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Has My Dog Been Poisoned? Causes, Symptoms, and Toxins

A passionate dog lover and writer—I think that phrase very much sums up who I am and my purpose in life.

Do you think your dog may be experiencing symptoms of poisoning? Here's how to tell and what to do about it.

Do you think your dog may be experiencing symptoms of poisoning? Here's how to tell and what to do about it.

Protect Your Dog From Poisons

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.

Dogs are naturally curious and will eat anything they come across.

Dogs are naturally curious and will eat anything they come across.

Causes of Poisoning in Dogs

  • Canine eating habits: 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.
  • Toxic foods given by strangers: Passersby or neighbors who give dogs food that interacts with toxic substances or bacteria can cause poisoning. Some people may do it with malicious or ill intent.
  • Toxic foods given by unknowing owners: 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 That Are 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.

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Fruit/fruit pits
  • Onions
  • 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 can be deadly to dogs.

Chocolate can be deadly to dogs.


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.

White garlic may look charming and innocuous, but it is very toxic to dogs.

White garlic may look charming and innocuous, but it is very toxic to dogs.


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.

Macadamia Nuts

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.

Caffeinated Items

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.

Common household items can be incredibly toxic if ingested by your dog.

Common household items can be incredibly toxic if ingested by your dog.

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.

  • Detergents/disinfectants
  • Antifreeze
  • Rat poison
  • Medicines
  • Insecticides/fungicides
  • 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.

Flea Products

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.

If you're concerned about your dog's symptoms, seek veterinary assistance immediately.

If you're concerned about your dog's symptoms, seek veterinary assistance immediately.

Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs may not be immediately apparent. They include:

  • vomiting,
  • diarrhea,
  • drooling,
  • staggering,
  • breathing difficulty,
  • hallucinations,
  • skin irritation, and
  • muscle tremors.

The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount of toxic substance that was ingested.

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

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
  • Cleaners
  • Kerosene
  • 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

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

A little prevention could save your dog's life. Consider the following tips to make your home safer for your canine friends.

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 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.

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.

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

Question: Can a blood test alone determine if a dog died of poisoning?

Answer: A blood test should reveal poison, but your vet may want to do further tests to determine what type it is.

© 2012 Michelle Liew


Melanie Whitney on August 08, 2019:

I keep leaving my toom where i stay for now.These people they call Gangstalkers keep cpming in my room whenever im not yhere they put some type of poison thstz making my dog hullsuinate.what can i do? I just tecently bought a spy camera yo pit in my room. Hopefully it will work in vatching one of them. But shpuld i buy some charchel piwder for when she ingests the poisions?? Whst should i do? Cant afford taking her to the vets everytine. Its evety time i leave my room they come i. And put something eitger under my bed or where she lays alot? Whst to do? She is a service animal. Help?? ms.Whitney

Charlene Caldwell on March 12, 2018:

My dog ate apples with seeds,he is lab collie mix,88 lbs.His breathing is heavy when resting. Should I be concerned?Also he is 11 years old.

Joseph Roches on December 11, 2017:

My dog is a she her stomach is very big but wasn't in heat so know dog as far as i concerned drump her, what can cause that

Tina on September 06, 2017:

Great articles question though my dog of 15 years was out playing then suddenly gave me the ball got up and collapsed and suddenly just died don't know why didn't take it to the vet which I should have I just have a strange gut feeling that she was poisoned how how can I tell if she was I still have saliva samples hair samples and blood samples after three months please help

Siphelele Linco on December 30, 2016:

Very useful information. And this is the best article ever

mary on October 17, 2016:

we had our Labrador and her 10 week old pup ,both die within hours of each other and still have no idea what from, initially they had both been let out for a couple of hours, noticed the pup wonky and couldn't get up , took her into vets neurological damage and couldn't move much , then checking on the mum found having seizures high temps, stomach pumped and gave some protein food but organs shut down and passed away , pup got worse and didn't make it either, devastating and still don't know what from.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on April 10, 2013:

Hi J Mills. Oh no!! I'm sorry to hear that. Yes, ingesting things on the floor is the cause of most poisoning. That's why we've to watch our dogs diet as much as possible! Thanks for sharing!

Jmillis2006 from North Carolina on April 09, 2013:

This is great information to know, I had no clue grapes could act as a poison to dogs. My moms dog recently died of kidney failure associated with poison, they never figured out what she ingested but she had recently gotten loose in the neighborhood. It was an awful experience

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2013:

Correct, Stephanie, dogs are voracious eaters and will swallow anything especially what we eat. So we do have to be careful of what we give them!!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2013:

Jaye, you are right and I will edit that a little. Fruit pits are the things that are poisonous to dogs.Fruit itself is alright, like banana or a little apple. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2013:

Ow...sad to hear about that, Mary. But glad that she is safe! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2013:

Well, I would teach the dog a command to accept treats. Ensure that only you or people you trust can give that command. Give the treat when he comes, and click to reinforce/confirm the behavior.Then, get someone else whom the dog does not know to offer a treat. Give him a firm "no" if he goes to the person, making sure to disassociate him with the command.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on February 23, 2013:

No problem, Deb, Caffeine is quite bad for dogs! Thanks for coming by, and please say hi to her for me!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on February 22, 2013:

This is an excellent, well researched article. Your use of pictures and dividers is wonderful, making it beautiful to look at as well as an interesting read. I know that dogs will eat just about anything, especially if they think it's people food. It's so important for dog owners to know which people foods are toxic to their pets!

