Our homes contain a number of everyday items that can be dangerous to companion animals. Every year, the Animal Poisons Helpline provides free poisoning advice to over 10,000 pet owners. Poisoning can occur following exposure to a variety of products such as human food, household items, medications and chemicals. The most common poisons that the Animal Poisons Helpline are contacted about include:

A common long-acting (second generation) anticoagulant rodenticide that is commonly formulated as pellets or wax blocks. Dogs are particularly sensitive to brodifacoum, with only very small doses required to result in bleeding. Bleeding typically has a delayed onset and unfortunately can be life-threatening. An antidote is available and early veterinary treatment in these cases can be life-saving.

Contains theobromine which is toxic to companion animals. Ingestions of small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhoea whilst large ingestions can result in tremors, seizures and cardiac dysrhythmias. Dark chocolate or products with higher concentrations of cocoa are associated with greater risk as they contain larger quantities of theobromine.

🍇Grapes & Raisins🍇
Ingestions of grapes, sultanas and raisins are associated with acute kidney injury in dogs, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. The risk is highly dependent on the amount ingested and type of product (e.g. cooked product, juice, wine).Toxicity is thought to be related to tartaric acid, an organic acid found in high concentrations in grapes. Tartaric acid and its salts can be found in other fruits such as tamarind and food additives such as “cream of tartar” which are associated with the same risks.

🪴Organic Fertilisers🪴
Typically made of different types of manures often with added blood and bone meal, these are highly attractive to dogs. If dogs are allowed access to organic fertiliser packaging, it is not unusual for them to ingest very large quantities. Small ingestions can cause vomiting and diarrhoea but large ingestions can result in severe gastroenteritis and additional complications.

A common insecticide found in ant and cockroach killing products, often formulated as powders or gel baits. Fipronil is a neurotoxin with ingestions of concentrated formulations associated with twitching, tremors, unsteadiness on feet and in severe cases seizures. The risk is highly dependent on the amount ingested and the animal species involved. Rabbits are particularly sensitive to fipronil with toxicity may be seen following minor exposures.

Commonly found in domestic insecticide products such as insect and spider sprays, ant sands and mosquito coils. Some common pyrethroid compounds include permethrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin and esfenvalerate. Cats are very sensitive to pyrethroids and extra caution should be taken when using these products around them. Small ingestions can result in drooling, pawing at their mouth or vomiting. More significant exposures may result in more serious effects such as tremor and seizures which can potentially be life-threatening.

Including iron-containing oxygen absorbers, some instant heat packs, iron supplements and some snail baits. The risk of poisoning is highly dependent on the amount ingested and the form/salt of iron. Iron poisoning in companion animals can range in severity from vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain to more severe signs such as shock and liver injury/failure. If left untreated these ingestions can result in multi-organ failure and death.

🧅Onions and Garlic🧅
Plants in the Allium genus contain compounds called disulfides and thiosulphates than can be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested in large quantities. The severity of poisoning is dependent on the type and amount of plant ingested. Signs can range from minor gastrointestinal effects to rarely a potentially life threatening anaemia.

A commonly used herbicide product throughout Australia and New Zealand. Glyphosate is available in many different brands and preparations, ranging from dilute ready to use spray products to concentrates that require dilution prior to use. Risk of toxicity is dependent on the concentration of the product and the amount ingested. Small ingestions can result in drooling, vomiting and diarrhoea. More significant ingestions can result in burns to the mouth and throat and multi-organ effects.

The most common medication that the Helpline is contacted about. Companion animals are very sensitive to ibuprofen with cats being more susceptible to the toxic effects than dogs. Ingestion can result in gastrointestinal effects, kidney injury/failure and potentially neurotoxicity (coma and seizures). Ibuprofen is available in many different formulations including tablets, capsules and topical gels and can also be formulated in combination with other medications associated with additional risks.

The Animal Poisons Helpline provides free advice to pet owners in Australia and New Zealand and can be reached on ☎️ 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ). If you are a member of a veterinary team in Australia or New Zealand, you can join the Animal Poisons Centre For Vets Facebook group which is regularly updated with toxicology tidbits and poisoning trends. We thank the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development for supporting this post.