Pet Dangers! 15 Household Products That Can Kill Your Cat or Dog

When you bring a new pet into your home, there’s a lot to consider. Is the dog food bowl in the best spot on the kitchen floor? Will the cat know where to find the litter box? These questions are good ones, but there’s another aspect you may be forgetting about — pet safety

While you may consider your home to be a safe place, there are several common household products that should be kept out of your furry friend’s reach. If you have an inquisitive cat or a dog that likes to get into everything, you’ll need to be extra careful to put certain home products behind cabinets or in areas your pets can’t access. Avoid an emergency vet trip by keeping these common household items put away.

1. Liquid air fresheners

Air freshener

Liquid air fresheners can endanger your pet. | iStock.com

It’s natural to want to keep your home smelling fresh and clean, especially if you have a dog who likes to roll around in puddles and muck every time you leave the house. However, the liquid air fresheners and potpourri that make your house smell so good contain cationic detergent, which can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Cats may be tempted to lick the liquid, says Quick and Dirty Tips, which can burn their mouth and hinder their digestive system. The chemicals can also irritate their skin. VCA Hospitals says signs of poisoning in dogs may include difficulty walking, pawing at the mouth or face, and vomiting.

2. Pennies

A jar of pennies

Your coin jar could cause trouble. | iStock.com/John_Brueske

Think your pennies are made primarily from copper? Guess again. Pennies minted after 1982 are about 96% zinc, which can cause real problems for your dog if ingested. PetMD explains the zinc in a penny can be absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream, causing red blood cells to burst. This can then cause organ failure or death unless the source of the zinc — in this case, the penny — is removed. This may involve surgery or the use of antacids to reduce the acidity in the dog’s stomach and halt the zinc absorption.

Keep this in mind, too — there’s a lot of zinc around your home. Nails, nuts, staples, jewelry, plumbing supplies, zippers, and even sunscreen contain the potential poison.

3. Insecticides

Mosquito bite prevention

Insecticides can give your pets issues. | John Moore/Getty Images

If you’re a big gardener or tend to have a flea or tick medication lying around in the summer, you may want to reevaluate your placement of these common household insecticides. If your pet ingests any of these fluids, they can experience fever, vomiting, seizures, and anorexia, all of which can lead to death. If you need to protect your pet against fleas or ticks, talk to your veterinarian about what products are safe. Some animals can have adverse reactions to pyrethroids and pyrethrins, which are two common ingredients in flea and tick products, warns Pet Education.

4. Household plants

Plants

Plants may not be safe, either. | iStock.com

When you buy a new plant or bring home a bouquet of flowers, you probably don’t consider what would happen if your cat or dog decided to take a nibble. Unfortunately, as a pet owner, you need to be aware that some of the everyday plants you bring into your home can actually poison your furry friend. Common household plants that pose a danger include azaleas, lilies, mistletoe, and philodendron, The Humane Society of the United States says. 

5. Compost piles

Composting the Kitchen Waste

You probably didn’t realize your compost pile could be dangerous. | iStock.com/Pixavril

You would never give your dog moldy refrigerator scraps, would you? Well, you should also make sure your compost bin is far out of your pet’s reach for the same reason. The River Road Veterinary Clinic explains there could be a deadly toxin growing in your compost that can lead to hyperthermia, agitation, vomiting, and seizures if consumed. If your dog does get into your compost, watch for symptoms of toxicity for up to three hours and call your vet if necessary.

6. Painkillers and other drugs

Aspirin bottle with tablets

Keep pills far from your pets. | iStock.com

It’s safe to assume that pills and creams should be kept away from your pet. Dogs especially have been known to gnaw through tubes to eat products they should never ingest. Any form of aspirin or ibuprofen, anti-depressants, diet pills, and even vitamins can be toxic to animals. If your pet is in pain, resist the urge to give them any form of painkiller, as Petful warns even acetaminophen can cause liver damage in animals.

7. Avocados

Sliced avocado

Avocados are not meant for dogs to have. | iStock.com/MSPhotographic

Health fanatics beware — avocados are great for you, but horrible for your pets. This fruit contains persin, a natural compound that can cause heart failure and death in horses, cattle, birds, and fish. Though persin doesn’t affect dogs as much, it can still cause some pretty severe vomiting and diarrhea, says the American Kennel Club. Your guac may look tasty to your four-legged friends, so be wary of leaving it sitting where Fido can dig in.

