Has My Dog Been Poisoned? Causes, Symptoms, and Toxic Substances
Dogs, just like children, are exposed to all manner of dangerous substances around the home. Instances of poisoning are indeed life-threatening and require immediate attention.
These happen mostly because of the dog’s insatiable curiosity and tendency to rummage around the house or yard. At other times, a little dog may become the unfortunate victim of malicious poisoning from dubious food substances given by strangers.
Whatever the cause of the poisoning, the fact remains that there are ways to deal with it effectively or prevent it from happening in the first place. This article will address the causes of poisoning in dogs and highlight food and substances that are toxic to them. In addition, you will find some suggestions as to how to prevent poisoning, malicious or unintended.
Causes of Poisoning in Dogs
Dogs, being naturally curious and ever hungry, will pretty much swallow whatever they come across. It is not at all uncommon for little bits of food that fall on the ground and mix with chemicals on the floor to find their way into dogs' stomachs. They also take in whatever they find while romping about in the yard or outside.
Passersby or neighbors who give dogs food that interacts with toxic substances or bacteria can cause poisoning. Some of these may do it with malicious or ill intent.
Owners may feed their dogs food that is inappropriate or toxic to them without realizing that these foods, though fit for human consumption, are unsafe for dogs.
Food Substances Poisonous to Dogs
What foods are not safe for canine consumption? Some of these very things are the foods that we consume every day and would certainly surprise anyone! Remember that the smaller the dog, the less of any of these items is required for a toxic effect.
- Fruit/fruit pits
- White garlic
- Artificial sweeteners
- Caffeinated items
- Macadamia nuts/nuts of all kinds
- Alcohol and yeast dough
Grapes and raisins can cause irreversible damage to the kidneys in dogs. Ingesting about 4–5 grapes is enough to send the toxicity levels in a 20-pound dog rising!
Chocolate is heaven for us, but definitely not for dogs. It contains Theobromine, a cardiac stimulant and diuretic.
In particular, cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are poisonous forms of chocolate to a dog, as they contain 10 times more Theobromine that the usual forms of chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate is also dangerous to a dog, though not as dangerous as cocoa powder or cooking chocolate.
Onions contain thiosulphate, even more of a danger to dogs than chocolate. Dogs who suffer from poisoning via onions exhibit the symptoms only a few days after the poisoning has occurred. Onions are found in much of our cooking and the best way to avoid it is not to feed our dogs food off the table.
Dogs with onion poisoning typically develop haemolytic anaemia, where the red blood cells burst while circulating in the body, together with other symptoms of poisoning which will be discussed later.
Garlic contains the chemical thiosulphate as well, and is found in much of our cooking. Less dangerous than the onion, more would have to be consumed before toxicity sets in, but it is still dangerous.
Phosphorus in Macadamia nuts is largely responsible for causing poisoning in dogs. It causes the development of bladder stone, muscle tremor, distress and panting. Limbs may also become swollen.
Like chocolate, caffeinated items have the chemical theobromine. Like chocolate, it causes hyperactivity and vomiting. If it is difficult for the dog to purge the poison, the vet may induce vomiting in the dog.
Artificial Sweeteners (e.g. Xylitol)
These stimulate the pancreas to secrete too much insulin, causing liver damage. It causes the development of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and if not treated early enough, the damage could be permanent.
Alcohol and Yeast Dough
The ethanol in alcohol damages the central nervous system and respiratory damage. So does yeast dough. Lethargy and depression are very common signs of alcohol poisoning.
Fruit Pits and Seeds
Any fruit pit or seed has the potential to cause cyanide poisoning. Skin irritation and coma would be common symptoms. Diarrhea may also occur.
Non-Food Products That Are Poisonous to Dogs
In addition, a dog may come into contact with or consume household substances that are dangerous to them.
- Rat poison
- Flea products
Cigars and Cigarettes
Just as the nicotine is toxic and harmful to us, so it is to dogs. Cigars and cigarettes should be kept away from canine access.
Detergents and Disinfectants
The large range of compounds in detergents, when ingested into the bloodstream, can also cause poisoning and skin irritation.
Overdosing pets on flea products can also cause poisoning. It is always important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage.
Insecticides and Fungicides
These disrupt a dog’s nervous system and should be stored away in containers where a dog cannot get access to them. When spraying, ensure that it does not land on a dog’s coat. Licking can result in it being ingested into the nervous system.
Medicines Intended for Human Use
Again, medicines contain many compounds that severely damage a dog’s nervous system. To cut the cost of medicine, there may be the temptation to feed a dog medicine suitable for human consumption when it is sick. It is advisable never to give a dog medicine for human consumption as it results in overdosing which may be fatal.
