Check out our Facebook Live interview below with Dr. Mark Stephenson, our Chief Veterinary Officer, answering questions about poison prevention.

March is Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. To help keep your pet safe, here are potentially harmful foods, medications, and plants to be aware of. Do not give these foods or medications to your pet and keep your pet away from these plants.


1. Chocolate

All forms of chocolate are toxic and potentially fatal to dogs, cats, and other pets. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, increased thirst, irregular heart rate, tremors, and fever.

2. Xylitol

Xylitol - sugar substitute for diabetics. Birch sugar on white wooden background.

As a sugar substitute widely found in sugar-free gum and candies, baked goods, gummy vitamins and toothpastes, xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), liver failure, seizures, and even death in dogs.

3. Onions

Onions on a white background.

Onions contain a substance called thiosulphate, which causes a form of anemia in dogs and cats due to an abnormal breakdown of red blood cells. And onions don’t have to be raw to be potentially lethal to pets. Toxicity can occur from fried, dehydrated, or powdered onions in food, though signs and symptoms may not appear right away.

4. Garlic

Like onions, garlic contains the compound thiosulphate, which can damage red blood cells in cats and dogs, though signs and symptoms may have a delayed onset. And just a little can be deadly, since garlic contains significantly higher concentrations of thiosulphate than onions. 

5. Grapes, Raisins and Currants

A bunch of red seedless grapes on a white background

Grapes, raisins, and currants can cause kidney failure in dogs, with vomiting, inappetence, weakness, lethargy, disorientation, and increased or decreased drinking and urination. Any ingestion should be cause for concern.

6. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts with peeled macadamia and leaves isolated on a white background.

Both raw and roasted macadamia nuts are considered dangerous. Symptoms of toxicity include weakness, depression, vomiting, incoordination, muscle tremors, and sometimes a fever. Dogs can also develop pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) due to the high fat content of these nuts.

7. Fatty Turkey and Bones

Whole Roasted Chicken with New Potatoes, Mushrooms, Lemon Edges and Garlic Cloves

Although turkey is generally a good lean protein for dogs and cats, stick with small amounts of white meat that has had the skin removed. Dark meat has more fat that can exacerbate pet obesity and cause inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Also, remove any bones, which can lodge in your pet’s throat, stomach, or intestine to cause serious damage and complications.

8. Nutmeg

Whole and grated nutmeg with leaves isolated on white background

As an essential spice to pumpkin pie and other seasonal dishes, nutmeg contains a compound called myristicin, which can cause stomach upset in dogs and cats if ingested in small amounts. In large amounts, myristicin can cause symptoms ranging from disorientation and high blood pressure to increased heart rate and seizures.

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks and powder, isolated on white background

Though shown to be beneficial to human health, cinnamon can cause problems for pets when consumed in large amounts as a powder or smaller amounts as an essential oil. Cinnamon overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, low blood sugar and heart rate changes.

10. Chives

While many pet owners know that garlic is toxic to pets, chives pose an equal risk. As members of the allium family of plants (which includes garlic, onions, and leeks—all toxic to pets), chives can be toxic as well.

The consumption of chives (or any plants in the allium family) causes inflammation of the digestive tract (gastroenteritis), resulting in irritation of the mouth, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Although these symptoms often occur soon after consumption, other symptoms take days to appear. Toxic doses of chives can cause the red blood cells to rupture, and lead to anemia, which, when severe, can result in the following signs of allium poisoning

Pain Relievers

1. Ibuprofen

Useful image of ibuprofen tabs.

Known by many brand names (including Advil® and Motrin®), ibuprofen blocks enzymes used to control normal gastrointestinal and kidney function in cats and dogs. Cats are far more sensitive to ibuprofen poisoning than dogs since they cannot metabolize the drug as well. Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers with vomiting, diarrhea, black-tarry stool, weakness, pale gums, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. Larger doses can cause kidney and liver failure and seizures.

2. Acetaminophen

As the generic name for Tylenol®, acetaminophen is toxic to pets. Signs of acetaminophen poisoning include rapid breathing, drooling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, shock, and collapse. In some cases, acetaminophen poisoning can be fatal.


1. Sago Palm (Coontie Plant, Cardboard Palm, Cycad, or Zamia)

Closeup of the leaves on a Sago Palm...isolated on white

All parts of the sago palm are poisonous to pets, with the seeds (nuts) being the most toxic. The initial signs of poisoning include drooling, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; followed by weakness, incoordination, tremors, seizures, and signs of liver failure within 2-3 days. 

2. Lilies

White Lily isolated on white background.

All parts of many plants belonging to the lily family are highly toxic to cats, and just one or two bites from a lily can cause severe acute kidney failure. Even the water from a vase can be toxic. True lilies (including Tiger lilies, Daylilies, Asiatic lilies, Easter lilies, and Japanese show lilies) are among the deadliest.

3. Daffodils

The ingestion of daffodil bulbs, stems, or flowers may result in drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased heart rate, and abnormal breathing.

4. Essential Oils and Liquid Potpourri

As plant extracts, many essential oils and liquid potpourri are poisonous to pets. Cats are particularly sensitive as they lack some of the liver enzymes necessary to metabolize these oils. The symptoms depend on the type of oil and can include drooling, vomiting, incoordination, tremors, respiratory distress, low heart rate, low body temperature, and liver failure.

6. Cannabis

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, is toxic to pets, whether directly ingested (in any form), inhaled as second-hand smoke, or eaten as cannabis-infused edibles. The signs of cannabis intoxication include depression, slow heart rate, disorientation, incoordination, difficulty walking, agitation, vocalization, excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and urinary incontinence. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, and coma can result.

While it is rare for pets to ingest enough THC to cause death, deaths have been noted after pets have eaten highly concentrated forms of cannabis, such as medical-grade THC.

Cannabis edibles may also contain chocolate, raisins, or macadamia nuts—foods also toxic to dogs and commonly found in cakes, cookies, and other regular foods found in homes during the holiday season. So, as part of client education efforts this season about the dangers of certain foods to dogs, veterinary practices are encouraged to include cannabis and poisoning prevention information as part of the mix.

We’ve also put together a complimentary Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Kit that your practice can use to further education around the importance of pet poison prevention.

Download Your Complimentary Kit

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