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Household Pet Dangers: Plants, People Food and Cords

When I teach about pet first aid and CPR, I always emphasize that prevention against household pet dangers is vitally important in keeping your cat or dog safe and healthy. But when I start listing some of these dangers, pet owners are surprised to learn that their own homes might not be the safe pet environments they believed them to be. Frankly, there are too many household pet dangers to list here, so we’ll have another post or two on this topic. For now, I want to focus on three household pet dangers: plants, people food, and cords (including electrical wires).

Plants Can Be Highly Toxic to Pets

Many varieties of plants can be toxic and even deadly to your household pets. If you have pets who love to chew on greenery (grass, plants outside, plants inside), you can protect them in two ways: 1) only keep non-toxic plants in your environment, or 2) use a spray like bitter apple on the leaves of toxic plants to make them unappealing to your pets.

Which plants are toxic? For a complete list of toxic plants that can endanger your pets, visit But here are a few of the beautiful-but-deadly varieties of common plants often seen in homes:

  • Lilies. These are highly toxic to cats. In fact, certain species (lilium and hemerocallis) can lead to kidney failure if ingested, even in small amounts.
  • Lily of the Valley. In particular, oleander and foxglove can cause heart problems in pets.
  • Peace lily, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, philodendron, hibiscus and hydrangea. These varieties can cause intestinal distress.
  • Azalea, tulip/narcissus and rhododendron bulbs. If your pets ingest these plants, they can suffer intestinal and heart problems, depression, and even death.

People Food Can Be Poisonous to Pets

Sharing table scraps and snacks with your animals might seem like love (especially when they sit up at the table and beg pitifully), but this can be unhealthy – and even lethal — for your pets. Dietary dangers abound for dogs and cats, and some foods even pose an immediate risk if ingested. Common ones include:

  • Caffeine (coffee grounds, diet pills, etc.)
  • Chocolate (especially dark chocolate or high cocoa percentage baking chocolate)
  • Cough drops with menthol, grapes and raisins (dogs)
  • Tea
  • Vitamin supplements
  • The artificial sweetener xylitol, which is found in sugar free  gum, candy, and baked goods

And don’t forget that nuts can be highly toxic to dogs, especially macadamia nuts. As few as five nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, lack of coordination and tremors for a 44-pound dog. Fortunately, these symptoms typically resolve themselves within 48 hours.

As with toxic plants, for a complete list of toxic foods for pets, visit

Wires and Cords Can Be Deadly

Every home has electrical wires and appliance cords. But these can be serious household pet dangers. This has been played for laughs in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the family cat chewed on a cord and fried the family Christmas tree (and, even more sadly, the cat). But the dangers of electrocution, burns, choking and strangulation are no laughing matter.

To keep curious cats and dogs away from electrical wires, vets recommend you stow as much of their length as possible in drawers and cabinets. If wires must remain out, spray their exterior surface with a nontoxic repellant spray, such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple, or wrap them in Crittercord, a chew-proof, citrus-scented clear plastic sheath.

Bottom Line: Safety

Obviously, there are many more household pet dangers. Do a walk-through of your home and use a critical eye to assess the dangers. In addition to the dangerous items I’ve listed here, other dangers include medications, cleaning products, and even flea and tick prevention products if used incorrectly or ingested by your pets. I’ll cover those household pet dangers in another post. And if you think your pet has ingested something that might be toxic, call your vet or emergency pet care provider immediately.

If you’d like a more complete listing of items that are poisonous to pets, get the PetSaver app at Use referral code LB 1747.

And finally, if you aren’t comfortable leaving your pet at home alone, let us know. We specialize in in-home pet sitting services for dogs and cats. Contact us at 317.224.5243.


If you are looking for a pet sitter in Indianapolis, Carmel, Zionsville and nearby areas in Central Indiana, you’ve come to the right place. At Ask Linda Pet Sitting, we specialize in cat sitting, dog sitting, dog walking, and professional in-home pet care. We are not veterinarians, but we follow pet safety procedures and are trained for pet emergency situations. Above all, at Ask Linda Pet Sitting, we believe in education and proactive pet health. Linda is the only NAPPS certified pet sitter in Indianapolis, and is also a certified pet First Aid/CPR/Wellness instructor. Want to learn more? Ask Linda! 

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