Anti-freeze, which has a sweet flavor tempting to dogs, contains ethylene glycol, which can jeopardize an animal’s life within one hour of consumption. Be on the lookout for places where antifreeze is accessible, especially driveways and garages.
Ensure that all these harmful substances are stored well away from animals and children, who will always have a tendency to get themselves into a spot of curious trouble.
Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs
Symptoms of poisoning in dogs may not be immediately apparent. They include:
- breathing difficulty,
- skin irritation, and
- muscle tremors.
The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of toxic substance that was ingested.
If your dog exhibits such symptoms, take him to the veterinarian immediately.
What to Do If Your Dog Eats Poison
Take your dog to the vet immediately. While the vet may use the following methods, you should not attempt them yourself.
Induced vomiting is the best way to purge poison from the dog’s intestine, and is probably the method that vets will use. However, it is not advisable to induce vomiting if your dog has consumed any of the following items:
- Battery acid
- Laundry detergent
- Motor Oil
- Paints/paint thinner/paintbrush cleaner
- Pine oil
Note: Your veterinarian may also prescribe laxatives to hasten the process of eliminating the poison from the dog’s body.
Activated charcoal is NOT the charcoal used for barbecuing. This is the charcoal found in the health aisle of a grocery store. It is a fine powder that is odorless and non-toxic. It reduces the presence of poisonous substances by up to 60%.
Antidotes are available for some poisons but these are only effective if used early in the treatment process. To help your veterinarian to properly prescribe the correct antidote, it is good to determine the poison the dog has ingested beforehand.
How to Prevent Accidental Poisoning in Dogs
Use pet products according to instructions given.
Fleas and ticks often require the use of medicated sprays and shampoos. Ensure that these are used in the correct dosage and according to the instructions given to prevent cases of overdose and hence, poisoning.
Only use products and medications appropriate for pets.
Some substances fit for human consumption may not be suitable for a pet, including medications like Paracetamol and other medications for pain relief. Administer medication only on the advice of a veterinarian.
Keep medication out of reach.
Pets are naturally curious, so keeping substances stored carefully in containers out of their reach is vital for safety.
Wash your pet’s feet after walks.
Wash your pet’s feet after walks to prevent exposure of irritants and poisons to the skin. In addition, pets may lick off their paws and inadvertently ingest the poison.
Deal with antifreeze!
Antifreeze is harmful to dogs and other animals, so finding a safe alternative to it is advisable. Antifreeze that uses propylene glycol instead of ethylene glycol is highly recommended.
Eliminate the use of rat poisons.
Rat poisons will kill rats. Since they do, it is entirely possible that exposure to them will harm and even kill your pet. Eliminate their use altogether and keep the house clean.
Common and household plants.
Many of these are poisonous to pets, so it is good to prevent them from chewing on these while in the yard.
Common dietary hazards.
Do not feed your pet off the table, since lots of food contain onion and garlic which was mentioned earlier. Fruits contain many seeds, so these should not be given to s pet if possible.
How to Prevent Malicious Poisoning in Dogs
Occasionally, pets become the victims of heinous and cruel acts of poisoning as a result of people deliberately throwing them poisoned food out of a need for revenge, perhaps against a dog which might have irritated because of his excessive barking. Others just do so with a perverse sense of fun. There is a lot that can be done to prevent such events from occurring.
Be a good neighbor.
Do not let a pet ransack your neighbor’s trash cans. Aside from this being a very un-neighborly act, your pet may inadvertently consume poisonous substances.
Crate your pet if necessary to stop excessive barking.
As mentioned earlier, malicious acts can be the result of conflict. If a dog has barking problems, crate it when necessary to prevent instances of vindictive and malicious poisoning.
Keep your dog safe and secure.
Ensure that your pet is not exposed to any of the above-listed substances, which should be kept safely and securely.
Supervision is the key.
Do not let your pet run loose for too long unsupervised. Such are the times it has a tendency to take in unnatural and toxic substances.
Teach your dog to say no.
Condition your pet to accept food from none other than yourself for its own safety.
Know your vet's hotline number.
Know the hotline or emergency numbers of your vet in case the untoward might happen.
Learn How to Prevent Accidental Poisonings
Poisoning, though a serious situation, can be easily prevented with a little consideration and awareness. Do everything possible to ensure that a pet is not exposed to unnatural and toxic substances.
Which of these are you guilty of feeding your dog?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Can a blood test alone determine if a dog died of poisoning?
A blood test should reveal poison, but your vet may want to do further tests to determine what type it is.Helpful 10
© 2012 Michelle Liew