Jan 102014
too late!

Note: Here we do not mean the routine poisoning of dogs through dog food.

A poisoned dog is not as rare as you might think or wish. In the USA alone, several houndred 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 MUCH 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. 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 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
  • Toxic plants, indoors and outdoors (toxic for dogs)
  • Tobacco/cigarette packages lying around
  • Toxic medication (often human medication!)
  • Accessable liquors
  • Toxic people foods, indoors and outdoors (toxic for dogs)
  • Ticks (thanks 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:

poisoned dog

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!

Upon dog poisoning every minute counts

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 to do:

  1. Keep a close eye on your dog for the next two to four days
  2. Avoid exercise - normal dog walking is not to be considered exercise for a German Shepherd (unless you have a senior GSD!)
  3. Keep your dog calm, avoid excitement
  4. Give plenty to drink (like always!) - and if you notice problems with swallowing, see below
  5. 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 the vet immediately!

Poison Control helplines for pets (in the USA and Canada)

Did you have a dog poisoned? Do you have any tips, other help lines (maybe free ones, or in other nations)? Please leave your comments below for the benefit of every dog owner. And share this to inform other dog owners as well.


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    I live in South Africa temporarily and the previous place I stayed, 2 of the dogs were poisoned by burglars. If you live in a place that is generally not safe, do train your dog not to take any other food but what you personally give him. Not even stuff that he finds on your premises.


      Yes Bea, fully agree. This is one of the many good side effects of our established Feeding Routine (you'll get that Periodical soon), that the dog feels much less temptation to scavenge that smelly donor or whatever in the bushes. Or poison in your case. Better apply that everywhere, not only in South Africa.


    Hi Tim

    I also live in South africa and my dog (1yr old) suddenly started shaking in controllably, she also had a watery discharge coming from her nose. The vet said it may be poisoning or distemper (she is not vaccinated), I am so worried about my dog. Do you know of anything I could do to help incase she has distemper or any other possible causes of the shaking?

    Thank you for your site, I always find myself coming back to it!


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