Signs & Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs

One thing you need to be on the lookout for as a dog owner is poisoning. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as keeping a bottle labeled “poison” with a skull and crossbones on it away from your dog.

There are many substances that you use around the house or in the yard that are highly toxic to dogs. Several foods are also poisonous to canines. Even household plants can be poisonous for dogs in some cases.

Despite the existence of so many dangers to your dog both in the home and out in the wild, poisoning is still a relatively rare occurrence in the average dog. However, this is often less to do with luck than it is with owners being aware of what their dog is getting into and keeping them away from harmful items.

But since dogs can get into toxins no matter how careful you are, we’re going to cover some of the frequent signs and symptoms associated with poisoning in dogs. This will not be a complete list by any means but will help you identify some of the behaviors and physical signs you can look for in your dog to identify a potential problem.

Often, you will not see any signs that there is something wrong with your dog, as many poisonings go unnoticed and are relatively minor. You also may not witness your dog consume whatever it is that got him sick, so you may never suspect a problem in the first place.

However, if you DO notice your dog ingest something that he shouldn’t have, you should take him to your veterinarian immediately, even if he doesn’t showcase any initial symptoms. This is because, with certain poisonings, it will take a while for the substance to cause the dog to show any physical signs that something is wrong, even though damage may be occurring underneath the surface. To give your dog the best chance of survival and good health, you should always play it safe if you suspect that a poisoning may have occurred.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk about the most common ways a dog gets poisoned and the accompanying signs.

How Do Dogs Get Poisoned?

Dog poisoning isn’t a malicious coup to take the throne, but rather the result of curiosity. Most often, dogs get poisoned simply by eating or drinking a toxic substance. This can be a mushroom that they stumble upon on a hike or a little puddle of antifreeze that leaked out of your car in the driveway.

There are several human foods that are toxic to dogs as well, which they may be able to get a hold of if you aren’t careful. Dogs can also absorb toxins through their skin, or through a bite or sting of an insect. And just like humans, they can also inhale toxic fumes.

What Can Cause Poisoning in Dogs?

There are numerous things around your home, in your yard, and out in nature that can cause poisoning in dogs. For this reason, you should supervise your dog as much as you possibly can and be aware of what grows on your property as well as what plants and substance you keep in your home. You also need to take good care to keep foods that are toxic to dogs out of your pup’s reach.

Here are some of the more common foods and substances that are toxic to dogs:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Raisins
  • Xylitol (a form of sweetener used in low-calorie products)
  • Bleach
  • Antifreeze
  • Laundry detergent
  • Paracetamol/Tylenol
  • Antidepressants
  • Snail, slug or rat poisons
  • Many species of plants and flowers
  • Many species of mushrooms
  • Yew trees
  • Acorns
  • Spring bulbs

Again, this is not nearly a comprehensive list but it can give you an idea to just how many things are toxic to dogs. If you can at least be aware of the items mentioned here, you will put your dog in a better position to avoid poisoning.

Poisoning in Dogs Symptoms

If you know your dog has ingested something that may potentially be toxic, you should not wait until any symptoms appear. Seek your veterinarian immediately and bring a sample of whatever they ate to help your veterinarian put together the best treatment plan. Treatment will be aggressive and immediate, but will hopefully get the toxins out of your dog’s system.

In other cases, when you did not actually witness your dog eat something poisonous, it can be a big help to know how to recognize certain signs and symptoms of a poisoning. These symptoms can vary widely depending what the dog ate and how much, but in general, there are some common signs you can be on the lookout for.

Some poisoning symptoms will show up right away, while others may take several hours after ingestion before they appear. Again, it all depends on the toxin in question and how much of it the dog has ingested. Early signs can often go undetected as your dog may just seem to be a little under the weather, while other times the reaction can be immediate and severe, with your dog in an obvious state of distress.

Dogs that have been poisoned may exhibit any combination of the following signs and symptoms:

Drooling

Dogs that have been poisoned will often drool excessively. Even those breeds that are already known to be droolers will seem to have a bit more fluid coming out of their mouth than usual. This is a common early symptom of poisoning that may develop into foaming at the mouth as the poisoning progresses.

Vomiting

While vomiting can occur for a number of reasons, it may indicate a poisoning, especially if you notice anything odd in the vomit itself. Sometimes, a poisoning may cause the presence of blood in dog vomit, such as in the case of if your dog has ingested rat poison.

If your dog is vomiting and you suspect a poisoning, you should try to take a sample to bring with you to your veterinarian. Your vet may be able to determine the cause of the poisoning through this sample.

