Protecting Your Pet from Poisons

We all know that we must keep our pets away from rat poison and antifreeze; however there are many items in our homes that can be also harmful to our pets. On this page you will find many common items around your home that are toxic to your animals, what symptoms to look for if you think a toxin been ingested, and what steps you should take after the poison is in your pet’s system.

Human medications are number one on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) list for top 10 poisons. Both over the counter and prescription medicines need to be kept out of the reach of your pets. Common side effects for the consumption of human medications include fatigue, nervousness, stumbling, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, facial swelling, trouble breathing, muscle tremors, and seizures.

Most houseplants have some level of toxicity and should be kept out of your pet’s nibble range. Some of the more common toxic house plants include (but not limited too): Philodendron, Peace Lilies, Schefflera, Shamrock Plant, Ivy, Jade Plant, Lilies, Hyacinth, Amaryllis, Aloe, Azalea/Rhododendron, Babies Breath, Begonia, Cyclamen, and Bamboo. Poinsettia, commonly considered a highly toxic plant, is actually quite overrated – consumption of an entire plant will cause only transient vomiting. If you would like a more complete list of poisonous plants visit the ASPCA List of Poisonous Plants.

Below is a list of the other most common poisons found in and around your home. There are many other toxins not found on the list, so if your pet has gotten into something you think might be poisonous and is not found on the list, please call us immediately!

Toxin Side Effects
Acetaminophen, Tylenol, Ibuprofen Blue gums, shortness of breath, facial swelling, depression, lowering body temperature
Ant/Roach Baits Panting, shortness of breath, stumbling, blue gums, facial muscle twitching, trembling, seizures
Antifreeze Nausea, vomiting, depression, wobbling, stumbling, seizures, irregular heartbeat, irregular breathing
Apple Seeds, peach pits, Apricot Pits, Cherry pits Breathing problems, signs of shock, red gums and nose, staggering, seizures, confusion
Batteries Salivation, burns in the mouth, vomiting, pain, abdominal tenderness, breathing fast, increased heart rate
Birth Control Pills Vomiting and diarrhea
Bone Meal or Blood Meal Stomach upset and can cause blockage in the digestive system
Bread Dough Abdominal pain, bloat, vomiting, stumbling, depression
Chocolate High blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, nervousness, tremors, seizures, panting
Cigarettes, Tobacco Products and Tabaco Quitting Aids Excited, hyperactive, fast heartbeat, salivation, diarrhea, urination, muscle twitching, seizures, shallow respiration
Cleaning products Irritation of mouth, drooling, difficulty swallowing, pain, lesions in mouth, vocalization, panting, airway swelling, abdominal pain, bloody vomit
Coffee, tea, pop, coffee Grounds Irregular heartbeat, low body temperature, tremors, seizures, easily excitable
Compost or molding foods Excessive salivation, restlessness, muscle tremors, seizures
Fertilizers Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, gum and nose irritation, fever, tremors, weakness, seizures
Garlic Pale gums, irregular heartbeat, lethargic, weak vomiting, diarrhea
Glow in the Dark items Severe drooling, aggression, hiding, hyperactivity
Gorilla Glue Painful abdomen, hunched posture, gaging, lethargy
Grapes, Raisins Kidney failure: vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, irregular urine production
Herbicides Irritated nose, gums, eyes, seizures, easily excited, incoordination, vomiting, diarrhea, problems breathing
Hops Panting, irregular heartbeat, rapidly temperature raising, seizures
Ice melting products Vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, tremors, seizures (Can also cause sore paws!)
Insecticide Lack of control of facial muscles, salivation, blindness, deafness, shortness of breath, shedding tears, constricting pupils
Liquid Fuels Inflammation of the eye, nausea, vomiting, depression, blue gums, weak pulse, convulsions, diarrhea – possibly bloody, wobbling, fixed pupils
Macadamia Nuts Weakness pronounced in the rear limbs, depression, vomiting, stiffness, shaking, toe tapping hind leg, abdominal pain, high temperature
Mothballs Nausea, vomiting, seizures
Mushrooms Seizures, hallucinations, depression, stumbling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, salivation
Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts, almonds Excessive salivation, restlessness, muscle tremors, seizures
Onions Pale gums, irregular heartbeat, lethargic, weak vomiting, diarrhea
Pennies Vomiting, diarrhea, depression, weakness
Plants Species dependant (See below!) – Vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hyper salivation, tremors
Potpourri Irritation of the gums, mouth, tongue, esophagus, vomiting, salivation, intense pain, low body temperature
Rodenticides Coughing, depression, weakness, bleeding from gums and nose, bloody stool, bloody vomit, bloody urine
Silica Gel Packets Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
Xylitol (Sugarless candies, gums) Weakness, lethargy, vomiting


