Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

August 13, 2012

Poisonous to Pets: Common Household Toxins

In recent columns, Pet Talk has addressed poisonous foods and medications common in most homes. This week the focus is on miscellaneous poisonous items around the house including plants, pennies, and insecticides.


There are several plants that can be toxic to pets. Lilies, for example, are toxic to cats. The ingestion of any part of any type of lily can lead to kidney failure. The clinical signs can include vomiting, depression, or loss of appetite. If you suspect your cat of ingesting lilies, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

There is no antidote, and intense supportive care is needed for cats to recover.

Also, sago palms are a common decorative house plant that is toxic to pets. The seeds, leaves, and cones of the plant can cause acute liver failure. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

“If your pet ingests sago, and it shows the clinical signs of poisoning, the prognosis is guarded to poor,” said Dr. Dorothy Black, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “There is no antidote and supportive care is extensive and includes blood transfusions.”

Black explained that poinsettias are usually “non” to “mildly” toxic. Pets ingesting this plant either have no clinical signs or gastrointestinal discomfort.

“Poinsettias are usually referred to as highly toxic, but they really aren’t,” Black said. “So feel free to display the poinsettias at Christmas!”


It may be surprising to some people, but pennies minted after 1981 contain significant quantities of the metal zinc. When ingested,excess zinc is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and causes red blood cells to break apart. Pets, then, become anemic showing signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, port/wine colored urine, and yellowing of the skin and gums.

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