Poison Prevention Month Awareness & Safety Tips

21/03/23 5:26 PM

March is focused on keeping our pets safe from harm. March has several efforts to shine the spotlight on dangerous substances for our dogs and pets of all kinds. March is recognized as Poison Prevention Month and this week is National Poison Prevention Week, which gives those in animal health an opportunity to raise awareness about the potential dangers that can harm our pets. If you have a dog, it is important to know what might make your fur-baby sick, and know the difference between waiting out a sickness, and getting your dog emergency help. It will be no surprise to most when we say the majority of poisons are found around the house.

Just like children, sometimes you need to be proactive to get the stuff that might be bad for your dog put away. Some things we will agree smell good and we understand why they might eat it (think chocolate). But other things (think rodent poison), don't smell good to us, but the animal in them thinks it does.

If you have a dog, it is important to know what foods your dog shouldn’t have. The items highlighted in this information and on the downloadable are the most common foods that cause vomiting, diarrhea and even death in some dogs. Remember, every dog is different and just like in people, some may affect them more adversely. The more you know about how it impacts other dogs, the better you will be prepared.

The food and items on this list were revealed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA) as what they received the most calls about. While many are food items, there are also other poisonous items in your home such as vitamins, medicine, alcohol and cleaners. Surprisingly, 1/5 of the calls received to the ASPCA's poison hotline was not about their pet getting food they shouldn't have, but rather their pet getting into their over-the-counter medications.

Every year, the ASPCA reviews thousands of calls to their Poison Hotline the previous year and categorizes them. They are:


  1. Over-the-counter medications: 19.7%
    Over-the-counter (OTC) medications were the most common group of toxicants pets ingested. The most common dogs get into are: Acetaminophen like Tylenol and Vitamin D. They include vitamins, pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen, herbal supplements, antihistamines and cold and flu medications.
  2. Human prescriptions: 17.2%
    Medications prescribed for people is a dangerous combination for our fur-babies. We may take something and leave it at our bedside, or on the counter. Pay careful attention to where you keep your medications. Remember to keep all medications out of reach of pets.
  3. Human Food: 12.1%
    We have separated specific dangerous food in this list. This is just the all-encompassing category of food which includes the most common foods our dogs might get into: Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic. 
  4. Chocolate: 10.7%
    Chocolate gets its own category for the ASPCA. This is because chocolate tastes good, even to dogs. If they get access to it, they will most likely eat as much as they can. Also, chocolate is popular around every holiday and often left out for our dogs to devour when we are not looking. The ASPCAsaid they have almost 60 calls a day related to chocolate toxicity.
  5. Plants: 9.3%
    It is no surprise, but a variety of plants are toxic to dogs (and cats). Most are familiar with the more common plant threats: azaleas, holly, poinsettias and tulips to name a few. Surprisingly, the Sago Palm is climbing in the deadly chart. Sago Palms are usually found in outdoor landscaping, but there are a few smaller ones for indoors. Over the last 10 years, the ASPCA reported more than 1,400 dogs poisoned by Sago Palms. Thirty-four of those dogs died. In the state of South Carolina, Sago Palms are the #1 reason to call the ASPCA Poison Hotline. Cats also fall victim to eating toxic indoor plants. 
  6. Household items: 9.1%
    This is a wide variety of items from laundry soap pods to paint and items leftover from home improvement projects. Remember if your dog sees you with these items, they are naturally curious and want to try it out. Be sure to keep them away from you while you are working on your project, and put things away when you are finished.
  7. Veterinary products: 7.7% 
    Same as human medications, these medicines are for our pets. But they have a certain amount they should be taken. Your dog probably knows the flea and tick medicine is for them, so why not eat the whole package if it's left out? This could be very dangerous. Remember to put your dog's medications away just as you would your own. 
  8. Rodenticide: 6.8%
    The goal of mouse traps and the poison for these critters is to look and taste good and be poisonous. This is why dogs see no problem getting into it. Even small amounts of rodenticide are concerning to your dog. Seek help immediately if you suspect they got into rodenticide.
  9. Insecticide: 5.1%
    Obviously dangerous, these poisons are found in garages, homes, farms and other places your dog may frequent.
  10. Garden products: 2.4%
    The most common point of contention is fertilizer, herbicides and soil enhancements.


On the overall list of most poisonous things, the list of foods is what we worry about most. Most of us know about Chocolate. We have never moved faster than when chocolate drops on the ground and the dog goes for it. Because so many calls are about Chocolate, it is its own category to the Animal Poison Hotline. All other foods are smaller in percentages and in total. If you combine the chocolate calls (10.7%) and the food calls (12.1%), you get 22.8% of all calls made to the Animal Poison Hotline. Here are the top offenders of food poisoning in our pets:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Grapes and raisins
  3. Xylitol
  4. Ibuprofen
  5. Bromethalin rodenticides 
  6. Marijuana
  7. Anticoagulant rodenticides  
  8. Vitamin D3
  9. Onions/chives/leeks/shallots
  10. Carprofen (Veterinary medication must be taken as prescribed; dogs will eat the whole package if left out.)

