What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Been Poisoned?

By poisoning, we mean any form of illness, either externally or internally that your dog may have picked up from your home, garden, out in the woods or almost anywhere. We are not talking about deliberate poisoning.

Most dogs are natural ‘scavengers’ and if something looks or smells tasty to eat or rub against, they don’t hold back. There are steps you can take in your home to prevent something happening to them, but when it comes to outside, it is difficult to monitor.

If you do fear that your dog has been poisoned, contact your vet immediately for advice, even though they may recommend some solutions for you to carry out at home before bringing them to the surgery. Make sure you can give a detailed description, as far as you know, what may have caused the illness, and what symptoms are occurring.

What signs should I look for if I think my dog has ingested poison or been exposed to poison?

There are many substances which could harm or poison your dog. If you notice any of these signs, you need to act very quickly. Every minute counts, and you need to contact your vet right away.

  •     Blood in the stool
  •     Bruising of the skin/broken skin or loss of hair in patches
  •     Diarrhoea
  •     Inability to urinate
  •     Irregular heartbeat
  •     Lethargy
  •     None or diminished appetite
  •     Bleeding form the nose or mouth
  •     Seizures
  •     Vomiting

Internal Poisoning – when your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have

There are far too many dangerous substances out there that dogs might eat or drink, or which might be contaminating something dogs would normally eat or drink. Two of the most common symptom categories of internal poisoning in dogs are ‘blood loss symptoms’, ‘gastrointestinal symptoms’ and ‘neurological symptoms’.

Blood loss includes everything from visible bruising to blood seeping from the nose or mouth, or blood in their stool or urine. This is a very dangerous sign, as it could mean that your dog has ingested mouse or rat poison in some way. However, there are many substances that are toxic to dogs which can cause bleeding symptoms. Dogs can sometimes suffer these symptoms from consuming a great deal of something as innocuous as onions or sweet clover, or even bracken fern.

What to do if your dog is experiencing blood loss symptoms

Ring your vet right away, and describe the symptoms. They will be able to tell if it is an emergency, and advise you what to do next. If you know what poison is involved, make a note of its name and tell the vet that as well.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and an inability to void the bowels. This can come from ingesting almost anything inappropriate, from medications to chocolate or to natural plants like Poinsettia, Ivy, Holly, Iris, Chinaberry, Daphne or even Pokeweed.

What to do if your dog is showing gastrointestinal symptoms

These can be difficult to spot as symptoms of poisoning, as they occur for many other reasons as well. Again, the key is to be vigilant to symptoms which are atypical and unexplained. If you have any doubt, call your vet and describe what is happening. If you know what poison is involved, once again, make a note of its name and tell the vet that as well. They can advise you whether your pet might be in danger. Do not try to make the dog vomit, unless told to do so by your vet. Vets may sometimes recommend a saline solution to make your pet vomit, but this has become less usual than several years ago.

Neurological Symptoms include a wide range of strange behaviours. The most obvious and disturbing would have to be seizures, but even hyperactivity or extreme drowsiness could be a sign that something is very wrong. Unfortunately, many different things can be ingested which cause neurological symptoms. Some of the most dangerous include human medications (including non-prescription medications), alcohol, tobacco, vaping e-liquid, illegal drugs, soaps or cleaners, flea or tick repellents, furniture polish or pest poisons like strychnine. Even eating conkers could cause problems.

What to do if your dog is acting strangely

You know your dog, and if it is acting strangely, call the vet! As always, if you do know specifically what poison your pet has encountered, make a note of its name and tell the vet.

External Poisoning – when your dog treads or rolls in something toxic

This is often (but not always) less serious than when your dog has swallowed something toxic. Many common plants and household or industrial chemicals can cause irritation of the animal’s skin. For instance, simple cleaning products such as bleach, floor cleaners and even disinfectant, can cause irritation on the paws or other parts of the body, including their noses and of course, tongues.

Symptoms of External or Contact Poisoning include pain or discomfort, scratching or licking at the affected area, swelling of the area or the skin rising up in hives. In the most extreme cases, the skin can appear red or bruised, and can even begin bleeding. Patches of hair falling out with red and irritable skin can demonstrate mange, particularly fox mange.

What to do if your dog may have been in contact with a dangerous substance

First of all, call the vet. Unless your vet advises otherwise, get your pet into the fresh air, and wearing protected gloves wipe the substance away from their skin using kitchen roll or clean rags. Do not use water unless told to by your vet – that could make things worse.  As always, if you do know what dangerous substance your pet has come into contact with, give this information to the vet.

Vigilance is the key to protecting your pet, and prompt action is always required. Never try your own remedies, it could put your pet in danger.


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