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Common Poisons to Dogs

Updated on September 5, 2016

Poison is one of a dog owner's worst fears, and for good reason. Like children, dogs get into foods and products that they just don't understand are dangerous to them. Luckily, poison is a danger that can be lessened with knowledge.

Some should be fairly obvious and self-explanatory - household cleaners and chemicals, lawn and garden products, and pesticides, for example. Others are not as straightforward. The Pet Poison Helpline reports that some of the most frequently reported poisons dogs encounter are chocolate, grapes, raisins, and xylitol, closely followed by flea and tick treatments, rat poison, and human drugs, among others. The problem is, many people aren't aware that these things are so dangerous, and can accidentally hurt or kill a dog by simply sneaking it a bite of food or leaving products within reach while they're home alone.

Below is a list of common poisons dog owners should stay aware of.

Alcohol and Marijuana

  • These two might be obvious poisons to some. But you'd be surprised how many people don't realize that exposing either of them to their dogs (or cats!) could be lethal. Alcohol in particular can be contained in overlooked places, like unbaked yeast dough. Alcohol can cause vomiting, coma, and death, while marijuana, inhaled or ingested, could cause depression, seizures, coma, and death.


  • Prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and even overused pet medications like painkillers and de-wormers can harm dogs. Some poisonous human medications include antidepressants (ex. Cymbalta), anti-anxiety meds (ex. Xanax), ADHD meds (ex. Adderall), blood pressure meds (ex. ), pain relievers (ex. Tramadol), and sleep aids (ex. Ambien). Common over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (ex. Tylenol), ibuprofen (ex. Advil), and naproxen (ex. Aleve) can also be deadly.


  • Xylitol is tricky because it's an artificial sweetener that can be found in various products. Sugar-free gum, breath mints, and candies, toothpaste, chewable vitamins, fish oil supplements, and now some lesser known brands of peanut butter contain xylitol in them. That last one is especially important since peanut butter is usually a safe snack for dogs. You can check if your peanut butter or peanut butter products contain it by reading their labeled ingredients.


  • Chocolate is one of the most famous and common dog poisons. Dark chocolate especially can be a disaster for dogs, causing vomiting, tremors, seizures, heart problems, and death. Accidentally consuming small pieces of a cookie aren't likely to do serious damage, but chocolate is a poison that some people don't take seriously enough. Besides chocolate, caffeine can also be found in coffee, soda, energy drinks, tea, and dietary pills, so watch out for them as well.

Grapes and Raisins

  • Grapes and grape products are an especially dangerous but lesser known poison to dogs. Even a small amount can cause kidney failure after several days, following other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and a loss of appetite. Since grapes can poison dogs regardless of the amount eaten, it is important to seek help quickly.


  • Avocados are not necessarily poisonous to dogs, though they are to several other pets. However, they can easily become stuck in the throat or intestines of dogs if the seed is swallowed whole, which can lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.

Macadamia Nuts

  • Macadamia nuts can cause dogs to become lethargic, stiff, and hot. They can lose mobility as well, as the toxin affects their nerve function.


  • Garlic, onions, chives, and leeks (all part of the allium family) can cause anemia in dogs, but may not show signs of doing so for several days. Garlic especially is dangerous because it is not only very potent, but is often in or on foods that people may unwittingly give to their dogs as a snack.

Household or Garden Plants

  • Amaryllis, autumn crocus, azalea, cyclaemen, daffodil, dumbcane, sago palm, tulip, and various lily species are just a sample of the common plants and flowers that are harmful when ingested by dogs. It's best to check that a household or garden plant is safe for your dog to be sniffing around in before getting one.

By keeping these poisons in mind and taking measures to separate them from your dog, you probably won't need to worry about them. Hiding chemicals, cleaners, and medications (even if they seem indestructible) and buying safe, healthy brands of dog food (and staying aware of recalls) are good places to start.

It's also safer to stay away from "people food" unless you know it's alright for them. Some good people snacks that are also good for dogs to eat include carrots, celery, apple slices (but not the seeds!), peanut butter, and cooked meat - all in moderation of course.

You can go to the Pet Poison Helpline's website to look up whether something is poisonous, and what symptoms you might see. Keep your pets safe!

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    • Melissa Peck profile image

      Melissa Peck 19 months ago from New Jersey

      I'm glad your dog was alright! I feel terrible for people who've lost their dogs to something that's supposed to be safe like dog food.

    • profile image

      Kikie 19 months ago

      When bad dog food was coming from China years ago, it was a problem in gravies - in canned foods or flavor packets. We were putting a packaged gravy on our pugs kibble. She began vomitting yellow stuff all over the place. We quickly put her on rice and chicken and she got better. Right afterwards we heard about the problem on the news and that some dogs died, so we felt lucky to have not lost our dog.