Gfeller, Roger W., and Shawn P. Messonnier.Handbook of Small Animal Toxicologyand Poisonings. St. Louis: Mosby, 2004. Print.

Lee, Justine A. DVM, DACVECC. Veterinary Information Network, INC. Top Ten Small Animal Toxins: Recognition, Diagnosis, Treatment. ACVIM, 2010.Web. 15 Dec. 2010.

Richardson, Jill DV. “Medical FAQ�s: Common Household Hazards.” Veterinary Information Network, INC. Web. 15 Dec. 2010.

“Top Ten Pet Poisons of 2009.” n.p.Web. 15 Dec. 2010.

“Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.” n.p.Web. 15 Dec. 2010.

Waddel, Lori S. DVM, DACVECC. Veterinary Information Network, INC. Household Hazards and Toxins (V306).University of Pennsylvania, 2009.Web. 15 Dec. 2010.


Deciding to euthanize a pet is an agonizing process. You will likely experience a wide range of complicated emotions as the time comes. It is important that you are prepared for this event and deal with the feelings as they come. There is great fear in not knowing what will occur on the day of the euthanization. Discuss this with your veterinarian and ask questions. Our veterinarians are very familiar with the experience and are able to talk with you about the process and feelings that go with it.

Spend time with your pet in the weeks or days leading up to the euthanasia. This will be a very special time for both of you. You will undoubtedly feel very emotional and sad but try to remain in control. Your pet will sense your feelings and you want this time to be as enjoyable as possible for them.

Decide whether you would like to be there during the euthanasia. Some people wish to be with their pet and officially say goodbye during the final moments. Others feel that the experience would be too much to handle. Whether you choose to be with your pet or not, be re-assured that you have given him a lifetime of love. Either decision you make is appropriate.

Arrange time to spend with your pet directly before the procedure. If you choose to be in the room, you can still have some private time with your pet beforehand. It is sometimes helpful to say goodbye in this final setting.

Talk to your family about euthanasia. Everyone should be able to share their thoughts and feelings on the process, and ultimately decide if they would like to be present or not. It can be a traumatic experience, so fully consider the outcomes prior to deciding.

Say goodbye to your pet. Take a few final moments to express your feelings. Do whatever you need to do to say goodbye.

You are not alone. There are many others experiencing similar grief.

Pet loss can be very challenging, and there are pet loss support groups available throughout the country. If you have specific questions or concerns about euthanasia or you would like more information regarding the diagnosis or treatment of your pet’s disease, please contact our veterinarians.

Flea Control for Cats

Where does my cat get fleas?

The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). Rarely rabbit fleas or hedgehog fleas are also found on cats.

The most important source of cat fleas is newly emerged adult fleas from pupae in your house or yard.  Adult fleas live and feed on our pets but the female flea lays eggs, which fall off into the environment. Under favorable conditions, these eggs develop first into larvae and then into pupae. The pupae contain adult fleas that lie in wait for a suitable animal host. Modern carpeted centrally-heated homes provide ideal conditions for the year-round development of fleas. The highest numbers of flea eggs, larvae and pupae will be found in areas of the house where pets spend the most time, such as their beds and furniture. Even though fleas may be in your house, you probably won’t see them; the eggs are too small to see without magnification and the larvae, which are just visible, migrate deep down in carpets, furniture or cracks in floors away from the light.

