8 Household Items Toxic to Pets

From antifreeze to batteries, here are hazardous items around your house.

Curious dogs and cats can get into trouble when exploring your home. Liukov/Shutterstock

You know that chocolate is off-limits and there are plenty of other potentially hazardous foods that have to stay out of your dog or cat's reach. But pet-proofing the pantry isn't the only way to keep your four-legged pal safe. Many common household items can pose a threat to your pet, too.

Here's a look at some items you likely have at home. Just like you'd store them out of harm's way for a baby, make sure your pet can't get a hold of them either.


If you ever suspect that your pet may have ingested something poisonous, call your local vet or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

Ethylene glycol

This sweet-tasting odorless liquid is most commonly found in antifreeze products, but it can also lurk in less dangerous levels in hydraulic brake fluid, paints and solvents, wood stains, inks and printer cartridges.

Dogs and cats are attracted to its taste and only a small amount, especially in antifreeze, can be very dangerous. According to VCA Hospitals, as little as half a teaspoon per pound of a dog’s weight can be fatal. The Humane Society of the United States says one teaspoon can be fatal to a 7-pound cat.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are medications used for people and sometimes pets to help control pain and inflammation. Pet-specific drugs (for example, carprofen, deracoxib and meloxicam) can be less toxic to dogs and cats than human NSAIDs, but are still dangerous in larger-than-prescribed doses. Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen can be incredibly toxic to pets, leading to severe gastric ulcers and acute kidney failure, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Never give any of these medications to your pet without talking to your vet.

NSAIDs aren't the only human drugs that can be harmful to animals. Antibiotics and antidepressants, cough medicines, steroids and other medicines can be dangerous, too. If it's in your medicine cabinet, be sure to keep it out of your dog or cat's reach.

Coins and metal

cat playing with coins
Some coins and metal contain zinc, which can cause problems if swallowed. VladKK/Shutterstock

Some pets, especially dogs, will pick up anything off the floor including coins and metal pieces, such as nuts, bolts and other pieces of hardware. While some pieces might be ingested and safely passed, some coins and hardware pieces contain large amounts of zinc, which can result in zinc poisoning. When the item enters the stomach, the zinc breaks down, upsetting your pet's stomach and allowing the zinc to be absorbed into the bloodstream. That can lead to liver damage, kidney failure and heart failure.

Even some topical ointments, including diaper rash creams, contain zinc, so check the labels and store anything questionable out of reach. If you think your pet has swallowed a coin or metal object, call your vet for an X-ray.


This sugar-free sweetener is found in some gum, mints, toothpaste, oral rinses, chewable vitamins, and even some foods, like peanut butter. It's key to check the ingredient label and keep products out of your pet's reach. The amount of xylitol can vary by product type and brand. How much your dog or cat ingests and your pet's size will determine how toxic the effect can be. According to the helpline, a large ingestion can result in liver failure, while even a small amount can cause life-threatening low blood sugar within 10 to 15 minutes.

Insect and rodent poison

The bait or spray put down to kill bugs or rodents can seriously hurt your pet. Mice and rat poisons are one of the most common causes of animal toxicities managed by the Pet Poison Helpline. Even if you don't have them at your house, your dog might find them in parks or wildlife areas. Dogs and cats can also have secondary poisoning if they eat (or gnaw on) a rodent that died in a trap. Because there are so many ingredients that can affect animals in different ways, it's important to tell your vet exactly what was on the label if you know what your pet ingested.

Glow sticks and glow jewelry

multicolored glow sticks
The liquid inside glow sticks and jewelry can make your pets have very unpleasant symptoms. bluesnote/Shutterstock

If your kids like those glow bracelets or glow sticks, especially around Halloween and other holidays, make sure they keep them away from your dog. They have an oily, bitter-tasting liquid called dibutyl phthalate (DBP) that can have unpleasant consequences if your dog gets a hold of it. The chemical isn't incredibly toxic, but it can make your pet drool, gag and vomit, and it can irritate his skin and eyes, making them burn.

Cleaning products

Just like you'd keep detergent and household cleaners out of reach of children, make sure your four-legged kids can't get to them either. Detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets can cause ulcers. Cleaners like products with bleach or ammonia, drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleansers can cause ulcers and other serious problems.


If your dog or cat swallows a battery, the alkaline or acidic material inside can leak, causing serious injury. Especially dangerous are button batteries, but other common batteries also can cause a lot of harm. Call your vet or the poison helpline immediately and don't induce vomiting. Flush your pet's mouth gently with tepid water to wash away corrosive liquid. Your vet will perform an X-ray and remove the battery via surgery or endoscopy.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand them, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.