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Your Guide to Common Dog Poisonings

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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There are hundreds of items your pet can get access to. Some things are highly toxic and others are non-toxic. This article is a guide to help you determine if a particular item is a problem and link you on to more in-depth information. Be sure to look at the related articles, which can be found on the right-hand side of the page.

If you think your pet may have been exposed to a toxin, the best thing to do is to check the label of the item you think your pet ingested. Read the information about toxicity. Often, but not always, the information on packaging regarding children is relevant to pets and some manufacturers even discuss pet toxicity. If there is an 800 number on the package – call them! It's also recommended that you call your veterinarian to confirm the recommendations. If you go to your veterinarian, take all packaging and any information you have on the product.

General Information. For most poisonings, there is not much you can do at home. Consult your veterinarian or veterinary emergency facility if you suspect your pet has been poisoned. For some ingested poisons, your veterinarian may recommend inducing vomiting before bringing the pet in for examination and treatment. Inducing vomiting of a toxic substance should never be done unless specifically directed by a veterinarian. For topical exposures, bathing in lukewarm water with a mild dish soap can reduce further toxin absorption before the pet is examined and treated by a veterinarian.

Non-toxic Items Commonly Eaten by Dogs. Chewing on things is a normal part of puppyhood so before you rush your pooch to the veterinarian, here is a list of some commonly eaten and, thankfully, non-toxic items. If your pup chews any of these, don't worry about toxicity. The only real concern is the potential for obstruction if the object or container becomes lodged in the stomach or intestines. Also, you can expect some vomiting and maybe even a little diarrhea from eating a non-food item.

Amitraz. Amitraz is an insecticide used in some brands of dog tick collars and topical solutions. Toxicity most often affects curious puppies who ingest the poison but can occur from wearing the tick collar or receiving demodectic mange treatment. Typical symptoms begin within about 2 to 6 hours of ingestion and often begin with the pet becoming weak and lethargic. Vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation are also common. Without treatment, coma may result. In severe untreated cases, toxicity may result in death. Call and see your veterinarian for treatment.

Amphetamines. Amphetamines are human medications that are commonly used as appetite suppressants and mood elevators or for the treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Amphetamines must be prescribed by a physician, but because they are popular as appetite suppressants and mood elevators, they are often purchased illegally. Amphetamines are nervous system stimulants that also affect the brain. After ingestion, toxic signs are usually seen within one to two hours. Common signs include restlessness, hyperactivity, agitation, tremors and seizures. Prompt veterinary treatment for amphetamine toxicity is crucial and will give your pet a better chance of full recovery. If left untreated, amphetamine toxicity can be fatal.

Ant Traps. If an ant trap is ingested, the only real concern is the potential for obstruction if the object or container becomes lodged in the stomach or intestines. Most ant and roach traps are made from either sticky paper or chlorpyrifos, which has a low level of toxicity in mammals but is highly toxic to insects. Also, you can expect some vomiting and maybe even a little diarrhea from eating a non-food item.

Antifreeze. Ethylene glycol toxicosis is a type of poisoning that occurs after ingestion of antifreeze or other fluids containing the ingredient ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol itself is not toxic, but it is metabolized in the animal's body to several extremely toxic chemicals that are responsible for its potentially lethal effects. Ethylene glycol poisoning results in nervous system abnormalities and severe kidney failure with almost complete cessation of urine output. Ethylene glycol poisoning can be fatal if not treated soon after ingestion (within 4 to 8 hours). The minimum lethal dose for dogs averages five milliliters per kilogram of body weight. Thus, a little more than three tablespoons (or 45 milliliters) could be lethal for a 22 pound (10 kg) dog. Definitive treatment should be started as soon as possible after consumption of ethylene glycol (within a few hours). If treated promptly and appropriately, pets that have consumed ethylene glycol will not develop kidney failure and have a good chance of survival. Signs to watch for include: nausea, vomiting, increased thirst, lethargy and incoordination progressing to coma. Pets may act as if they are intoxicated. These signs develop within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion of ethylene glycol depending on the amount ingested.

Aspirin. Aspirin toxicity (salicylate toxicity) is poisoning that occurs following the ingestion of aspirin or aspirin-containing products. Cats and young animals are more susceptible to the effects of aspirin than are dogs because they are unable to metabolize the drug as quickly. Aspirin interferes with platelets, which are responsible for helping the blood to clot. Disruption of platelet function increases the amount of time it takes the blood to clot after being cut. Spontaneous bleeding may also occur causing pinpoint bruises to appear in the skin and on the gums (petechiae). Aspirin toxicity may cause gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, neurological problems, bleeding disorders and kidney failure. Gastrointestinal problems are common in dogs whereas central nervous system depression is most common in cats.

Arsenic. Although a common poison in the days of Agatha Christie, arsenic is somewhat difficult to obtain and animal poisonings are rare. Usually, poisoning is due to the ingestion of very old insect traps. Since 1989, the use of arsenic in insect traps has greatly diminished but there are still some out there. The lethal dose is 1 to 25 mg per kilogram of weight, and signs of poisoning include severe vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. If caught early, most pets are treated and recover. If treatment is delayed and the signs of illness are severe, pets usually do not survive. If your pet has ingested an insect trap, make sure to check the label to see if arsenic is present and call your veterinarian.

Bathroom Cleaners, Bleach, Lysol and Other Corrosives. Household cleaners can cause very serious "chemical burns." Most often these chemicals are ingested or licked causing a caustic or corrosive burn usually affecting the tongue and upper esophagus. If chemical ingestion is witnessed, immediately flush the mouth with large amounts of water. This can help reduce the amount of chemical in the mouth and may reduce the damage. Chemical oral burns may not show up immediately. Call your veterinarian for additional treatment recommendations. Common signs include: lack of appetite, drooling, pawing at the mouth and excessive swallowing.

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