What effect do fleas have on my cat?

Many cats live with fleas but show minimal signs. However, the following problems can occur:

  • Some cats develop an allergy to flea bites, especially if they are repeatedly bitten. If these cats are bitten by fleas they groom or scratch excessively and develop skin disease.
  • Adult fleas live on animals and feed on blood. In kittens and debilitated animals this may cause anemia.
  • The flea acts as the intermediate host for the tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). Tapeworm eggs, which are shed within tapeworm segments in cat feces, are eaten by flea larvae that develop into infected fleas. Cats become infested by swallowing infected fleas during grooming. Any cat with fleas is likely also to have a tapeworm infestation.

How can I get rid of fleas on my cat?

This can be a demanding task and requires a three-pronged approach. Fleas need to be eliminated from your cat, from any other cats and dogs that you have, from your home and from your yard. Even this rigorous approach may not give 100% control as there are other sources of fleas that are beyond your control such as other people’s pets, wild animals and infested environments which your cat may come into contact with outside your house.

What products are available to treat my cat?

Insecticides applied to cats are designed to kill adult fleas. Many products have limited effectiveness because they only work for a few hours after application. This is particularly true of flea shampoos and powders; they kill fleas present on your cat at the time of application but have little residual effect so the day after use the cat may again have fleas. There are  new products with excellent residual activity that are available from your veterinarian. In addition to adulticides, there are several products on the market that contain insect growth regulators, which effectively sterilize the fleas and prevent flea infestations.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY – apply the product as instructed and repeat at the intervals stated.

How can I treat my home environment?

A number of different products are available which will kill the stages of the flea life cycle present in your home such as:

Insecticide sprays for use in the house

Sprays containing insect growth regulators (IGRs) for use in the house

Insecticides applied by professional pest control operatives in your house

Sprays for use in the house should be used in places where the flea eggs, larvae and pupae are likely to be. It is recommended that you treat the entire household first and then concentrate on the hot spots – your cat’s favorite dozing spots – such as soft furniture, beds and carpets. Once they hatch from the egg, flea larvae move away from the light and burrow deep into carpets and into other nooks and crannies where it is difficult to treat. Be sure to move cushions, furniture and beds to spray underneath. Other places larvae are likely to live include baseboards and the cracks in wooden floors.

Your pet’s bedding should be regularly washed in hot water or replaced. Regular and thorough vacuuming of your carpets, floors and soft furnishings can remove a large number of flea eggs, larvae and pupae that are present in your home. You will need to throw away the vacuum bag to prevent eggs and larvae from developing inside the vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming prior to the application of a spray to the house is recommended because the vibrations will encourage newly developed fleas to emerge from pupae, which will be killed by the insecticide.

How do I choose which products to use?

A flea control program needs to be individually tailored based on the lifestyle of your cat and other pets, and your family situation. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you about safe and effective flea control products.

Are insecticides safe for my cat and my family?

Insecticides for flea control should be safe both for pets and humans provided the manufacturer’s instructions are carefully followed. ONLY PURCHASE AND APPLY PRODUCTS LABELED FOR USE IN CATS TO YOUR CAT.  Never apply a dog flea-preventative to your cat, and keep your cat away from your dog if this product is used on a dog in the household!  

One should be particularly careful to avoid combining insecticides with similar modes of action. Always seek your veterinarian’s advice if you are unsure about this and always tell your veterinarian about any flea control products you may be using other than those which he has prescribed.

Certain types of pets (e.g. fish, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates) may be particularly susceptible to some products. Do not use any flea control products in the room in which these pets are kept without first consulting your veterinarian for advice.

I have not seen any fleas on my cat. Why has my veterinarian advised flea control?

