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11 of the Most Common Household Health Risks For Pets

Could the biggest danger to your fur baby be in your own home? Here are 11 health risks for pets you can eliminate right now.

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Health risks for pets - easter liliesPhoto: Shutterstock

Flowers and plants that pose a health risk to pets

Easter Lilies

While they may be pretty, lilies are one of the most poisonous plants for cats. Petside suggests keeping them out of the house (or better yet, purchase artificial flowers). Be aware of symptoms of lily poisoning which include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Call your vet as soon as possible if you think your pet has ingested lily. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says that without immediate care, cats who eat lily may develop life-threatening kidney failure within 36 to 72 hours of ingestion. (By the way, here are 50 secrets your pet wishes they could tell you.)


Holiday poinsettias are also dangerous for pets, though not as worrisome as the lily. This doesn’t mean your pet should eat this pretty red Christmas decoration, since doing so will likely lead to stomach pain and discomfort, including vomiting.

The ASPCA’s compiled a searchable plant database of dangerous plants (listing over 400 items). Check it out if you are considering bringing a new plant home.

Psst—this is why cats are afraid of cucumbers.

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Health risks for pets - chocolatePhoto: Shutterstock

Foods that pose a health risk to pets


Chocolate might have plenty of health benefits for humans, but it’s a harmful food for pets. Petside says most adults know this, but that it’s adults’ responsibility to make sure children know, too. Keep little ones from giving chocolate to pets and do your best to supervise.

All kinds of candy—including candy wrappers

Too much sugar can give your pet a bellyache, but worse, if wrappers are swallowed, your pet risks tearing of the esophagus or intestines. Clean up as best and frequently as you can when candy is being unwrapped.

More harmful foods

Your pets should also steer clear of chewing gum, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, avocados, onions, garlic, salt, raw yeast dough, and fatty foods.

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Health risks for pets - Easter decorationsPhoto: Shutterstock

Holiday health risks for pets

Easter and Christmas decorations

Plastic eggs, if ingested, can rip tears in the digestive system. Likewise, spoiled hard boiled eggs, if ingested, can make pets ill. Easter grass and tinsel are attractive, but deadly. Pets who attempt to eat these garlands and garnishes can choke, or lethally damage their intestines. At Easter, try real grass or crumpled paper instead. At Christmas, cat-proof your tree by avoiding tinsel.

Other holiday safety tips for pets:

New Year’s: Forego confetti and keep an eye on balloons. If they deflate, they become a choking hazard.

Valentine’s Day: Keep their paws off the chocolates and far from the flowers.

Thanksgiving: Throw turkey bones in the trash.

Halloween: Use flameless candles, and keep candy out of harm’s way. (Speaking of Halloween, you won’t want to miss these adorable Halloween dog costume ideas.)

Christmas: Keep pets out of tree water, and be attentive when they show interest in ornaments, decoration hooks and ribbon. Here are more holiday safety mistakes you didn’t realize you were making.

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Health risks for pets - toysPhoto: Shutterstock

Toys can pose a health risk to pets

Small, brightly coloured toys hold the same appeal for pets as they do children. The problem is that they are choking hazards. Petside’s advice is to keep small toys in a place safely hidden from pets.

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Health risks for pets - coffeePhoto: Shutterstock

Drinks that are health risks for pets

Coffee, tea, and alcohol

Coffee and tea leaves are on the ASPCA’s list of People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet, as is alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, and breathing difficulty, among other things.

Could you be stressing out your pooch without realizing it? Check out these surprising reasons your dog is anxious.

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Health risks for pets - batteries and other small itemsPhoto: Shutterstock

Batteries (and other small items) can be health risks for pets

Many small items can lead to choking—even things you would never expect your pet would attempt eating. Be mindful of buttons, small batteries, twist ties, and rubber bands. In the bathroom, keep hairpins, cotton swabs, and dental floss out of reach from your pet. Cut down on clutter throughout your home with these organization tips from Marie Kondo.

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Health risks for pets in the garagePhoto: Shutterstock

Health risks for pets in the garage

If your pet is your shadow and frequently follows you around the house, remember that garage and storage areas need special attention, too. Keep cleaning supplies, antifreeze, fertilizer, de-icing materials and pesticides in a place pets can’t easily access. “Products containing metaldehyde, such as some slug pellets and firelighters, are extremely toxic, and should be kept away from pets,” according to Blue Cross. “Antifreeze and de-icer fluids taste sweet, but are also poisonous.” (As if having a furry companion wasn’t enough of a reason to grin, did you know that your dog actually loves when you smile?)

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Health risks for pets - bonesPhoto: Shutterstock

Bones pose a health risk for pets

While eating meat off the bone might be tastier, if your pet gets a hold of one of those bones it could be bad news. Just like hazardous objects that might be laying around the house, it’s especially important to keep an eye on where your food leftovers end up. “Cooked bones splinter and can cut your dog’s mouth,” says Dana Humphrey, A.K.A. The Pet Lady. “If swallowed, they can puncture their stomach or esophagus too.” The same goes for bone “toys” you find in pet stores—which is why you should never, ever buy one.

Learn how to read your dog’s facial expressions.

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Health risks for pets - sticksPhoto: Shutterstock

Sticks can be a health risk for pets

Your dog might love to play fetch, but you might want to think twice before you pick up that stick outside. Sticks, especially small ones, can pose as serious choking hazards. Instead, Blue Cross suggests throwing a plastic, indestructible object that’s too big for your pet to accidentally swallow.

Psst—this is why dogs spin around before they poop.

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Health risks for pets - trash cansPhoto: Shutterstock

Trash cans

It’s easy to forget that trash cans can be health risks for pets, too. Your garbage can might have bones, chocolate, coffee grounds—essentially, a checklist of dangerous items that your fur baby should be nowhere near.  “Make sure your garbage pail comes with a secure lid so you don’t have to worry about Fido or Fluffy getting their paws on discarded rib bones or leftover chocolate cake,” says The Pet Lady, Dana Humphrey.

Think you’re raising a four-legged genius? Here’s how to tell if your dog is smart.

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Health risks for pets - medicinePhoto: Shutterstock

Medication can pose a serious health risk for pets

Just like humans, if you take medication that isn’t meant for you, it’s probably not a good idea. Human medication isn’t meant for your pets, and might even cause more harm than good. “Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol are particularly dangerous,” says Blue Cross. “Vitamin and mineral supplements can also be dangerous, particularly iron tablets and products containing zinc.” The same concept applies to different animals: never give your dog cat medication, and vice versa.

Be sure to check out the ASPCA site for tips on keeping your pet safe and poison-proofing your home.

[Sources:,, and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.]

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest