The ONLY national non-profit organization for professional pet sitters.

How Many Dangerous Poisons Exist In Your Home?


After the craziness and stress of the holidays, it is likely that the last thing on pet owners’ minds is the danger that their pet may be poisoned from commonly-used winter products. Sadly, for some, a tragedy will occur before a pet parent is aware of how many dangerous poisons actually exist in their home. Following are some examples of winter dangers of which pet parents should be aware.

Rock salt and other commercial de-icing agents, which are used to de-ice roads, sidewalks and driveways, contain sodium chloride and sometimes other elements such as calcium chloride potassium chloride, and magnesium chloride. All of these can cause burns to the paws, mouth, or digestive tract; as well as toxicity, resulting in excessive thirst, lethargy, vomiting, “drunk” behavior, kidney damage, seizures, coma or even death. This is why it is so important to thoroughly wash and dry your pet’s feet and fur after they have been outdoors. Pet parents should also take preventive measures such as keeping cats indoors, trimming long fur, and having their dog wear booties outside, as well as using only pet-safe de-icer on their own property. If you suspect your pet has ingested a de-icing product, call your vet immediately.

Another winter poison hazard is antifreeze, a common winter product found in many homes and garages, as well as on driveways and roadways. Imported snow globes are also known to contain antifreeze. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic. Cats, who are approximately four times more sensitive to antifreeze than dogs, can be poisoned by just one to two teaspoons of antifreeze. Three tablespoons can be lethal to a medium-sized dog. The onset of the toxicity can be insidious; in a 30-minute span, pet parents may notice that their pet seems drunk, and the pet may vomit, urinate excessively, or drink an excessive amount of water. Six hours later, pet parents may be relieved that their pet is acting like themselves again, but this relief will be short-lived when they later take their pet to the vet, only to find that the poison has reached the liver and kidneys. By that time, the poison will have caused permanent, irreversible damage. Most cases are ultimately fatal, unless dealt with immediately.

Another toxic substance often found in the home during winter is potpourri. Potpourri smells amazing and makes a home seem more inviting, but pet parents need to be careful to put it in a safe place in their home, away from their pets’ reach. A simmer pot filled with liquid potpourri is an open invitation for a pet to take a few licks. Side effects of liquid potpourri include severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive as cats, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

If a pet parent suspects that a pet has been poisoned, they can contact the Pet Poison Helpline 
(855-764-7661), a 24-hour animal poison-control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. The Pet Poison Helpline assists both worried pet owners and veterinary professionals. The Pet Poison Helpline does require a $49 per-incident fee, but given the choice of receiving professional advice versus waiting until it’s too late, the fee is well worth it. This fee also includes not only the initial consultation, but follow-up calls with associates who are familiar with the case, as well.