Fleas are easy to find if a cat is heavily infested. If fleas are present in smaller numbers, it can be harder to see them and fleas move fast!  Try looking on the cat’s stomach, around the tail base and around the neck. Sometimes adult fleas cannot be found but “flea dirt” can be seen. This is fecal matter from the flea that contains partially digested blood and is a good indicator of the presence of fleas. Flea dirt is seen as small black specks or coiled structures; when placed on damp white tissue, they dissolve, leaving a reddish brown stain. Flea dirt may be found in cat’s bedding even when fleas cannot be found on the cat.

In cats that develop an allergy to fleas one of the symptoms is excessive grooming. Cats are very efficient at removing debris from their coat’s using their tongues and may succeed in removing all evidence of flea infestation such as adult fleas and flea dirt. One of the most common causes of feline allergic skin disease is flea allergy dermatitis. To investigate this possibility your veterinarian may advise rigorous flea control even though no fleas can be found. If the cat’s skin problem improves with flea control then it suggests that flea allergy is involved.


  This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM

Tick Prevention

What are ticks?

Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids similar to scorpions, spiders and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects by comparison have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.

What is the life cycle of the tick?

Ticks have four distinct life stages:

  1. Egg
  2. Six-legged larva
  3. Eight-legged nymph
  4. Adult

Females deposit from 3,000 to 6,000 eggs on the ground. Adult ticks seek host animals and after engorgement, mate.

How can my dog pick up ticks?

Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks are not commonly found in trees. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days if the ground temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius).

What are the different types of ticks?

There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks (Ixodidae) and “soft” ticks (Argasidae). Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered by dogs or cats.

Although there are at least 15 species of ticks in North America, only a few of these species are likely to be encountered. They include the:

  1. American dog tick
  2. Lone star tick
  3. Deer or Blacklegged tick
  4. Brown dog tick

Other tick species may be encountered in various regions. Your veterinarian will consult with you if you need additional information of specific species.


How can ticks be prevented?

There are many different types of tick preventatives available in the marketplace.  Some require less effort on the part of the owner than others.  Some products are available over the counter, while others are only available through your veterinarian.  There are effective monthly preventatives that are applied to the skin at the back of the neck and represent a convenient method of control for these ectoparasites.  Your veterinarian will make specific recommendations to keep your pet parasite free.

What should I do if I find a tick on me or my dog?

Use blunt tweezers or disposable gloves to handle the tick. If your fingers must be used, shield them with a tissue or paper towel. Infectious agents may be contracted through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin simply by handling infected ticks. This is especially important for people who “de-tick” pets because ticks infesting dogs and other domestic animals can carry Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis or other diseases capable of infecting humans.

Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal.

Pull the tick out straight out with a steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the chances of infection. Continue applying steady pressure even if the tick does not release immediately. It may take a minute or two of constant, slow pulling to cause the tick to release.

After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water. Home remedies such as applying petroleum jelly, grease, or a hot match to the rear of the tick are not recommended and do not work. These practices cause the tick to salivate and can actually increase the chance of getting a disease.

After removing the tick, you may wish to preserve it in rubbing alcohol. Be sure to label the container with information about the time and place where the tick bite occurred. This activity will help you to remember details of the incident if the rash or other symptoms associated with Lyme disease appear later. This information will also be of help to a veterinarian or physician diagnosing an illness.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.


Does My Cat Need an FeLV/FiV Test?

1The American Association of Feline Practioners (AAFP) recommends testing call cats for FeLV (feline Leukemia Virus) and FiV (feline Immunodeficiency Virus) under the following circumstances:

  • When cats are sick… Regardless of previous negative results.
  • When cats & kittens are newly adopted… Whether they will be entering a home with other cats or not.
  • When cats live in households with cats of unknown FiV/FeLV infection status… Infected cats can appear normal for years, during which time they may transmit the virus to uninfected cats.
  • When cats have had a potential exposure to other cats of unknown infection status, or have experienced a bite from a cat of unknown infection status…  Such cats should be tested a minimum of 60 days post-exposure.  Periodic testing may be recommended for cats at continued risk of exposure.
  • Annually, when cats are at high risk of infection…  Cats at high risk of infection include cats that fight and those that live with infected cats.