ASPCA Announces Top 10 Toxins of 2019 to Kickoff National Poison Prevention Week

Human OTC medications remain on top of ASPCA’s annual list of harmful toxins for pets
March 16, 2020

NEW YORK – Today the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) is recognizing National Poison Prevention Week (March 15-21) with the release of its yearly list of Top Toxins. The annually updated data is a critical resource for pet owners, veterinarians, and shelters nationwide, helping to keep animals safe and healthy. The APCC, which operates 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, handled over 230,000 cases in 2019, spanning all 50 states and countries across the world.

Each year, the number of pet owners calling in to report possible poisonings is gradually growing across the nation,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, Senior Director, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “The increase in cases shows that people are more aware of potential toxins. As responsible pet parents, it is our duty to take a look at the homes we share with our animals and create a safe environment with all potentially harmful toxins out of paw’s reach.”

Leading the list for the second year are human over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which made up approximately 20 percent of the year’s total call volume. With the spreading popularity in e-cigarettes and nicotine chewing gum, nicotine toxicity leads the OTC medication cases.  Because these items are easily accessible to pets in homes, purses, and backpacks, we urge pet owners to take extra precautions and keep all toxic items locked behind closed doors and cabinets. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and herbal supplements also fall within this category and can all cause life-threatening medical issues.

The items on the Top Toxins list accounted for over 96 percent of APCC’s total cases for the year.

  • Throughout 2019, APCC handled over 39,000 cases involving prescription medications such as antidepressants, ADHD, cardiac and thyroid medications. Similar to OTC medications, these can all cause dangerous symptoms in pets such as gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure.
  • Food products, which occupy the third spot, accounted for over 12 percent of total cases, due in large part to concerns about the artificial sweetener xylitol, grapes and raisins, onions and garlic, and most recently protein bars and powders.
  • Chocolate, which is listed separately from other foods, is the fourth most common toxin. In 2019, APCC received the equivalent of over 67 cases of chocolate toxicity per day.
  • The fifth most prevalent toxin on this year’s list is veterinary products, which includes chewable pet medications. These medications are designed to be enticing to pets and can therefore be dangerous when a curious dog ingests the entire bottle mistaking them for treats.
  • The remaining five toxins on the list are household items such as cleaning products and rodenticide; indoor and outdoor plants; insecticides and gardening products including fertilizer.

Two of the thousands of animals assisted by APCC in 2019 were Marvin and Murphy, two small dogs who ingested an entire container of sugar-free chewing gum. In May 2019, Marvin and Murphy’s owner, Pamela Conway of Chicago, IL, came home to find that her two dogs had eaten around 24 pieces of gum between the two of them. Both dogs were showing signs of xylitol poisoning, a popular ingredient in sugar-free gums and candies that can cause life-threatening issues such as liver damage and possible death in pets, so Pamela made an urgent call to APCC. After speaking with a toxicology expert, she was able to assess the needs of Marvin and Murphy and rush them to their local veterinarian immediately. Through follow up calls with APCC and treatments from their local vet, Marvin and Murphy both made a full recovery.

For more information about the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, please visit If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435 or contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible.