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What Household Items Can Make Pets Sick?

Jul 5th, 2024

Our pets bring us endless joy and unconditional love, especially when we live in the heart of a busy city! However, their playful nature and insatiable curiosity can sometimes lead them into trouble. Many seemingly harmless household items can be toxic to our furry (or feathery) friends, and while some of them may seem like a no-brainer, there are a few surprising ones, too!

Here are some of the household items that can make pets sick according to the FDA

Foods, plants & chemicals that make pets sick 

Foods that can make pets sick


Like in humans, alcohol intoxication disrupts a pet's central nervous system which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty walking, tremors, seizures and even coma or death.


Avocado is a double-whammy. Many pets get poisoned by the fruit itself (many smaller pets can die from ingesting avocado!), but the slippery avocado seed can choke larger pets like cats and dogs or get stuck in their digestive tracts. 


Caffeine interferes with pets' nervous systems, causing hyperactivity, tremors, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. Their bodies are much smaller than ours, so they can’t process caffeine as well as us larger humans can!


Most people know that chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs. Cacao contains the chemical compounds theobromine and caffeine, both of which take a long time to break down in animals’ stomachs and, therefore, cause higher levels of toxicity.  

Fatty foods

While occasional fatty scraps might not cause harm, a diet rich in fatty foods can lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) in many pets.

Garlic & onions

Onions and garlic — as well as leeks and chives —  contain compounds that damage red blood cells in pets, leading to anemia and weakness that, over time, can make them very ill!


Raisins are also included in this category, by the way! The exact toxin in grapes and raisins that is harmful to pets is still unknown, but high amounts of the food has been known to cause kidney failure in dogs.

Macadamia nuts

Because these oily nuts are so high in fat, a large amount of them can also cause pancreatitis in animals.


Excessive salt intake can cause pets to drink excessively, leading to electrolyte imbalances, vomiting and seizures.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that’s commonly found in sugar-free candies, sugar-free gum and many other household items. Xylitol causes a rapid insulin release in pets, leading to a sudden drop in blood sugar which can cause weakness, seizures and liver failure.


Yeast in its raw format — as in, in an unbaked dough — causes bloating and fermentation in an animal’s stomach which can result in ethanol poisoning.

Household items that can make pets sick

Toxic liquids

This covers a pretty wide range of items, but it’s good practice to keep any kind of chemicals out of reach from your pets. This can include common household items such as:

  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides
  • Antifreeze
  • Bleach
  • Bathroom cleaners
  • Solvents

Fabric softener sheets

In addition to being a choking hazard, these sheets are laced with fabric conditioners that can irritate a pet's mouth and stomach if ingested.

Liquid potpourri

The essential oils in liquid potpourri can be very irritating to a pet's skin and mucous membranes and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and difficulty breathing.


Just like medicine can make us feel ill if it’s not suited for us humans, medicines can make pets very ill if it’s not prescribed by their veterinarian. Don’t give your pets ibuprofen or aspirin, and keep acetaminophen far out of reach from cats, as it can be fatal to them. 


Mothballs contain a chemical called naphthalene, a toxin that can damage red blood cells and cause neurological problems in pets.


The fumes from paints and solvents can be irritating to a pet's respiratory system and ingesting the liquids can cause vomiting, diarrhea and damage to the nervous system.

Rodent bait

Rodenticides in the bait are what kills pests, but they can also cause great damage to your pets if they ingest it, too!

Household cleaners

This may seem like a no-brainer since they can also be toxic to humans, but many cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can irritate a pet's mouth, stomach and skin. Because their bodies are smaller and they spend more of their lives on the floor, strong cleaners can affect them more than us. 

Play dough

While the dough itself may not be inherently toxic, the high salt content in play dough and salt dough can cause pets to drink excessively, leading to electrolyte imbalances, vomiting and seizures.  Also, if the dough contains artificial colors or fragrances, it can cause further stomach upset depending on the amount ingested.

Indoor plants that can make pets sick

Aloe vera

Though a great remedy for burns on humans, these succulents contain saponins and anthraquinones which are harmful to animals. 


Like many bulb plants, amaryllis leaves, stems, petals and bulbs are toxic to most pets. 


While not necessarily fatal, chrysanthemums contain a toxin called pyrethrin which can irritate a pet's mouth and stomach.

Pothos & philodendrons

Unfortunately, our favorite trailing indoor plants are a big no-no to pets. Pothos and philodendrons of all varieties are toxic to pets (and even humans!), so either keep them far away from animals or opt for a more pet-friendly plant!


Also known as widow’s-thriss, this flowering succulent plant contains cardiac glycosides, which can disrupt a pet's heart rhythm.


This includes daylilies, Gloriosa lilies, Lily-of-the valley, peace lilies and true lilies — if you have lilies, it’s best to just keep them well out of the way. 

Mother-in-Law’s tongue

Also known as snake plants or sansevierias, these popular spiky plants are also toxic to pets and should be kept well away from animals that are prone to nibbling and munching. 


Though these plants are popular indoor plants around Christmas and the holiday season, keep them out of reach of any curious pets, as they’re toxic!

Sago palm

All parts of the sago palm are toxic to pets, but the seeds are especially dangerous. Choose a different palm for your apartment if you still want some leafy greenery! 


Also known as the umbrella plant, schefflera contains toxins that irritate a pet's mouth, stomach and skin, so keep it far from your animals’ reach!

What to do if you think your pet is sick?

If you think your pet may have ingested any of these items — or even an item that you aren’t sure of — then your best bet is to call your veterinarian as soon as you can. They’ll be able to let you know what to do and whether or not you have cause for concern. 

At the end of the day, we all want our pets to be happy and healthy in our homes. These are some good ways to keep their environment a safe place free of sickness and dangers!

Good luck!

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Featured photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives on Oahu in Hawai'i. She loves to travel, camp, spearfish and hike. She's also part of a super cool canoe club and is pretty decent at it. Colleen enjoys Star Wars and also not being cold ever.

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