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Pet Tips Library

Beware of Common Items that are Poisonous to Pets

Cocoa Bean Mulch Poses Threat To Pets

Made from spent cocoa beans used in chocolate production, cocoa bean mulch is organic, deters slugs and snails, and gives off an appealing chocolate scent. However, it also attracts dogs, who can be poisoned by eating the mulch. Cocoa beans contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, and dogs are highly sensitive to these chemicals. Low doses can cause mild gastrointestinal upset; higher doses can cause rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and even death. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recommends pet owners avoid using this mulch around unsupervised dogs, and dogs with indiscriminate eating habits.

Hold the Onions!

Did you know that onions are not good for dogs? Onions cause toxicity by oxidizing hemoglobin in the red blood cells. As a result, the dog may become anemic. If a large amount of onions are consumed at one time, the dog may develop sudden anemia several days later. 1/4 cup of onions can make a 20-lb dog sick. If a dog eats a small amount every day for many days, it may gradually develop anemia over weeks to months. While onion toxicity is not common, it's something to keep in mind next time your dog is begging for your onion rings.

Ice Melts

Most pets become exposed when they groom the compounds off their feet and fur. Salivation and mild gastrointestinal signs often ensue. Most problems can be prevented by wiping a pet's feet with a damp towel or bathing a pet soon after it has walked or rolled in areas with ice melt. Using sand or cat litter to help with traction in icy spots is a safe option. If pets must walk over ice melt compounds, paws can be pretreated with a thin layer of nonstick cooking spray to prevent adherence of the compounds. Booties can also help if pets tolerate them.


Ethylene glycol is found most commonly in greenish colored antifreeze chemicals used in motor vehicles, but it is also in rust removers, film-processing solutions, and some solvents. Because of its sweet taste, even a small radiator leak of fluid can attract animals. A single lick can be deadly! Keep chemicals well sealed and out of reach. If ingestion is suspected, prompt veterinary intervention increases the chances of a favorable outcome.

Holiday Hazards

Poisonous Plants: Christmas cactus, mistletoe, holly, poinsettia plants.
Dangerous Decorations: tinsel, string, ribbon, tree lights, breakable ornaments, metal ornament hooks, artificial snow.

Toxic Treats: chocolate, bread dough, liquid potpourri, alcohol, avocado, coffee, garlic, grapes, raisins, hops, macadamia nuts, moldy or spoiled food, onions, salt.

Here is a quick reference guide to the more common house and garden plants that are toxic to most animals and children. If you have these plants, you need not dispose of them, but they should be kept out of reach from pets and children.

* Indicates substances that are especially dangerous and can be fatal

Cardiovascular Toxins
Avocado (leaves, seeds, stem, fruit, skin)* in birds and pocket pets
Azalea (entire rhododendron family)
Autumn Crocus*
Bleeding Heart*
Castor Bean*
Hyacinth Bulbs*
Japanese Pieris*
Mistletoe Berries*
Mountain Laurel
Rosary Pea*
Tobacco Products

Gastrointestinal Toxins
Avocado (leaves, seeds, stem, fruit, skin) in dogs
Amaryllis Bulb*
Azalea (entire rhododendron family)
Autumn Crocus*
Bird of Paradise
Bulbs (most kinds)
Castor Bean*
Chocolate *
Chrysanthemum (a natural source of pyrethrins)
Crocus Bulb
Cyclamen Bulb
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)*
Elephant's Ear
English ivy (all Hedera species of ivy)
Hyacinth Bulbs
Holly Berries
Iris Corms
Lily (bulbs of most species)
Macadamia Nuts
Mistletoe Berries
Narcissus, Daffodil
Pencil Cactus
Potato (leaves and stem)
Rosary Pea*
Spurge (Euphorbia species)
Tomatoes (leaves and stem)

Respiratory Toxins
Chinese Sacred or Heavenly Bamboo*
English Ivy
Neurological Toxins
Alcohol (all beverages, ethanol, methanol, isopropyl)
Amaryllis Bulb*
Azalea (entire rhododendron family)
Bleeding Heart*
Castor Bean*
Choke Cherry, unripe berries*
Chrysanthemum (natural source of pyrethrins)
Crocus Bulb
Delphinium, larkspur, monkshood*
Jimson Weed*
Lupine species
Macadamia nuts
Morning Glory*
Moldy foods
Tobacco products
Potato (leaves and stem)
Tomatoes (leaves and stem)

Kidney/Organ Failure Toxins
Amanita Mushrooms
Asiatic Lily
Calla Lily*
Castor Beans
Day Lily
Elephant's Ear
Easter Lily
Rhubarb Leaves*
Star-gazer Lilly

Toxins that affect the blood

Poinsettias, can be toxic but only in very high quantities.

If you suspect your animal may have ingested any of the substances on this list or if your pet shows any abnormal behavior (vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, etc), you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Take a sample of the suspected toxin and its packaging with you to the veterinarian.

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