8 Common Household Hazards to Keep Out of Your Pets’ Reach

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated December 17, 2021
woman being cuddly with dog on sofa
Photo: LeslieAnn / Adobe Stock

Pet-proof your home to keep those furry paws and jaws off risky items

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Animals are naturally curious creatures and often explore with their mouth. But they frequently get into trouble with this habit, especially because a surprising number of household items are harmful to pets. Being aware of some of the most common household hazards means you can be proactive to minimize the chances of an emergency trip to the vet.

1. Lock Away Medications

In 2020, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Poison Control Center received more calls from worried pet owners about their pets ingesting over-the-counter drugs than anything else. That’s because ibuprofen and other pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory drugs are highly toxic to dogs and cats and can cause acute kidney failure.

Store these other items (including prescription medication) securely away from pets:

  • Paracetamol (acetaminophen)

  • Cold medications

  • Vitamins

  • Diet pills

  • Antidepressants

  • Prozac, Zoloft, and other anti-anxiety medications containing anxiolytics 

  • Valium and other sleep aids

  • Ritalin, Adderall, and other attention-deficit disorder medications

There’s also been a sharp rise in the volume of marijuana poisoning cases in dogs since medicinal marijuana use is now legal in many states. It’s a particular problem because people put the substance in enticing cookies or other baked goods, which dogs frequently take from kitchen counters.

Never administer any medication to your pet unless advised by a veterinary professional.

2. Know Which Foods Are Toxic

dog licking owners hand
Photo: Irina84 / Adobe Stock

There are plenty of foods safe for humans but not for pets. Some might cause a bit of a tummy upset, some could create intestinal blockages, and others can be deadly—even in small quantities. 

Keep the following common foods away from your pets to save any worries:

  • Chocolate

  • Coffee

  • Alcohol

  • Avocado

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Salt

  • Grapes

  • Raisins

  • Cooked bones

  • Foods containing the artificial sweetener xylitol (common in things like peanut butter, baking products, and chewing gum)

  • Macadamia nuts

  • Yeast dough

3. Avoid Hazardous Household Plants

woman pets dog while. watering plants
Photo: Drobot Dean / Adobe Stock

Many cat owners already know certain lily species (Lilium and Hemerocallis) are highly toxic and can lead to kidney failure. But there are many other common household and yard plants you’ll want to keep away from curious pups or kittens. 

Symptoms of plant poisoning include upset stomachs, vomiting, disorientation, respiratory and heart problems, lethargy, organ failure, and death. It’s a good idea to research any plants you have in your home or yard.

Substitute these common plants poisonous to pets with dog- and cat-safe plant alternatives, including:

  • Sago palms

  • Rhododendron and tulip bulbs

  • Azaleas

  • Oleanders

  • Castor beans

  • Amaryllis

  • Chrysanthemums

  • Autumn crocus

  • Cyclamens

  • Kalanchoes

4. Use and Store Cleaning Products Carefully

Always read cleaning product labels to check if or how you can use them around animals and know how to store cleaning supplies properly. In concentrated volumes, some household cleaners cause skin irritation or burns and, if ingested, can lead to vomiting, drooling, respiratory issues, and even fatalities.

Try to avoid products containing alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or phenols. Some products with these ingredients are safe to use, but dilute and rinse appropriately and keep pets out of the disinfected area while it dries.

Look for products marketed as non-toxic and pet-safe, or opt for natural cleaning solutions like pet-friendly floor cleaners that use gentle ingredients like baking soda and white vinegar.

5. Pack Away the Pesticides 

Rat and mouse poisons are serious toxins for pets, even if they only ingest a tiny amount. If you’re set on using rodenticides, place them in areas you’re 100% certain are inaccessible to Fido or Garfield.

Many insecticides used in gardens are also irritants for your pets, so apply them carefully and limit access to the space for a period afterward. 

6. Understand Which Yard Products Are Risky

dog sniffing grass in yard
Photo: Mary Lynn Strand / Adobe Stock

Along with toxic plants and lawn pesticides unsafe for pets, consider these other hazards in your garden. 

Always check the fertilizer you’re using is safe for application around pets. Those made from bone or blood meal can lead to pancreatitis and may clump and cause internal blockages. Compost also often contains dangerous food and garden waste like mold and bacteria.

Other risky items include:

  • Weed killers

  • Cocoa mulch

  • Slug and snail bait

  • Moldy bird food

7. Keep Your Garage Clutter-Free

woman in the garage with dog
Photo: rh2010 / Adobe Stock

Many homeowners store antifreeze and coolants in their garage, which often contain ethylene glycol and can be fatal to pets. Antifreeze containing propylene glycol isn’t so toxic, but it still carries significant risk. Be mindful of where you store these products, and watch out for any leaks around your car.

Some other everyday items found in the garage that are risky for your pets include:

  • Expanding wood glue

  • Solvents (like paint thinners and mineral spirits)

  • Paints containing volatile substances or heavy metals

  • Windshield washer fluid

  • Gasoline

  • Brake fluid

Organize your garage to remove items you no longer need, store those you do safely, and get rid of clutter so there are no hidden-away hazards.

8. Keep an Eye Out For Other Problematic Household Toxins

Below are some other common household items that can be problematic for pets: 

  • Essential oil products

  • Mothballs

  • Tobacco products

  • Insect repellants (like those containing DEET)

  • Alkaline batteries

What to Do If You Suspect Your Pet Has Been Poisoned

The hazardous items mentioned in this article vary in their toxicity to pets. Some may only cause mild symptoms like upset stomachs, vomiting, or lethargy, and others can lead to severe illness or death. The degree of toxicity also depends on the type of pet, its size, and the amount ingested.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t have, stay calm and seek immediate professional advice or assistance. Time is often critical to treat poison cases. Provide the veterinarian with as much information as possible about what your pet ate, when, and how much.

Don’t try to make your dog or cat vomit. Instead, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for further advice, or head straight to an emergency care hospital.

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