Summer is well and truly upon us and the new year is well under way, which means if you are lucky, you are enjoying some much-deserved down time after a busy 2019. While the holidays are certainly highly anticipated, changes to routines are bound to happen (think parties, barbecues, visitors and guests in and out of your home), which can lead to some very simple oversights when it comes to your beloved dog or cat.  

While the festivities are fun, there is an abundant spike in pet poisonings over the holiday period, usually as a result of pre-occupied pet owners who simply don’t realise these common, but ever so toxic household favourites are lurking in their homes at this time of year.  

Let’s break down 5 common pet poisons you’ll undoubtedly find in your home this new year: 


This one comes as no surprise – we’ve all known forever that Fido must not partake in the leftover Christmas choccies, no matter what. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both toxins which will speed up your dogs’ heart rate and effect his nervous system. Still though, we commonly see a poorly pooch admitted to the clinic because even though he knows it’s bad for him, Fido inevitably finds the stash of Favourites and goes wild, devouring every last one, wrapper and all. It happens, more often than you’d expect, and it can happen in your home too.  

Ensure that all leftover chocolate treats are hidden well out of sight in a spot that your dog or cat cannot reach. This might seem easy but it’s really not – where there is a will, there is a way after all. Child-proof locks on pantry doors are a great way to prevent any ‘accidents’, and leaving boxes, wrapped or not on countertops, in drawers or on the dining room table for guests is a recipe for disaster. If you suspect your dog has hit the chocolate jackpot in your absence, look for signs like vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination and increased heart rate as your warning. The level of toxicity will depend greatly on how much chocolate has been consumed, the type of chocolate and how large your dog is; and symptoms will usually present within 6 hours of the feeding frenzy. 

Human Medication 

Trying to deal with the headache you scored from one too many over the holiday period? We totally get it. But those packets of seemingly innocent Nurofen, Panadol, Ibuprofen and even Ventolin can have nasty effect on your dog or cat. If consumed, your headache tablet will be rapidly absorbed into your pets bloodstream, where it will wreak havoc on the liver and kidneys, recycling through their systems and multiplying adverse health effects. Because your meds can impact on all of your pets’ internal systems (gastrointestinal, respiratory, lymphatic etc), the symptoms of poisoning can be many and varied. Keep a keen eye on your pet if you notice a sudden change in urination frequency, decreased appetite and increased thirst, tummy pains, sleepiness and vomiting and/or diarrhea (sometimes with blood in the vomit or stools). Contact your vet immediately. 


Yep, you guess it, booze is a highly toxic but super accessible pet poison we’ll no doubt find in your home this new year. While you may not think your pet would appreciate a cheeky glass of bubbles, it has been known to happen, and the effects can be quite tragic. Alcohol is also present in your Christmas pudding, your bread dough left to rise on the kitchen counter, and the apples decomposing in your compost.  

When ethanol (alcohol) is ingested, small animals will exhibit signs of sedation, and if left untreated, can also have breathing rates fall dangerously low and even fall into a coma state. Treatment is usually successful but seeking Veterinary advice as quickly as possible is always advised. 


Onions, along with his cousins Garlic, Leek and Chives are toxic to both dogs and cats. Appearing usually 24 hours after ingestion, these delicious morsels found in just about every ounce of leftover you’ve got in your fridge at the moment, can have dangerous effects on your pets’ blood cells. Check for vomiting, diarrhea, weakness or limpness, fast breathing and red urine if you are worried your house guests have given your fur-baby one too many offerings under the table.  


In season and so delicious at the moment, everyone has grapes in their Supermarket trolleys at this time of year. The trouble is that grapes, even when dried into sultanas, can lead to kidney failure in dogs. While not every pooch will react adversely to a mouthful of leftover Christmas raisin cookies or a swipe at your delicious cheese and fruit board, some will suffer the effects after eating only one. Symptoms usually present within a day of ingestion and include loss of appetite, listlessness, vomiting and obvious abdominal pain. Don’t take the risk, and keep grapes in all their varieties, cooked, dried or raw, away from your poochie foodie.  

Essential Oils 

Trying to freshen up your home and cover the smells from the yesterdays’ barbecue (or the hangover)? Think again before you reach for those essential oils. Aromatherapy fragrances found in air fresheners and diffusers like peppermint, tea tree and ylang-ylang are toxic for your pets. You’ll commonly find these in your cleaning products, scented sprays, bathroom soaps and cosmetics too. If you’ve noticed your pet is drooling, having a hard time catching his breath or is having difficulty moving around, head to your vet’s as soon as you can. If you have a pooch who’ll have a good ol’ sniff and a lick of just about anything he can get his paws too, your best bet to avoid these products altogether and opt for a non-scented alternative like white vinegar and bi-carb soda. 


House guests can’t stand to arrive empty-handed, and we’ll bet our last dollar they’ve arrived at your place with a lovely bouquet of flowers to say thanks for your hospitality. While the gesture is sweet and the intention is good, there are a whole cluster of flower varietals that can and will cause total pandemonium in your cats’ body if they so much as lick water from the vase or clean up pollen off of a paw. Easter lilies, peace lilies, philodendrons, azaleas and trusty old lavender are just a few of the plants that many pet owners have no idea are dangerous to have in the house while there are pets about. Vomiting and diarrhea will be the first signs to look out for. 

The best way to combat any concerns about common poisons found in your home this January, is to treat your dog or cat like they’re a curious two-year old ready to get their paws (or nose) onto anything they can. If determined enough, like a toddler, your pet will get into drawers, onto picnic tables, through a wrapped present or onto the kitchen counter, so preparation is key here.  

Ensure you’ve: 

  • Removed all known toxins from your home, like flower varietals or scents that could harm your pet 
  • Put foods that are toxic on high selves in child-proofed cupboards and sealed containers 
  • Removed any leftovers from the table once you’re done 
  • Lift remaining wrapped Christmas presents and stored them away from temptations eye 
  • Stored your medications is a safe, locked first aid kit 
  • Opted for scent-free, natural cleaning products and air freshener 

If you do suspect that your dog or cat can ingested something poisonous –  

  • Call your vet immediately and share details of symptoms  
  • Try to get an idea of what your dog/cat has swallowed 
  • Transport your pet calmly and safely to your vet as quickly as possible 
  • Never try to make your dog or cat vomit at home – some poisons will do just as much damage on the way back up as they do going down. Seek professional assistance.  

If you have any questions about common household poisons or if you’d like our recommendations on pet-friendly products that are safe to use in and around your home, give us a call on 03 9369 1822 or book in an appointment at Direct Vet Services here.