Pet Poisoning – From The Household to Pet Food Contamination

Our pets are very special, and the last thing we want is for them to become gravely ill.  Poisons and toxins, from everyday products to unknown contaminants brought over 140,000 calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) in 2008.


The main causes for pet poisoning are usually found in or around our homes.  Pets that ingest some of the below-listed common poisons and toxins may have symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination or thirst, hyperactivity, seizures and even death:

  • Human medications, from over-the-counter to prescription.  All it takes is one dropped pill on the floor.  Pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are common culprits.
  • Plants
    • Lillies
    • Sago Palm
    • Tulip/Naricissus Bulbs
    • Oleander
    • Insecticides/Rodenticides
    • “People” Food, including but not limited to
      • Chocolate
      • Grapes/Raisins
      • Avocado
    • Chemicals
      • Anti-Freeze
      • Paint Thinner
      • Pool/Spa Chemicals
      • Household Cleaners
      • Fertilizer

There is also the possibility of contaminated pet food.  According to Dr. Ernest Lykissa, Forensic Toxicologist and ExperTox’s Scientific Laboratory Director, there were a number of cases in 2006 and 2007 caused by contaminated pet food shipped from overseas, most specifically China.  Dr. Lykissa stated that international companies were paid more for dog food with higher protein content.  When the food came into port, samples were tested for nitrogen, found in protein.  Unfortunately, these companies were adding “junk” to the food that would spike the nitrogen, giving the perception the food was rich in nitrogen, therefore protein.  They were really adding substances such as melamine and cynuric acid, all highly toxic to pets yet increased the amount of nitrogen in the food.  Since that time, testing and inspection has changed to better monitor the pet food product. 

Then, there are the periodic cases of intentional poisoning – neighbors, friends, family members – feeding a pet food or a treat laced with a toxic substance.  The act is not usually meant to kill the animal, only to cause illness as an act of revenge, desire to get rid of the animal or other personal reason.  Yes, these cases do happen and figuring out what caused a pet to become ill can be challenging.

What can you do if you suspect pet poisoning?  First of all, see your veterinarian immediately.  You can also access the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center at  Finally, if you have not been able to come up with an answer and need additional help, contact us.  ExperTox offers toxicology testing for pets, from individual chemicals and drugs that may be suspected to pet food panels, rodent poison panels and unknown drugs, poisons and toxins.

Have you experienced a situation where you thought your pet had been poisoned?  Share your story with us.



4 Responses to “Pet Poisoning – From The Household to Pet Food Contamination”

  1. 1 Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC November 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    hanks for spreading the word on pet poisoning and pet food contamination!

    I wanted to make you aware of another important resource out there also – Pet Poison Helpline is an additional Animal Poison Control Center, and it’s one of the most cost-effective animal poison ($35/case vs. ASPCA’s new $60/case) controls out there nowadays. Unfortunately, because animal poison controls are not federal- or state-funded, there is a fee to allow the service to be run 24-7. We provide a similar service, but have the added benefit of veterinary specialists (in internal medicine and emergency and critical care) as part of our staff. You can always call 1-800-213-6680 if you ever have a problem. Thanks for spreading the word!

    Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC
    Associate Director of Veterinary Services

  2. 3 Edie McRae November 18, 2009 at 2:44 am

    As an animal lover, I want to do all I can to keep my pets safe, healthy and happy. Thanks for sharing this valuable information!

  1. 1 Twitter Trackbacks for Pet Poisoning – From The Household to Pet Food Contamination « ExperTox's Blog [] on Trackback on November 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm

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