February 11, 2022

With Spring (finally) here and summer approaching it’s nice to have a little reminder of the products that can hurt our pets.



What many people don’t realize is that cocoa bean mulch is made of discarded hulls or shells of the cocoa bean, which are by-products of chocolate production. The “chocolate-like” smell often attracts dogs and may encourage them to eat the mulch. Processed cocoa bean hulls can contain dangerous levels of theobromine and caffeine, although many varieties contain very low amounts of the toxins and are not as dangerous as dog owners are often led to believe.

It’s best to keep dogs a safe distance away, to always supervise your pet while outside, or to not use the mulch at all since it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and in extreme cases, death.


While most are not very toxic (resulting in minor gastrointestinal irritation when consumed), some fertilizers can be fatal without treatment.

Here are a few ingredients to be aware of so you know what toxins and symptoms to watch out for.


HIGHLY DANGEROUS! Some of these fertilizers contain disulfoton or other types of organophosphates (OP). As little as 1 teaspoon of 1% disulfoton can kill a 55 lb dog, so be careful!


Dangerous if high amounts are ingested. Ingesting large amounts of either can result in vomiting and diarrhea. Large amounts of blood or bone meal can lead to an obstruction or pancreatitis. Ingesting high amounts of Iron can affect the liver and heart.


Toxic to pets and wildlife so please keep it fenced off. As the organic matter decomposes, it is common for molds to grow, some of which produce hazardous tremorgenic mycotoxins, that can result in sickness and physical distress in as little as 30 minutes when ingested. Symptoms include agitation, panting, drooling, vomiting, tremors and seizures. Prompt veterinary treatment with appropriate supportive care usually results in a good prognosis.

10 Human Medications Most Frequently Ingested By Pets:

  1. NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve, and Motrin): Just one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Dogs, cats, birds, and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils, and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.
  2. Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol): One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting its ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.
  3. Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro): While these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors, and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
  4. ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin): Even minimal ingestions of ADD and ADHD medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures, and heart problems.
  5. Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta): About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedated. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.
  6. Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone): Birth control pills often come in packages that dogs find irresistible. Thankfully, small ingestions of these medications typically do not cause trouble. However, large ingestions of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, particularly in birds. Additionally, female pets that are intact (not spayed), are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.
  7. ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace): Overdoses can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, and weakness, but this category of medication is typically quite safe. Pets ingesting small amounts of this medication can potentially be monitored at home unless they have kidney failure or heart disease. All heart medications should be kept out of reach of pets.
  8. Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg): Small ingestions of beta-blockers may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.
  9. Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid): Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. Therefore, if dogs accidentally get into thyroid hormones at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate, and aggression.
  10. Cholesterol-lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor): Ingesting “statins” only cause mild vomiting or diarrhea. Serious side effects from these drugs come with long-term use, not one-time ingestions.

If your pet has ingested any product and you are unsure if it is safe please contact the Pet Poison Helpline.

Pet Poison Helpline