Voted up and shared!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on February 21, 2013:

Everyone who owns a pet should know those everyday items that are toxic to animals. I don't even let my dog outdoors in my fenced yard without her being on-leash and my being there to watch to ensure she doesn't eat something toxic, including a plant. Since I routinely find the remains of birds killed and partially eaten in my yard by one of my neighbor's cats (fences don't stop them), I don't want to take the chance of my dog eating "roadkill" by accident.

I'm a bit confused that your list of poisonous foods includes "fruit/fruit pits." Did you perhaps mean to make that "fruit seeds/fruit pits?" I know that fruit seeds (such as apple seeds) contain a type of arsenic--they aren't good for people to eat, either.

However, my dog's vet gave her blessing for me to feed Puppy Girl bits of peeled apple, and her favorite food is banana. She and I share a small one every morning. Before I asked the vet, I researched it on veterinary schools' websites so I would know which "people" foods are safe for dogs. Believe it or not, cucumber is also a healthy treat.

Mary Craig from New York on February 21, 2013:

Michelle you are truly amazing. This hub is so comprehensive and the pictures so "picture perfect"! You didn't leave anything out that folks need to know.

My MinPin once ate rat poison and we had to give him Peroxide to make him vomit. Fortunately it all ended well, but my point is dogs will eat anything, anywhere, anytime and this is a very useful hub.

Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing.

Kari on February 21, 2013:

My friend's dog was poisoned by someone and died that same day. She had him in the back yard and it didn't have a fence; however, she trusted her small town because it was a highly religious town. That is why I am a huge advocate for not leaving your dogs alone, no matter how safe you think it is.

I'm curious how you would teach your dog to only accept food from you. I've never heard of anything like that, and I know my three dogs would not likely be easy to train to do that. I used to have a dog who naturally didn't accept treats from others because she didn't care, but how would you train a dog who does care not to accept treats?

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on February 21, 2013:

Really good advice here. I knew about most of these but didn't know caffeine is harmful to dogs. Not that I give mine caffeine, but she does try to drink the coffee out of my cup when I'm not looking. I will have to do a better job to keep it out of her reach! Thanks for the tips.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on January 27, 2013:

Hi Free Camping Aussie! Thanks for sharing! Glad we connect over dogs too!

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on January 22, 2013:

Wow - What an amazing helpful hub for pet owners, Love the photos ..will be voting you up and sharing !

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 15, 2012:

Hi Eddy! Thanks for sharing. Glad it's useful!

Eiddwen from Wales on December 15, 2012:

So very interesting and useful my friend.

Have a great day.


Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 08, 2012:

A case of too much curiosity indeed, Nancy!

Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on December 08, 2012:

Those puppies just like to eat everything. Sometimes I wonder how they don't poison themselves more.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 06, 2012:

Thanks, Mary!!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 06, 2012:

Just came back to let you know I'm linking this valuable Hub to my Hub on the poisonous Cane Toad that can kill small animals. Thanks.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Hello Mary, good point there, forgot none of them and will add it in. Unfortunately, there are these folk who will deliberately make the dog sick out of the need for revenge (perhaps the dog may have barked so that that it irritated them.) I read your hub on Cane toads......I saw some poisonous ones here too. Good thing they are in thicker shrubbery far away from my place!! Thanks for sharing!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on December 05, 2012:

Well, I can honestly say I don't allow my Schnauzer, Baby, to consume any of the foods you mention that are poisonous, so I couldn't vote (you don't have NONE of these as a choice).

I can't imagine anyone deliberately poisoning a dog! Here in S. Fl we have those Cane Toads that can poison and kill small animals. (I wrote a Hub about that). I'm always on the lookout for those.

Informative Hub. I voted it UP, etc.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Hi Jo, thanks! I hope it's useful for dog owners too!!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Thanks, bodylevive! Good thing that you managed to save your little dog. Really important to be on guard against malicious poisoning! Thanks for sharing!

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 05, 2012:

Michelle, this is jam packed with very useful information, I'm saving for reference and sharing. Great work.

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on December 05, 2012:

Wow, what a great hub! I've enjoyed reading it. This is information that every pet owner needs to know. Thanks so much for putting this useful information together and sharing it. I had a dog years ago that dranked some anti-freeze that someone sat out for him, luckly I recognized the symptoms of poison in dogs and got him to the vet.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Hi Janine! Just thought I'd do one on this because Cloudy (I think I should rename her Loudy) is a curious little dog who loves to sniff things out like treasures and sometimes eat them. Common sight for all dog owners, I am sure. So I thought to address this because it concerns safety as well. It applies to other animals and kids too! Thanks for coming by, my friend.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

That's the thing, Bill, quite a common food, so it's quite surprising that dogs can actually become poisoned by it! Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Hi Sleepylog! Thanks for finding it useful! Great suggestion there. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

Thanks, Jennifer,for coming by! Glad you've found it useful!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on December 05, 2012:

Wow, you did a great job here listing all the possible causes, symptoms and treatments of poisoning for dogs. Seriously, Michelle this is a great reference for all dog owners. Habe of course voted up and shared all over!!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 05, 2012:

What a great article for us dog owners. I had no idea that onions were bad for dogs. Thanks for some great information. Sharing!

Sleepylog from Australia on December 05, 2012:

Awesome, awesome hub. Very helpful and interesting reading. Thank you for posting. Voted up, Tweeted, Pinterested and Stumbled :) Although you may want to change the last word of the title to 'dogs' instead of 'pets' as the article is about dogs only. Just a thought though.

Jennifer Stone from the Riverbank, England on December 05, 2012:

Very useful information for any dog owner here, thanks! Voted up and sharing... all the best, Jen

Michelle Liew (author) from Singapore on December 05, 2012:

An article on the causes, symptoms and prevention of poisoning in dogs.