ASPCA reports in with the 10 Most Common Pet Poisons of 2009

Is your pooch mad for people food? Does your kitty like to self-medicate? Sadly, not everything we love is good for us. In fact, many common household goods that we take for granted as harmless can poison our furry friends.  

In 2009, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic household substances, many of which included everyday household products like insecticides, cleaning supplies and prescription medications. 

To help you keep your pet safe this year, the ASPCA experts have created a list of the 10 common poisons that most affected furry friends last year.  

Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009

Human Medications: For several years, human medications have stubbornly remained #1 on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications (painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants, dietary supplements) accidentally dropped or fallen on the floor. Always keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.  

Insecticides: One of the most common incidents in ’09 involved misuse of flea and tick products — such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. It’s important to talk to your vet before beginning any flea/tick control program.  

People Food: Grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends. One of the worst offenders — chocolate — contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts — or even small amounts over time — can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and death. 

Plants: Common houseplants such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts. 

Veterinary Medications: Though intended for pets, pet meds are often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2009, the ASPCA managed nearly 8,000 cases involving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.  

Rodenticides: Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that attract pets as well. Depending on the product, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems including bleeding, seizures or kidney damage.   

Household Cleaners: Protect pets from common agents such as bleach, detergent and disinfectants. These products, when inhaled by pets, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.  

Heavy Metals: Not talking loud music, rather heavy metals like lead, zinc and mercury. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced in older homes. 

Garden Products: It may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer and garden products can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs, causing severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction. 

Chemical Hazards: A category on the rise, chemical hazards — found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals — pose substantial risk to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns. 

Prevention is key to avoiding accidental exposure, but if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA 24-hour hotline at 888-426-4435. For a more detailed version of this report, including numbers on cases reported in 2009, visit