8. Laundry detergent pods

Man Doing Laundry

Laundry pods should be kept far away from your pet. | iStock.com

The compact detergent pods you can throw in the washer sure makes your weekly cleaning a breeze, but you’ll want to make sure they’re far out of your pet’s reach. Mercola Healthy Pets explains these pods contain highly-concentrated cleaning solutions, and biting down on one can cause your furry friend to ingest a lot of the liquid at once. If your dog or cat ingests one of these, expect vomiting and possible respiratory problems. And because the detergent foams, vomiting can cause the foam to be pulled into the lungs, making matters even worse.

9. Fertilizer

a dog on a lawn

Make sure enough time has elapsed before allowing Fido back on the lawn. | CaptureLight/GEtty Images

You probably look forward to sprucing up your lawn once spring rolls around. But you’ll need to make sure you keep your cats and dogs far away from fresh fertilizer. SFGate warns your pets can hold fertilizer residue on their paws and fur, and it’s common for them to ingest it this way, which can lead to vomiting and seizures. If you’re using a liquid product, it’s wise to not allow your pets near it until the grass looks visibly dry. For the granular types, allow 24 hours to pass before your pets venture near it.

10. Chocolate

Dark chocolate bar wrapped in foil

Keep your chocolate bar to yourself. | iStock.com

Whether you use it for cooking or snacking, chocolate is one common household food item that can be very toxic to your pets. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous. Baker’s chocolate is often thought to cause the most issues due to high levels of methylxanthine. Vetstreet says pets that eat too much of this substance will experience diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive thirst and urination. In some cases, your furry friend can experience abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures.

11. Antifreeze

Honda cars are offered for sale on the forecourt of a main motor car center

Keep the antifreeze in a place your pets can’t reach. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You’ve probably joked about certain flavors of Gatorade looking like antifreeze.  Though you know which one’s edible and which one isn’t, antifreeze looks and smells pretty inviting to your pets. The Humane Society says even if your pet only ingests a few tablespoons of the stuff, it’s highly toxic and can put your animal’s life in danger.

It’s also smart to switch to a brand of antifreeze that has propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol. Both are toxic, but the former type will be less damaging should your pet get into it.

12. Sugar-free gum

sugar-free product

It’s not the gum that’s necessarily the problem — it’s the xylitol. | iStock.com

Whatever you do, keep sugar-free gum far, far away from your pup. While the gum aspect of it isn’t the best thing for your dog to eat, it’s really the xylitol that’s problematic. VCA Hospitals explains xylitol is a sugar alcohol that gives you all the sweetness of regular sugar without the calories and high-glycemic effect. It can have a mild laxative effect in people when you first introduce it into your diet, but it can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, and death in dogs.

It would probably take multiple packs of xylitol-sweetened gum to cause liver failure in a dog, but depending on what brand you’re chewing, it could only take nine pieces for your pet to develop severely low blood sugar. If you suspect your dog has gotten into some, call your vet right away.

13. Snack bags

man looking in his fridge

Reaching for a late-night snack? Make sure you put the snack bag away. | iStock.com

Before you leave any plastic snack bags lying around, think about your curious critters getting into them while you’re out of the house. The Chicago Tribune warns your animal might stick their head in these bags in search of leftover crumbs. From here,, the bag can create a seal around your cat or dog’s neck, leading to suffocation in minutes. Do your furry friend a favor and keep these bags far out of reach.

14. Your shampoo

man washing shampoo in the shower

Use your shampoo on you, not your pet. | iStock.com

Your shampoo may seem harmless, especially when your dog or cat is in particular need of a bath, but there pet-specific shampoos for a reason. PetMD says human skin is more acidic than dog skin, which means your shampoo is fit for your skin’s pH level. You can disrupt the balance of your dog’s skin by using your bath products, which also serves as an invitation for harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Additionally, if your shampoo dries your dog’s skin out, this can lead to scratching — an even bigger opportunity for bacteria. Just stick with the products at the pet store.

15. Garlic

three onions and garlics

Your pets shouldn’t be anywhere near garlic. | iStock.com

Garlic is well-known for its health benefits. Unfortunately, all plants related to garlic, including onions, shallots, and chives, are toxic to your cat or dog. When your pet eats garlic, their red blood cells can burst — similar to what happens when they ingest zinc. And the reason you need to be extra wary of garlic is because it can be up to five times more potent than onion, says Dr. Justine Lee to Nationwide Insurance.

It doesn’t take much garlic to do serious damage to your cat or dog, and you may not even immediately detect something’s wrong. Your pet may not start showing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or lethargy for two to four days after ingestion. Always keep that garlic far out of your curious pet’s reach when you’ve finished cooking dinner.

Evie Carrick also contributed to this story