care with peanut butter. This is a common treat food for dogs but many human blends are unsuitable due to the presence of xylitol. Choose a brand specially formulated for dogs.


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It might surprise you to learn that zinc poisoning is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs. This is due to the high zinc levels in many small denomination coins and, of course, to the propensity of some dogs to eat just about anything. Small dogs are more likely to be seriously affected.


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Whether store-bought or homemade, playdough can prove problematic for a greedy dog. It’s not the flour, cornstarch or oatmeal that causes the problem. Instead, it’s the relatively high level of salt. This can result in salt toxicity, which places extra strain on the heart and is particularly dangerous for older animals or those with pre-existing heart conditions.

Windscreen wiper fluid

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Most windscreen wiper fluid contains a chemical called methanol. This is toxic if ingested. As with antifreeze, which is toxic because of a different chemical, curious cats and dogs sometimes poison themselves by licking up spillages. Keep your pet well away when topping up your wiper fluid.


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These pretty yellow flowers are poisonous to a whole range of animals if eaten fresh. They cause itching and burning, rashes and blisters, and severe intestinal upset. Some people maintain that the plant is safe when dried but, to be safe, it’s best to keep it away from small grazing animals, like guinea pigs and rabbits.


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One of the most poisonous plants commonly found in gardens, yew tree poisoning is usually fatal within two to five hours of ingestion. Symptoms start as little as 30 minutes after eating the seeds or needles. Treatment is difficult as there is no known antidote. Inducing vomiting in a pet that’s eaten some part of the yew tree may help.


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Potatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family. This makes them essentially poisonous. Their high levels of solanine mean that you should never allow your pet to eat any part of the raw potato, whether tuber and leaves. The consequences include gastrointestinal distress and heart problems.


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You perhaps already know that the leaves of the rhubarb plant are highly toxic to humans. However, unlike people, dogs should not eat any part of the plant, including the fleshy stems. This is due to the plant’s levels of oxalic acid, which triggers a particular reaction in dogs. Luckily, the sour taste stops most dogs trying to eat it.


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This popular fruit is dangerous to many pets and livestock. Horses and cows are considered to be at particular risk if they eat it but it’s also best avoided for dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs. The problem stems from a chemical called Persin – a fungicidal toxin – found it high quantities in the fruit’s skin and leaves, and in lower quantities in the fruit itself.

Fabric softener sheets

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Fabric softener or dryer sheets pose two potential risks to a scavenging dog. The first is the prospect of an intestinal blockage. The second concerns the chemicals found in many of these sheets. At the very least, they act as an irritant to mucous membranes, the skin and gut lining. At worst, they may cause damage that’s so severe that it resembles burns or ulcers.

Chicken bones

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Some people feed their dogs a raw diet. This includes uncooked bones, like chicken bone. Fed under supervision, this is usually safe. Cooked chicken bones, on the other hand, are very dangerous. They can puncture a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, which is a life-threatening event that requires urgent surgery.

Children’s toys

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Small toys often appeal as much to dogs as to children. While modern safety standards mean ensure that they are not toxic if chewed, they obviously represent a choking hazard. If they end up lodged in your pet’s throat, they can asphyxiate it. Unless you are able to remove the toy, your pet may die before you can get veterinary help.

Dog chews

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You might buy your dog chews as an enrichment activity or to help keep its teeth clean. However, be aware that chews are a potential reservoir of salmonella infection. This is a bacterial infection that dogs rarely contract but that makes them seriously ill if it does take hold. Moreover, a dog may act as a vector to transmit the infection on to a person.

Paint chips

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Even a small paint chip is life-threatening to a dog if the chip contains lead. As little as 50mg of lead can poison a 20lb dog. With the average paint chip containing between 50mg and 200mg of lead, the danger is clear. Of course, not all dogs will be tempted even to nibble a paint chip. However, take particular care with notorious scavengers like Labradors.


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Most pet animals do not metabolise alcohol efficiently and this makes them very vulnerable to the effects of drinking alcohol. It’s dogs that are most likely to try, or be given, an alcoholic drink. This really isn’t a good idea. Even quite small quantities of alcohol can cause respiratory depression, lethargy, and a dangerously low body temperature.

String and yarn

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As with any ingested foreign body, string and yarn can cause an intestinal blockage in a dog that requires urgent veterinary treatment. Sometimes, a dog may try and fail to excrete a length of string. Do not be tempted to pull the string free as you could damage the delicate walls of the rectum and large intestine.

Hand creams

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It might surprise you to learn that the hand creams and moisturisers in your bathroom cabinet conceal unexpected dangers. Many of them are rich in vitamin D and, while this is great for your skin, it’s poisonous to dogs. If your pet eats your cream, it could induce convulsions, diarrhoea, vomiting, and even heart problems.