If you think your dog may have eaten a poison, firstly, remain calm. Remove the source of the poison but keep any packaging, as this could be helpful for our vets. Call us as soon as you realise a potential poisoning has occurred and follow advice: remember you can speak to one of our own vets 24/7.
Treatment may often include: inducing vomiting with a special medication to empty the gut contents (never try this at home yourself), medication at home to prevent poison absorption from the intestine, bloodwork to assess organ damage, specific medication to counteract the toxin where available, and supportive hospital treatment such as intravenous fluid.
It’s important to remember some foods or medications that are safe for humans may not necessarily be for dogs.
Common poisons for dogs include:
- Chocolate: theobromine is a chemical in chocolate that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea but, in higher quantities, can lead to heart abnormalities or seizures. The darker the chocolate, the higher the theobromine content: this makes cocoa powder the most dangerous type of chocolate, even after baking. Sometimes, eating a small amount of low theobromine containing chocolate may not be a concern depending on your dog’s size but always speak to a vet and discuss what needs to be done.
- Grapes, raisins, currants and sultanas: it is not known why these fruits are poisonous to dogs, or how much is poisonous; in some cases a single grape could seriously affect a large dog, whereas another smaller dog may eat a whole bunch and show no signs. Therefore, it is best to err on the side of caution with this poison, and assume that any dog may be affected by even a small amount. These fruits can cause kidney failure, which can sometimes be delayed for a few days, so even if your dog appears well you should contact the vet for advice.
- Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives: While these foods are not highly dangerous, in large quantities they can cause damage to red blood cells and lead to anaemia. Garlic contains more of the toxic compounds than onion, and is considered to be roughly five times as dangerous. Symptoms include lethargy, abnormal breathing and discoloured urine, which may not be noticed for days after eating. Japanese breeds such as the Akita or Shiba Inu appear to be more sensitive to the toxin.
- Xylitol: this artificial sweetener is most commonly found in chewing gums, but may also be present in some medicines and even some baked goods and peanut butters, especially those marketed as sugar free. Ingestion of xylitol causes hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) that can lead to seizures, and in some cases can also lead to severe liver damage. The xylitol concentration in chewing gum can be particularly high and just one piece of chewing gum can be dangerous, especially to small dogs.
- Ibuprofen: this is a type of NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), but human ibuprofen is very different to the type of NSAIDs vets prescribe for dogs. Dogs tolerate ibuprofen very poorly compared to veterinary drugs, and this could lead to stomach ulcers, kidney failure or seizures. You should never give ibuprofen to your dog to treat pain or an injury at home, and dogs will sometimes chew up packets of the sugar-coated tablets, so ensure they are always kept out of reach.
- Rat Bait: if you think your dog has eaten rat bait and you have the packing, please bring it with you to the vets as different rat poisons have different effects in dogs. The most common type of rat poison affects blood clotting, which can lead to life-threatening bleeding. This is often internal bleeding so nothing may be visible externally. Affected dogs may be lacking in energy, breathless, and have pale gums. Other types or rat poison may cause kidney failure or neurological signs such as ataxia (a clumsy “drunken” gait) and seizures.
Other poisons in the home to consider are mouldy bread or other food waste, raw bread dough, macadamia nuts, acorns, conkers, avocado, daffodils and any chemicals or cleaning products.