What should I do if my dog has been poisoned?

If you think your dog has been poisoned stay calm and make sure the source of the poison is out of your dog’s reach. Call your daytime vet straight away or, if it’s at night, on a weekend or bank holiday, your nearest Vets Now, and follow their advice.

There’s no time to waste if your dog is showing signs of poisoning. Getting them to a vet quickly as possible will give them the best chance.

How do I know if my dog has been poisoned?

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs can vary tremendously depending on the type of poison they’ve encountered. These signs can range from vomiting to breathing difficulties to drooling.

Swallowed poisons, for example, often cause sickness, diarrhoea, agitation and heart issues. If your dog has inhaled something toxic they may find it difficult to breathe or lose consciousness. Poisons that come into contact with your dog’s skin can cause irritation and pain.

What are the symptoms of poisoning in dogs?

The table below shows the main clinical signs in some of the most common poisons.

Product Chemical/Name Some common signs
Chocolate Theobromine Agitation, tremors, convulsions, heart issues
Human drugs Ibuprofen, Diclofenac Sickness, diarrhoea, kidney failure
Anticoagulant rat poison Bromadiolone, Difenacoum, Warfarin Excessive bruising or bleeding although these effects may not be seen until several days later
Slug pellets Metaldehyde Unsteady on feet, convulsions, breathing problems
Grapes and raisins Vitis Vinifera Kidney failure
Vitamin D   Sickness, diarrhoea, convulsions, abnormal heart beat, kidney failure
Onions Thiosulphate Drooling, nausea, oral irritation, sickness, diarrhoea, pale gums
A vet nurse with a dog for Vets Now article on dog poisoning
If you think your dog has been poisoned, your vet will assess your dog's condition before deciding on a treatment path

How is dog poisoning diagnosed?

Your vet will want to know what’s caused toxicity in your dog so, as long as it’s safe, take any packaging or substances with you. While it’s not possible to test for all toxins, analysis of blood samples should help determine the cause.

How is dog poisoning treated?

Your vet will assess your dog’s condition before deciding on a treatment path. Their priority will be to stabilise your pet before carrying out any diagnostic tests or procedures.

The three categories of swallowing dangers are:

  • Poisons, such as chocolate, human drugs and raisins
  • Toxic and caustic substances, including bleach
  • Foreign bodies, such as toys, bones and sticks

Treatment can be diverse ranging from endoscopy and remove, inducing sickness, or severe cases, surgery.

There are also antidotes for some poisons, including adder venom, some rat poisons and antifreeze, but not all. In most cases, your dog’s symptoms will be treated to ensure their organs aren’t badly affected.

Is activated charcoal used to treat poisoning in dogs?

In veterinary medicine, activated charcoal is sometimes used to absorb toxins. It acts like a magnet, in that it attracts and holds the poison to its surface, before passing through the gastrointestinal tract. It’s never given to animals who have ingested caustic materials or chemicals such as ethanol, fluoride and fertiliser.

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Will the vet make my dog sick if they've been poisoned?

You may hear your vet talking about ‘inducing emesis’. This is the act of making your dog sick in a bid to empty the contents of their stomach. Vets often use apomorphine to do this. Emetic agents are not used when alkalis, acids, corrosive agents, or hydrocarbons have been swallowed due to the risk of chemical burns or aspiration.

How can I prevent my dog from being poisoned?

Keep all potentially toxic substances, plants, flowers and foods well out of reach of your dog. If you’re treating pets with insecticides, separate them from other pets in the house, and always ensure your dog’s water supply is fresh.

What is poisonous to dogs?

According to studies, human drugs and medicines are commonly swallowed by dogs than any other poison. These are followed by human foods, such as chocolate, grapes and raisins, insecticides, rat poison and dietary supplements such as vitamin tablets.

The tables below show some of the most common poisons to harm dogs:

Common inhaled poisons

  • smoke
  • tear gas
  • insecticides
  • household chemicals
  • some paints

Common ingested poisons

  • acids
  • household and garden chemicals
  • petroleum products
  • antifreeze, screen wash
  • rat poison
  • slug pellets
  • alkalis
  • drugs and medications
  • some human foods
  • luminous necklaces and glow sticks
  • batteries
  • some paints
  • paintball pellets
  • some plants and flowers
  • children’s modelling compounds

Dangerous to the skin

  • tar
  • petroleum and gasoline products
  • household chemicals
  • paint or paint remover
  • stinging nettles
  • flea and tick medication – if overdosed, or if dog products are used on cats