A poisoned dog is not as rare as you might think or wish. In the USA alone, several hundred thousand dogs a year are poisoned.
The three largest animal poison helplines alone receive 80,000 to over 100,000 calls a year, thus the true figure of poisoned dogs is many multiples higher because few dog owners spend the $35 to $65 fee for calling a poison helpline.
Further, "up to a thousand dogs a year" (again in the USA alone!) are intentionally poisoned. And again, common sense tells me that number is way higher in reality. I personally came to know of intentionally poisoned dogs too.
Most common: They have disturbed a neighbor, a neighbor that is unable to find a better solution to his/her anger.
Note that plain common sense is enough to realize that the figure of 200 dogs a year, as reported by American Humane Association, is grossly understated.
Again, many dog owners don't end up in reported statistics as they don't report the dog poisoned. Likely for reasons of fear and/or humiliation and/or cost.
Causes of poisoning
Most common causes of poisoning in dogs, presumably in this order:
- Flea- and Tick remedies
- Unlocked (or generously spread out!) household detergents, rodent poison, lawn & pool chemicals, etc
- Toxic plants, indoors and outdoors (toxic to dogs)
- Tobacco/cigarettes and smoke
- Toxic medication (often human medication!)
- Accessable liquors
- Toxic "convenience foods" scavenged indoors or outdoors
- Ticks - due to the 'Paralysis Tick' in some parts of Australia this is a prime cause!
So, what are the symptoms of poisoning? How can you notice a possible poisoning of your dog?
Symptoms of dog poisoning
Don't wait for this:
If you notice that your dog proceeds through the following symptoms, take your dog to the vet straight away:
- Change in voice (softer bark, changed pitch)
- Weakness in hind legs, sudden sitting down
- Vomiting repetitively, with or without froth in the vomit
- Unusual salivation
- Unusual panting, loud/heavy breathing, or grunting noises
- Inability to stand
- Cold or blue-ish gums
Don't wait until your dog has cold or blue-ish gums! When you notice a change in voice, think: "Hmm, that's odd" and reflect on factors like these:
- Where was my dog during the last 24 hours?
- Can (s)he have scavenged something outdoors or indoors?
- Can my dog have ingested (licked) say the floor that I have just cleaned meticulously with 'good' detergents?
- Did (s)he get a flea- or tick remedy (say a flea and tick collar or spot on for dogs)?
- Let me have a look if my dog is infested with fleas or if there is a tick on my dog!
If you can think of or notice such a possible cause for the change in voice of your dog, and if you notice a weakness in the hind legs or unusual exhaustion, then better take your dog to the vet straight away: I would not wait for the vomiting to start as well!
What to do upon suspected poisoning
If you consider a possible dog poisoning but you don't yet want to take your dog to the vet (you aren't sure, vet is far away, vet costs money,...) then at least help your dog that the potential poisoning won't get much worse. Say that it doesn't proceed to vomiting or even heavy breathing, see above.
Here's what I do:
- First, upon suspected poisoning of any kind I get the dog (or myself!) to swallow quality charcoal because this can't do harm but greatly reduce toxicity in the stomach, amongst many more benefits!
- Keep a close eye on your dog for the next two to four days
- Avoid exercise - normal dog walking is not to be considered exercise for a German Shepherd (unless you have a senior GSD!)
- Keep your dog calm, avoid excitement
- Give plenty to drink (like always!) - and if you notice problems with swallowing, see below
- Give standard food - now no bones or other foods that could get stuck/ make the dog agitated
Most toxication affects the GI tract within a minute to a couple of hours: From problems swallowing, to apparent stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
If any of this happens, and you suspect you may have a poisoned dog for any of the reasons mentioned above, then see a quality vet immediately!
Poison Control helplines for pets (in the USA and Canada)
- 1-800-213-6680, petpoisonhelpline.com, $39 fee
- 1-888-232-8870, Animal Poison Hotline, $35 fee
- 1-888-426-4435, aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control, $65 fee
Did you have a dog poisoned? Do you have any tips, other help lines, maybe free ones, or in other nations?
Join the discussion here, for the benefit of every dog owner. And share this to inform other dog owners as well.
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