Bottom line: keep these things out of reach of your fur-baby! 

concerned dog


Chocolate is still a big deal in the poisonous food chart for dogs. One thing to remember: the darker the chocolate, the bigger the problem. It also depends on the quantity and quality of the chocolate. If your dog eats a stray M&M or two that fell on the floor, they will most likely be just fine. But if they got into a dark chocolate bar or cocoa powder, they may be in trouble. Dogs can’t metabolize the theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even death Read more about chocolate toxicity here.

Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and quickly is becoming more deadly than chocolate because it is in so many different things. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum, candy, toothpaste, and some diet foods. Early symptoms of exposure will include vomiting and lethargy issues. Your dog may even have seizures. This exposure often comes with holidays. Think of the Gingerbread House left decorated on the table, or the package of gum left out in the Easter egg hunt. Be especially cognizant of these things to keep them away from your dog.

Grapes and raisins are known to cause vomiting in many dogs. The problem with raisins is they are dehydrated grapes and will expand in your dog’s stomach. This can cause serious problems where they cannot pass them if they’ve had too many, causing serious intestinal issues.

Onions and garlic in any form: powdered, raw, cooked or dehydrated, can adversely affect your dog. These things kill red blood cells in your dog and can lead to anemia. 

Protein Bars. A surprise to the list this year means the increase of these being in more homes than ever before. What makes them dangerous is the combination of several things harmful to your dog. This includes chocolate, Xylitol used in the artificial sweetener of the protein bar, and even raisins found in different varieties. If they get into a box and devour the whole thing, you need to contact your veterinarian to discuss the situation. 

Avocados have persin in them, which is fine for most people, although some people are highly allergic to it. Dogs are similar: they may or may not be allergic to persin. Persin is primarily in the skin and seed of the avocado. Another drawback to avocados is the large seed. If your dog gets it in their mouths, it can become stuck in its throat, intestines, or stomach, which could be fatal.

Coffee and Teas are on the list because of the caffeine. Alcohol is because of obvious reasons, it will affect your dog the same way it will affect a human. If you expect your dog had got into coffee grinds or drank alcohol, they need immediate assistance as it is highly toxic for most dogs.

Peaches, Plums and Apples. The surprise here is from the pits of these fruits. Peach and plum pits have cyanide, which is poisonous to both people and dogs. People know they shouldn’t eat the pits and seeds here, but our dogs do not.

Raw things: meat, fish, eggs. The problem with most raw things is there are bacteria that can cause food poisoning in most dogs. Signs of raw food poisoning include vomiting and high temperatures. Always cook food before giving it to your dog.

Yeast Dough. Similar to raisins, yeast will expand as it rises in your dog’s stomach. As it swells inside, it could cause a lot of pain. When yeast ferments to make the dough rise, it makes alcohol, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.

Pet Poison Prevention Tips

  1. Keep any or all these items in higher cabinets so they your dog does not get them. This means getting into habits of always putting these things away when you get them out. Often pets get into things because someone forgot to put them in their proper place and left them out.
  2. Educate your family or anyone who cares for your pet about what is poisonous. The more they know, the better they will be about keeping hazardous things out of reach from your pet.
  3. Be prepared for a Pet Emergency. Recently, we wrote about how to be prepared. If you haven’t read it, take the time to go through it. Part of preventing poisonings is being ready if something should happen. This post also includes a FREE downloadable Pet Emergency Info Sheet that you can fill out and have handy in case something should happen.
  4. Know about chocolate and how toxic it is in dogs. Chocolate consistently ranks as the top poison for dogs. It is the #1 reason people call the Pet Poison Hotline. Know the difference about chocolate and its toxicity for dogs. We wrote an entire article about What to Do if Your Dog Eats Chocolate.

Now you know what you need to know about Dog Poison Prevention! Be sure to keep your dog safe and keep hazardous items out of reach of your pet.


Most people think the first thing you should do is make your dog vomit. This is NOT TRUE! If you are concerned, the first thing you should do is contact your veterinarian. Time is always of the essence when it comes to food and the toxic poisoning of pets. Another resource to keep in mind is the Australian Animal Poisons Hotline.

They have a free helpline open 9 AM-5 PM AEDT 7 days a week.

Now that you know everything there is to know, if something should happen, you are more prepared. We are pleased to help educate pet owners as part of this important public service effort in March. 



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