Common Toxicities

I’m sure most of us know or have a dog or cat that loves to eat everything. Unfortunately, we also know that there a lot of things that can be quite toxic to our pets! Did you know there is an ingredient in gum that is toxic to dogs? Or that those beautiful Lilies could be fatal to your cat? There is a very long list of poisonous items to our pets, but for this article, we will just touch on a few of the most common ones.For more detailed information, the Pet Poison Hotline has a very helpful website that lists items that are poisonous to our pets.


Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener that is commonly found in gum, toothpaste, sugar-free vitamins, and some peanut butter. Xylitol is toxic to dogs, and even one piece of gum could be very dangerous. It causes their blood sugar to drop very low (hypoglycemia) which can result in weakness, tremors, and seizures. At higher doses, it can also cause a destruction of liver tissue. It is ideal to get your dog to a veterinarian quickly after ingestion. Normally they can induce vomiting (if possible) and start and IV drip with added to sugar to correct the low blood sugar levels.  Blood tests will be performed to monitor liver enzymes.


Chocolate is a commonly known toxin to our cats and dogs. The more toxic chocolate is, the darker and less sweet chocolate such as cocoa, baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate. The toxicity is due to theobromine which causes vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythms, and at very high levels cause seizure and rarely death. If your pet ingests chocolate, contact your veterinarian, and they can calculate if the amount they ingested will be harmful and if treatment is needed.


Marijuana toxicity is most commonly seen in cats and dogs after ingesting marijuana or ingesting food mixed with marijuana. They can also be poisoned from second-hand smoke exposure. Signs associated with marijuana toxicity are severe depression, walking abnormally (ataxia), lethargy, vocalization, low heart rate and vomiting. If your pet ingested marijuana, it is important to call you veterinarian to assess your pet.


There are many different lilies, and it is important to know the type of lily your cat ingested. Some can be more benign like Calla lilies which cause irritation to the mouth and esophagus. Whereas other species of lilies like Tiger Lilies can be fatal. Ingestion of these lilies can cause acute kidney failure in your cat. This includes ingestion of the petals, leaves, even the water that has the pollen in it. If your cat ingests lilies, they should be seen by your veterinarian quickly for treatment.

It is not uncommon for our pets to eat things they shouldn’t, with that in mind we should be careful to prevent ingestion of harmful items. Be sure to put things away, out of ‘reach’ from our pets, and if something is accidently ingested call your veterinarian.

As mentioned above, Pet Poison Helpline has a long, detailed list of items that are poisonous to your pet

Written by Dr. Ashley Woo