Toxic Chemicals and Household Items That Can Poison Dogs

Substances that Can Harm Your Dog

household chemicals toxic to dogs
Andrea Evangelista/E+/Getty Images

There are many chemicals and caustic substances in and around most homes. These chemicals may be toxic to your dog. Most humans know better than to come into contact with the most dangerous chemicals. However, just like parents must protect their children from household toxins, so must we dog owners protect our dogs.

Many chemicals can be harmful to dogs if they are ingested, inhaled or come into contact with the skin.

In some cases, chemicals can enter the bloodstream and affect major organs. Certain chemicals may be considered safe for humans but can still harm dogs.

Be very mindful of the products you are using in your yard and home. Try to switch to products that are known to be safe for pets. If you treat your yard with chemicals, be sure your dog does not have access to the yard until it is dry (and that the chemical it is safe once dry). The same applies with carpet cleaners and cleaners used on other surfaces where your dog may walk.

Household Substances Toxic to Dogs

The following substances are commonly found in and around the home and pose a high toxicity risk to dogs:

  • Antifreeze: Ethylene glycol is the toxic chemical in antifreeze. Sadly, this is common poison in dogs. It tastes good to them, but even very small amounts are highly toxic. Symptoms of ethylene glycol poisoning appear rapidly and can quickly lead to death.
  • Battery acid: This very dangerous chemical can "eat away" at skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract
  • Bleach: This chemical is caustic to skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Drain cleaner: This is also caustic to skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Drugs and medications: This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit/recreational drugs.
  • Fertilizer: Depending on the type, some fertilizers can irritate the skin and feet if your dog comes into contact with it, especially before it is dry. It can also be harmful if ingested.
  • Glue: Many types of glue are dangerous; Gorilla Glue is perhaps one of the worst.
  • Herbicides: same as fertilizer
  • Household cleaners and detergents: Depending on the chemical, these can be dangerous if ingested, inhaled, or of they come into contact with skin.
  • Kerosene: Caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Motor oil: Some people may have heard of motor oil being used as a "home remedy" for mange, but this is absolutely untrue! Never put motor oil on your dog. It is harmful to the skin and dangerous if ingested. It can easily kill a dog.
  • Mulch containing cocoa bean shells: This type of mulch is a tasty yet dangerous snack for dogs. Effects are the same as chocolate toxicity.
  • Nail polish/nail polish remover (acetone): Caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Paint, varnish, lacquers, sealants, stains: Caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Paint thinners and paintbrush cleaners (mineral spirits, turpentine, etc.): Caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract; fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Pesticides: Same as herbicides, fertilizer
  • Rat Poison: Sadly, rodenticide toxicity is a common poison in dogs. Rat poison is extremely toxic if ingested. NEVER use rat poison in or around your home.
  • Salts (specifically rock salt/sidewalk salt) and other Deicers: These can irritate the skin and feet of dogs; also potentially harmful if ingested.

This is in no way a complete list of household toxins. Remember that any item in or around your home can pose a risk for your dog. Learn about the safety of products before you use them. Use as many pet-safe products as possible. Keep dangerous items where your dog absolutely cannot find them.

Keep your dog away from areas where cleaners, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have been recently sprayed (many are safe once dry, but find out which ones are safe and only use those).

What To Do If You Dog Is Poisoned

If your dog is exposed to a toxin, you must act immediately. Call your veterinarian right away; do not wait for symptoms to appear. NEVER induce vomiting unless directed to do so by a veterinary professional. Caustic substances can be more harmful coming back up than they were going down!

In case of toxin exposure, keep a list of important phone numbers in a visible, easily accessible location. Be sure pet sitters and other people who might be in your home are aware of the location of the list. The following phone numbers should be included:

  1. Your primary veterinarian
  2. One or more nearby 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics
  3. ASPCA Poison Control: (888) 426-4435 (fee applies, but free to Home Again subscribers)
  4. Pet Poison Hotline: 800-213-6680 (fee applies)
  5. An emergency contact number for you and your dog's co-owner (if applicable).