Keeping your companion animal safe is one good way to help prevent animal cruelty. Don’t let your pet be the victim of a cruel act. The NJSPCA receives many calls about poisoned animals and they’ve provided these helpful hints to prevent malicious poisoning.

  1. Do routine checks of your pet’s enclosed area.
  2. Be sure to remove unfamiliar or questionable items from the enclosure.
  3. Develop relationships with neighbors who have pets to create a sort of neighborhood watch for your pets.
  4. Teach your pet not to accept food or treats from strangers.
  5. Don’t allow pets to have access to neighbor’s yards and trash cans, address neighbors’ concerns about your pets in a positive, constructive manner to avoid serious conflicts
  6. Report suspicious behavior to local authorities.
  7. If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, call your local Animal Poison Control Center or Veterinary Hospital.


Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate (all forms)
  • Coffee (all forms)
  • Fatty foods
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Onions, onion powder
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough
  • Garlic
  • Products sweetened with xylitol

Warm Weather Hazards

  • Animal toxins—toads, insects, spiders, snakes and scorpions
  • Blue-green algae in ponds
  • Citronella candles
  • Cocoa mulch
  • Compost piles
  • Fertilizers
  • Flea products
  • Outdoor plants and plant bulbs
  • Swimming-pool treatment supplies
  • Fly baits containing methomyl
  • Slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde


Common examples of human medications that can be potentially lethal to pets, even in small doses, include:

  • Pain killers
  • Cold medicines
  • Anti-cancer drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Vitamins
  • Diet Pills

Cold Weather Hazards

  • Antifreeze ( see Video )
  • Liquid potpourri
  • Ice melting products

Common Household Hazards

  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Mothballs
  • Post-1982 pennies (due to high concentration of zinc)

Holiday Hazards

  • Christmas tree water (may contain fertilizers and bacteria, which, if ingested, can upset the stomach.
  • Electrical cords
  • Ribbons or tinsel (can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction—most often occurs with kittens!)
  • Batteries
  • Glass ornaments

Non-toxic Substances for Dogs and Cats

The following substances are considered to be non-toxic, although they may cause mild gastrointestinal upset in some animals:

  • Water-based paints
  • Toilet bowl water
  • Silica gel
  • Poinsettia
  • Cat litter
  • Glue traps
  • Glow jewelry


All of us love our homes smelling fresh and fragrant, and go to great lengths to ensure that they do so. But before setting out that lovely potpourri simmer pot, pet owners should take heed: many liquid potpourri formulations contain ingredients such as essential oils and detergents that could be quite hazardous to our furry companions, as an analysis of calls to Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has shown.

“The major share of our cases has involved cats,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president of the APCC, “most likely because cats have greater access to the simmer pots which are usually kept on countertops or other high-level surfaces.” Of the more than 330 liquid potpourri cases the APCC has managed since 2001, 87 percent involved felines, while the remaining 13 percent involved dogs.

Most exposures occur when cats lap up the heated liquid from the simmer pot, or when liquid spills on their fur from a leaky container or bumped pot, and they ingest the substance while subsequently grooming themselves. The essential oils that many of these products may contain could possibly cause skin, mucous membrane or gastrointestinal irritation as well as central nervous system depression. For reasons that are not entirely clear, cats also appear to be more sensitive to the effects of such exposure than are dogs.

According to Dr Hansen, the more significant injuries are typically a result of thermal burns or from exposure to a specific type of detergent. “Thermal burns can occur from contact with the hot liquid, while a class of detergents known as ‘cationics’ are usually responsible for severe ulceration of the membranes of the mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract with ingestions. Where there is contact with skin, redness, swelling and extremely painful lesions can appear.”

Symptoms of these exposures include drooling, vomiting, depression, a drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing from fluid on the lungs and metabolic disturbances, depending on the circumstances of exposure. Of the cases managed by the APCC since 2001, close to 90 percent involved clinical signs deemed to have been related to liquid potpourri exposure—10 percent of which included life-threatening effects or, in rare cases, even death. “Fortunately, if treated promptly, most animals make a full recovery,” says Dr. Hansen. “However, it is important to note that treating these exposures can be very extensive and may involve a lengthy hospitalization.”

Because of the risk for serious illness, pet owners should place potpourri simmer pots and unused liquid in rooms where pets cannot gain access. Also consider using relatively safer alternatives, such as plug-in or solid air fresheners used in out-of-reach locations, not in close proximity to pets with sensitive respiratory tracts such as birds.