Everyday items which pose a threat to your pet at any time of year

There are several seasonal hazards which can make dogs ill, but are you aware of the everyday items which are a danger to your four-legged friend all year round? Some of these items are so common that you might not give them much thought, but it’s important that they are kept well out of reach of your dog.

Here are some of the most common products which can pose a danger to your dog at any time of year.

1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are used for pain relief. Many human products are available over-the-counter, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen or aspirin.  Human NSAIDs can be toxic to all animals, but particularly to dogs where they can cause severe stomach ulceration and acute kidney or liver failure. Please do be very careful and always consult your vet before giving your dog any form of medication.

2. Animal NSAIDs

Animal NSAIDs are commonly used in veterinary medicine with trade names including Rimadyl and Metacam. Many of these have been made palatable to assist owners in giving medications to their pets. However if your pet gets hold of the medication they can eat more than they should.  In cases of poisoning or overdose, toxic effects develop quickly and include persistent vomiting, vomiting blood, diarrhoea, and abdominal tenderness. Weakness and depression are often noted, though some animals show no signs of pain. Gastric (stomach) ulceration can occur without other clinical signs being present. Kidney damage is usually delayed by up to five days after poisoning and animals that are already unwell, dehydrated or with poor kidney function are at greater risk of toxic effects.

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D compounds (calciferol, calcipotriol, calcitriol, cholecalciferol, tacalcitol, alfacalcidol and paricalcitol) are present in a wide variety of products. Examples include vitamin supplements, cod liver oil, rodenticides and feed additives. In human medicine they are commonly used in psoriasis treatments and vitamin D deficiencies. Veterinary uses include control of low blood calcium in cats and dogs with kidney disease.  All vitamin D compounds are potentially toxic to dogs.  Signs of toxicity depend on the compound and amount ingested, in the case of calcipotriol, calcitriol and tacalcitol signs may be seen within six hours and include weakness and lethargy, depression, increased water intake and increased urine output, profuse vomiting and diarrhoea. Signs progress to wobbliness, arching of the back, muscle spasms, and twitching. Fatal cases do occur, especially in dogs following ingestion of human psoriasis creams, however effective treatments are available in animals that have not developed advanced poisoning.

Image of a Yorkshire terrier for Vets Now article on year-round hazards for dogs

4. Mushrooms

There are many varieties of mushroom and, while only a small amount of those that are toxic, it is very difficult to identify which are safe and which aren’t if your dog eats one. For this reason, it’s vital that you always treat wild mushroom ingestion as poisoning and contact your vet immediately to make sure treatment is started as soon as possible. The most common account of poisoning is by the mushroom Amanita phalloides, which is extremely toxic. Signs include mild vomiting and diarrhoea and can lead to more severe digestive problems, neurological (brain/nerve) disorders and liver disease.

5. Salt

Common products that are very high in salt include – sterilising fluids, water softeners, dishwasher salt, rock salt (used to de-ice roads) and some bath products (e.g. dead sea salt, bath salt), stock cubes, homemade play-doh and gravy powders.  Salt (sodium chloride) toxicity is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal – a toxic dose may be as little as 1/16th of a teaspoon per kg of body weight.  Do not attempt to make your dog sick (following ingestion of a poison) using salt water, it can cause severe problems and interfere with the treatment your dog needs.

Low toxicity substances

Here is a list of common items that owners report their dogs have eaten.   Most cause only mild gastrointestinal signs (such as vomiting or diarrhoea) but nevertheless contact your vet for further advice if your dog has eaten any of the following.

  • Blu-tack – and other similar adhesives
  • Chalk
  • Charcoal
  • Coal (real or artificial)
  • Cut-flower/houseplant food
  • Expanded polystyrene
  • Folic acid tablets
  • Fuchsia plants
  • Honeysuckle plants
  • Matches
  • Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy tablets
  • Pyracantha plants
  • Rowan tree
  • Silica gel – in small sachets found in packaging of moisture sensitive goods
  • Wax candles/crayons
  • Sun cream
  • After sun
  • Ice packs (methylcellulose)
  • Sunflowers
  • Sand
  • Slugs and snails (not toxic but are potential carriers of Lungworm)