While we’re on the subject — a common belief is that if your dog has ingested something toxic, but hasn’t vomited, that you should induce vomiting immediately, however, this is not correct. Never induce vomiting in your dog without your veterinarian’s approval or advice. Inducing vomit can sometimes result in causing further harm to your dog, depending on the toxin in question.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea may occur when a dog has been poisoned, often alongside vomiting, as the dog’s body seeks to eliminate the toxins it has consumed. The dog’s stool may be discolored, appearing black, green, or yellow, and may even contain blood in the dog’s stool if he has internal bleeding. The pet may also have canine diarrhea as a result of treatment for poisoning when excess fluids are used to flush out the toxins.

Loss of Appetite

Dogs can lose interest in eating their usual meal for a number of reasons and often it is not cause for concern. However, if your dog’s loss of appetite results in skipping multiple meals accompanied by symptoms as well, it could point to poisoning and you should consult your veterinarian.

Lethargy

If your normally excitable dog seems lethargic and does not want to go on your normal daily walk, it could be a sign of a poisoning. It could also indicate that the toxin is affecting the dog’s heart muscle, which is a dire situation. Often if there is a poisoning, it will cause a severe lack of energy in your dog.

If your dog is lethargic for more than 24 hours, or if the lethargy is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, or any other symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately.

Loss of Coordination

Generally, a loss of coordination points to the dog’s brain being affected by an ingested toxin. The dog may seem to stagger around as if it is drunk, bump into objects, fall down, or otherwise have a difficult time walking. All sense of coordination will appear to be lost as if the dog is dizzy. This can be a clear sign of poisoning.

Rash or Irritation at Site of Contact

A rash or irritation on the dog’s skin will occur when the toxin has entered the dog’s bloodstream externally, rather than orally. For example, your dog may develop a rash if he comes in contact with poison ivy. A dog rash from poison ivy or any other irritant may show up as red, irritated skin, fluid-filled blisters, swelling, and flaky skin. Your dog also may continuously itch at the rash.

Tremors or Seizures

A tremor or seizure can be another indication of a poisoning and tell you that the toxin is affecting the dog’s brain. Tremors are involuntary muscle movements, while canine seizures can be scarier and cause the dog to lose consciousness, fall to the grown, convulse, urinate, and/or defecate involuntarily, and drool excessively. If you ever notice your dog having a seizure for any reason, it is an emergency situation and you need to see your veterinarian immediately.

Labored Breathing

Poisons can cause your dog’s heart to beat slower than usual, which in turn can cause fluid to build up in the lungs. This will cause difficulty breathing in your dog, meaning they are not taking in a full breath.

When your dog has labored breathing, you may also notice they are breathing louder, their chest cavity is moving more rapidly, flared nostrils, and extending their head and neck.

Light Sensitivity

Certain poisons can even make a dog photosensitive. In these instances, the dog will avoid light and rest in a dark area. Typically, this points to a poisoning that affects the dog’s nervous system, which can cause light sensitivity. The dog may also be sensitive to touch and sound.

Organ Failure

Certain toxins and poisonings can be so severe that they cause your dog’s organs to shut down. When the toxin takes full effect, the kidneys, heart, liver, and other organs may lose function and begin to shut down. If a poisoning reaches this stage, death is a real concern.

Loss of Consciousness

Another fairly severe sign is if you notice your dog losing consciousness. This can be frightening to witness and points to a very serious situation. Contact your veterinarian immediately and take a video if possible.

Nonresponsive Behavior

Other times, the dog may remain conscious but seem unable to see or hear anything going on around them. This is a stage known as falling into a stupor. Your dog may not even seem to recognize you. This is another scenario that can be scary for an owner, but it is best for the dog that you remain calm and do everything you can to not cause further stress to the animal.

Coma

If your dog becomes comatose, where they seem to be sleeping but will not wake up, it is a serious sign that could mean death is imminent. However, there is still hope, and your veterinarian still may be able to save your dog. Multiple tests will be taken to decide on an immediate course of action.

Death

This, of course, is the final and most severe symptom of a poisoning. It can’t be said enough, but if your dog is poisoned and you do not contact your veterinarian immediately, your dog could die.

Summary

If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, always err on the side of caution and contact your veterinarian immediately. Many owners make the mistake of waiting to seek treatment because they aren’t sure what has happened and their dog seems like he might be okay, but poisonings can get very serious, very quickly, and by the time you realize your dog needs help, it might be too late.

Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic, or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435 if your veterinarian is unavailable. Your dog’s life may depend on your quick action.

Sources:

  1. Drake, Amber L. “Symptoms of Dog Poisoning.” LoveToKnow, Accessed 4 Nov. 2018. www.dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Symptoms_of_Dog_Poisoning.
  2. “Watch Out for These Symptoms of Dog Poisoning.” CanineJournal.com, 20 Oct. 2015, Accessed 4 Nov. 2018. www.caninejournal.com/dog-poison-symptoms/.
  3. “Symptoms of Dog Poisoning and What to Do If You Suspect It.” LabradorTraining, Accessed 4 Nov. 2018. www.labradortraininghq.com/labrador-health-and-care/dog-poisoning-symptoms/.

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