Animal welfare group reveals top toxins from 2023


The ASPCA spreads awareness for National Poison Prevention Week

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has an Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) which consists of a team of 163 veterinary professionals, with 22 board-certified veterinary toxicologists. The APCC is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year hotline resource for pet owners and veterinarians nationwide in keeping animals safe and healthy. In 2023, the APCC team helped more than 400,000 animals from across all 50 states with toxicology cases.1 The ASPCA has compiled data from these cases and is now highlighting the most prevalent toxins in an effort to raise awareness during National Poison Prevention Week (March 17-23).

The APCC’s top 10 toxins seen in 2023 include the following:1

  1. Over the counter (OTC) human medications
  2. Human food and drinks (protein bars and drinks, grapes and raisins, and items with xylitol)
  3. Prescription human medications
  4. Chocolate
  5. Veterinary products
  6. Plants and mushrooms
  7. Household products like cleaning supplies
  8. Rodent poison
  9. Insecticide
  10. Recreational drugs (marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and cocaine)
Image courtesy of ASPCA and APCC.

Image courtesy of ASPCA and APCC.

This is the tenth year in a row that human medications lead the top toxin list for APCC with OTC human medications making up nearly 17% of the APCC's total call volume for the year. Recreational drugs first made the top 10 list in 2022 knocking out gardening products. The APCC team reported a 74% increase in call volume related to hallucinogenic mushrooms when compared to the year prior. Overall, the items on the top toxin list made up more than 96% of the APCC's total call volume in 2023.1

"Veterinary experts at the ASPCA Poison Control Center see a steady increase in call volume each year, which reflects an increased recognition of items that pose a potential risk to pets," said Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT, senior director of toxicology, ASPCA APCC, in an organizational release.1 "The APCC has been a trusted resource for pet owners and veterinarians across the country to assist in emergencies involving toxic ingestions and exposures for more than 45 years, and we continue to position ourselves as the leader in veterinary toxicology to save more animal lives."

For chocolate, the main concern comes from the methylxanthines theobromine and caffeine levels2 and theobromine concentrations in chocolate vary based on the type of chocolate, with unsweetened, baker’s chocolate, and 100% cacao products containing the highest content, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate. Milk chocolate contains lower amounts of theobromine, and the theobromine content of white chocolate is minimal.3,4

Xylitol may be found in a wide range of products including chewing gum, candy, mints, sugar-free foods as a sugar substitute, toothpaste, mouthwash, skin lotion, deodorant, and more.2,4

As the No. 2 spot on the APCC list, other human foods to be wary of besides xylitol, protein bars and drinks, and grapes and raisins, include onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, and large quantities of avocado.


  1. More than 400,000 animals assisted by ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in 2023. News release. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. March 5, 2024. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  2. Hovda LR, Brutlag A, Poppenga RH, Peterson K, eds. Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Small Animal Toxicology, second edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2016.
  3. Talcott PA, Peterson ME. Small Animal Toxicology, third edition. Elsevier; 2013.
  4. Schmid R. The most common poisons for pets. dvm360. March 21, 2024. Accessed March 21, 2024.
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