Symptoms of Dog Poisoning

Kelly Roper
Ailing Terrier

Being aware of the symptoms of dog poisoning might just save your pet one day. Learn the warning signs of a possible toxic reaction.

Common Ways Dogs are Exposed to Toxins

Although cases of poisoning are relatively rare in most dogs' lives, there are plenty of opportunities for a dog to come into contact with various toxins.

One of the most common ways dogs are poisoned is by eating or drinking toxic substances. This can range from a puddle of antifreeze leaked from a damaged radiator to a mushroom that pops up in the yard overnight. Toxins can also be absorbed through the skin, or delivered through the bite or sting of an insect. In some cases they can even be inhaled in the form of noxious fumes.

Warning Symptoms of Dog Poisoning

The severity of poisoning symptoms depends largely on the type of toxin involved and how much of it entered the dog's body. Some toxins have a cumulative effect and take time to build up in a dog's system after repeated exposures. This means the earliest signs of poisoning might go undetected or attributed to a dog feeling "under the weather". In other cases, the reaction could be immediate and violent with the dog presenting obvious signs of distress.

Symptoms of dog poisoning can include any combination of the following:

  • Loss of appetite: A change in a dog's eating habits is usually the first signal for many illnesses.
  • Drooling: This is typically a sign of nausea.
  • Vomiting: This can occur with or without the presence of blood since some toxins such as the rat poison Warfarin produce internal bleeding.
  • Diarrhea: This can occur with or without bleeding for the same reason listed above.
  • Rash or irritation at the contact site: This typically occurs when a toxin has entered the bloodstream via the skin.
  • Lethargy: This can be due to the general ill-effects of the toxin, but it might also be a sign that the toxin is affecting the heart muscle.
  • Loss of coordination: This symptom is typically an indication that the brain has been affected.
  • Tremors/seizures: This can be further sign of the brain's involvement with the toxin.
  • Labored breathing: Slowed heart function can cause a build up of fluid in the lungs that leads to breathing difficulty.
  • Sensitivity to light: Some poisons can make a dog photo-sensitive.
  • Onset of organ failure: Kidneys, liver, heart and other organs may begin to shut down as the toxin takes full effect.
  • Loss of consciousness: This is a fairly severe sign.
  • Non-responsive behavior: The dog may remain conscious, yet not appear to see or hear anything going on around him.
  • Coma: This is a most serious sign that could signal death is imminent.
  • Death: This is the last and final stage of a fatal poisoning.

Immediate Measures to Take

  • Try to identify whichever toxin your dog may have come in contact with. This knowledge could save your vet valuable time in formulating a treatment plan.
  • Call your vet right away and do your best to describe the exact symptoms.
  • Follow any directions your vet advises. For example, most vets will advise you to refrain from inducing vomiting because it can actually make the situation worse. In other cases, a vet may advise you to feed your dog activated charcoal to begin absorbing a particular toxin. Above all, never decide how to treat your dog on your own without the explicit advice of your vet.
  • Take your dog in immediately for treatment unless your vet advises otherwise.

Always Err on the Side of Caution

Many times dog owners delay seeking treatment for a case of poisoning because they aren't totally sure of what has happened. In the long run, it's better to seek medical help and find out the situation isn't nearly as serious as it seemed than to find out it's too late to help. If you ever suspect your pet is displaying symptoms of dog poisoning, call your vet right away.

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Symptoms of Dog Poisoning