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Dog Poisoning

 Reviewed 23 May 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto
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 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:

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 I do:

    activated charcoal as super remedy
  1. 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!
  2. Keep a close eye on your dog for the next two to four days
  3. Avoid exercise - normal dog walking is not to be considered exercise for a German Shepherd (unless you have a senior GSD!)
  4. Keep your dog calm, avoid excitement
  5. Give plenty to drink (like always!) - and if you notice problems with swallowing, see below
  6. 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)

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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  10 Page Comments, ZERO SPAM: the spam spam-free oasis on the web grin Add one

  1. supportive

    Hi Tim,
    This is one reason why my dog has been taught not to take food that was not given to her in her bowl, or by my own hand. I have often had people ask me if they can give her a treat, and I will tell them she won't take it. They try anyway but she will refuse! I also cannot get over the fact that people will see that their dog is not well, and yet they ask advice from everyone but a vet! Would you do that with your child? Sorry, but they are not "just dogs".Sometimes, doing nothing is the wrong thing. Some poisons require that you give something to help the dog regurgitate the poison. Sometimes water is exactly the wrong thing to give. Sometimes regurgitation is not a good solution. Even though the poison hotlines cost money, they are the best thing to do if you suspect poison! They are right there at your fingertips, with no waiting. They very likely will save your dogs (or cats) life. This was a very good e-mail to send. I am sure that you have had a strong impact with this one.

    • supportive

      I agree with everything you're saying Maureen (except the last sentence of course, for better insight and thus less hope). mrgreen

      You'd be surprised though how little ordinary vets know of poisoning (and much else)! The key with poisoning (and actually with most health conditions) is to ASK the owner tons of questions about the past happenings with the dog, treatments, exercise, living conditions, food, water intake, etc etc. And ordinary vets are very bad at that, by and large.
      The rest comes down to experience. This is where they could and would shine, otherwise.

      I always ask so much because without that complete background information, NO licence, No training, NO practice, and NO experience is worth anything, in the end. That's what I learned about health. idea

    • supportive

      YOUR dog is smart, Maureen, we agreed on that. Mine isn't, unfortunately. I suffer immensely under that fact.
      How did you train Jordan that, how long did it take to become habitual, and in what (tempting) situations does she fail (eat it) ?


    Hi Tim. Thank you for posting that photo of the affected dog. Is good for people to actually SEE what can happen. I had a neighbor I feared would poison my dog; we actually had to get a laywer to force him to cease harassing us. We moved finally. But watching constantly for anything left out in the yard etc. that the dog could get to and eat was exhausting. You can bet I taught him a strong "leave it!".

  3. newbie

    Tim I am so glad I opened your email and clicked to read this as I know this may save my dog's life one day.
    At first I did not want to read any email as I am not well that my mother is so sick now but something made me click yours and your emails do not disappoint. My family and I thank you. Cran


    Hii I have a three month German Sherpa Rx who recently started showing signs of body weakness an has stop walking after a week or so she is sitting but not walking what’s wrong she had no trauma the vet is confused can’t come to a diagnosis help us please..

  5. newbie

    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!



    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.

    • supportive

      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.

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