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

Most homes contain dangerous chemicals and caustic substances that may be toxic to dogs. Adult 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 dog owners protect their 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. Some chemicals can be harmful to dogs if they are ingested, inhaled, or make contact with skin. In some cases, chemicals can enter the bloodstream and affect the major organs. Certain chemicals may be considered safe for humans but can still harm dogs.

If you treat your yard with chemicals, be sure your dog does not have access to the yard until it is dry (and make sure that the chemical it is safe once dry). The same applies to carpet cleaners and cleansers used where your dog may walk. Be aware of your dog's location when spraying chemicals into the air or onto surfaces.

Household Substances Toxic to Dogs

Certain substances commonly found in and around the home can pose a high toxicity risk to dogs.

  • Antifreeze: Ethylene glycol is a toxic chemical in antifreeze. Sadly, this is a common poison in dogs. Antifreeze tastes good to dogs, 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 irritate, ulcerate, or even eat through the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Bleach: This chemical is caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. In addition, the fumes are potentially harmful, especially in closed spaces.
  • Drain cleaner: This is also caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. The fumes can be harmful, especially if the area is not well-ventilated.
  • Drugs and medications: Prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit/recreational drugs can be very harmful to dogs. The toxic effects depend on the type of drug and quantity ingested. In some cases, toxicity can easily cause death.
  • 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, causing poisoning, skin and mucous membrane irritation, and gastrointestinal obstruction. Gorilla Glue is perhaps one of the worst, often causing gastrointestinal obstruction.
  • Herbicides: Like fertilizer, herbicides can cause irritation to your dog's feet and skin if he walks through it, especially if it's still wet. If ingested, your dog could experience toxic effects.
  • Household cleaners and detergents: Depending on the chemical, these can be dangerous if ingested, inhaled, or if they come into contact with the skin.
  • Kerosene: This is caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. The 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, ever put motor oil on your dog. It is very harmful to the skin and dangerous if ingested. Motor oil can easily kill a dog.
  • Mulch containing cocoa bean shells: This type of mulch is a tasty yet dangerous snack for dogs. The toxic effects are the same as chocolate poisoning.
  • Nail polish/nail polish remover (acetone): This is caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. The fumes are potentially harmful. Also, nail polish can become glued to the hair.
  • Paint, varnish, lacquers, sealants, stains: All of these are caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. The fumes are potentially harmful. Some of these may also dry on fur and can be difficult to remove.
  • Paint thinners and paintbrush cleaners (mineral spirits, turpentine, etc.): All of these are caustic to the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. The fumes are potentially harmful.
  • Pesticides: When wet, many types of pesticides can irritate the skin, mucous membranes, and GI tract. Some are still harmful when dry.
  • 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 De-icers: These can irritate the skin and feet of dogs. They are also potentially harmful if ingested.

Note that this is not a complete list of household toxins. Remember that any item in or around your home can pose a risk for your dog.

Keep your dog away from areas where liquid chemicals have been recently sprayed. Many are safe once dry, but find out which ones are safe and only use those.

Learn about the safety of products before you purchase and use them. Try to use as many pet-safe products as possible. Keep dangerous items where your dog absolutely cannot find them and remember that some dogs will be destructive to get to forbidden areas.

What To Do If Your 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 even 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.

  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).
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.