Dogs have an impeccable ability to get into things—especially those that we don’t want them to. Whether puppy proofing was no match for your determined pup or something hazardous was left out by mistake, your dog may accidentally ingest something that is toxic to it.
When accidental poisoning occurs, it’s very important to take immediate action. The faster your pup is treated for poisoning, the better chance it has for recovery.
In these situations, don’t panic! Here’s what you should know to help your pet.
Common causes of pet poisoning and their signs
A surprising number of pet owners don’t realize how many “safe” products around the home can actually pose a threat to their dogs. All kinds of substances, from “people foods” to cleaners, can be very dangerous to dogs if they somehow ingest, inhale or come into contact with them.
- Chemicals: Chemicals and household cleaners can be toxic to humans if they are accidentally ingested, and the same applies to our furry friends. Make sure to keep all bottles of cleaning solutions, bleach, antifreeze and other chemicals in a locked cabinet away from your pup’s curious nose.
- Foods: Quite a few human foods can be toxic to dogs, such as alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, xylitol, grapes and macadamia nuts. Some foods might cause gastrointestinal upset, while others can be very dangerous and even lead to organ failure.
- Natural compounds: “Natural” does not always mean “safe” when it comes to dogs. Many plant compounds, such as house plants and essential oils are toxic to dogs, particularly when eaten. Citrus, pine, ylang ylang, juniper and tea tree are just a few essential oils that can have negative effects on dogs, and azaleas, tulips and sago palm are a few of many toxic plants.
- Medications: Medications made for people should never be given to dogs. Even the smallest doses can cause serious health problems. And, if your dog somehow finds its way into a pill bottle, the effects could be fatal.
Aside from knowing the common causes of poisoning, it’s extremely important to be able to recognize the signs. If you don’t see your dog actually ingesting the toxic substance, you should be able to recognize its effects after.
Symptoms may include:
- Labored breathing
- Elevated heart rate
- Pale gums
- Twitching, tremors or seizures
- Difficulty walking
What to do if your dog has been poisoned
If you notice any of the signs listed above, or you physically saw your dog ingest something you believe to be toxic to it, you should not delay in taking action. Many pet parents panic during these situations and aren’t sure what to do, which can disrupt the availability of treatment to save their dogs.
Here are the steps you should take to get your dog help after a poisoning.
1. Examine the situation: If you didn’t see your dog in action, take a minute to identify the symptoms your dog may be experiencing. Look around the area to see if you can find what toxin your dog got into. If you saw your dog eat the toxin, note what exactly the toxin is.
2. Remove your dog from the situation: Immediately after identifying the cause of the poisoning, remove it from your dog’s access and get your dog into a secure area, like a closed off room. You want to ensure your dog cannot access the substance any more and that you can closely monitor it. Although it may be your first instinct, do not induce vomiting on your own; this can be dangerous without the instruction of a vet and may not actually help the pet, depending on its symptoms.
3. Call for help: Call your local poison control center or your emergency veterinarian. Explain what happened, what you believe your pet ingested, how much it ate and what symptoms it is displaying. The hotline or vet should be able to give you further instructions, whether that’s to rush your pup to an animal hospital or induce vomiting at home.
4. Stay calm: Having your pet experience poisoning can be very scary, and it’s normal to be stressed. However, for both your own and your pet’s sake, you must try to stay calm. Your pet’s condition may worsen if it becomes additionally stressed by commotion, and your goal needs to be to keep your pet and you safe as you travel to get help.
The prognosis for accidental poisoning in dogs will largely depend on the type of poisoning and how long it takes to seek treatment. With close attention to the symptoms and fast action, your pup has a much better chance at making a full recovery.