Toxic Food & Plants

What To Do If Your Dog Is Poisoned

  • Don’t panic. Rapid response is important, but panicking can interfere with the process of helping your pet.
  • Take the time to safely collect and have at hand any material involved. This may be of great help to your vet, as they determine what poison or poisons are involved.
  • Also, collect in a sealable plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed.
  • If you witness your pet consuming material that you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any adverse effects.
  • Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or days after the incident.
  • Do not try to make your dog vomit unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.

Medications That Are Toxic to Pets

Medications that can be toxic at certain doses include: Aspirin, Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Other medications that should not be given to your dog as they can be potentially lethal, even in small doses, include: 

  • Antidepressants – can cause vomiting and lethargy with certain types leading to serotonin syndrome.
  • ADHD medications – act as a stimulant and dangerously elevate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Anti-cancer drugs.
  • Anti-diabetics – cause a major drop in blood sugar levels causing disorientation, lack of coordination and seizures.
  • Cold medicines – acts as a stimulant causing elevated heart rates, blood pressure, body temperature and seizures.
  • Vitamin D derivatives – cause life-threatening spikes in blood calcium levels in pets that can lead to kidney failure.
  • Diet pills.
  • Muscle relaxants – can impair the central nervous system and lead to death.

Household Pet Hazards

  • Ant baits: These contain boric acid which is toxic to dogs if eaten in a large amount. Ant baits have a sweet smell and taste to attract ants but it also appears to attract dogs.
  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): Antifreeze is a common cause of poisoning in small animals. Dogs will seek out antifreeze as they find its smell and taste appealing. The signs of antifreeze poisoning has three phases:
    • Phase 1 includes a drunken appearance which occurs within 1 hour of ingestion.
    • Phase 2 is heart failure which occurs within 12-24 hours of ingestion.
    • Phase 3 is renal failure, vomiting, depression, renal pain, hypothermia, coma and deat
  • Fertilisers: Fertiliser products generally contain varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) compounds. They may be in liquid, granular or solid form and contain additives such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Since fertilisers are usually a combination of ingredients, the effects of ingestion may vary. In general, they cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation which may present signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, hypersalivation and abdominal pain. Symptoms can be more severe if a larger amount is ingested and they may also be caustic, causing irritation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Lead: Lead is not a common toxilogical problem but it may occur from ingestion of lead-containing dust or paint when grooming their contaminated coat. The signs of chronic, low level, lead poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, anorexia and diarrhoea while the acute signs are convulsions, blindness and tremors.
  • Rodenticides (rat or mouse bait): These are a common cause of dog poisoning. Most rodent poisons use anti-coagulants that kill the animals by causing uncontrollable bleeding. These baits are designed to attract animals so consider the use of them very carefully and try to use alternatives where possible. Signs of rodenticide ingestion appear one to four days after ingestion, they include depression, weakness, coughing and staggering. Most people don’t realise that eating a poisoned rodent can also poison your dog.
  • Insecticides: These usually contain organophosphates and carbonates which are highly toxic to dogs. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea, hypersalivation, muscle tremors and seizures.
  • Molluscacides (snail and slug bait): Molluscacides come in a variety of forms and may be mixed with other toxins. Ingestion can be fatal and there is no antidote. The effects of ingestion include anxiety, elevated heart and respiratory rates, uncoordination, severe muscle tremors and death.

Human Foods Toxic to Dogs

There are a number of human foods that you should avoid feeding to dogs as they can have an adverse effect on their health.

  • Salt: Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning. Signs that your dog may have eaten too many salty foods include depression, tremors, elevated body temperature and seizures.
  • Alcohol: affects dogs in the same way it affects humans. High levels of alcohol consumption can cause intoxication, gastrointestinal irritation, respiratory distress, coma and death.
  • Avocado: contains persin which is in all parts of the avocado. Ingestion causes gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart and even death.
  • Chocolate: contains theobromine (a methlyzanthine) which is toxic to dogs. Toxicity is dose related meaning that the overall effect of chocolate ingestions depends on the size of the dog, the amount eaten and the type of chocolate. Symptoms include restless ness, excitement, hyperactivity, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased drinking and urination, increased heart rate and seizures. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest. CLICK HERE for a toxicity calculator
  • Coffee or caffeine products: In large enough doses, caffeine can be fatal for a dog and there is no antidote. Symptoms of caffeine poisoning include restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations and muscle tremors. This also includes tea.
    Cooked bones: can splinter and cause gastrointestinal obstruction or laceration.
  • Fat trimmings: Fat, both cooked and uncooked, can cause intestinal upset, with vomiting and diarrhoea. It can also lead to your pet to developing pancreatitis.
  • Grapes, Raisins, Sultanas and Currants: The toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown but it can lead to kidney failure.
  • Onions, Garlic and Chives: These contain a substance that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and lead to red blood cell damage and a form of anaemia. Garlic and chives contain the same substance but at a lesser volume.
  • Green tomatoes and raw potatoes: These contain a substance that causes violent gastro-intestinal problems.
    Xylitol (artificial sweetener): Causes insulin release in dogs which can lead to liver failure. Initial signs of toxicity include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. This sweetener is used in candy, gum, toothpaste, baked goods and some diet foods.
  • Yeast dough: can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your dog’s digestive system. This can be painful and cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. The risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen.

Plants Toxic to Dogs

A number of plants are poisonous to dogs. Consumption of these plants can cause a range of symptoms from vomiting to serious illness and even death in some cases. Generally, dogs will stay away from plants that will harm them but sometimes curiosity and boredom get the better of them and they might nibble on your plants. Below is a list of the more common household plants that are toxic to dogs. If a plant you have in your garden is not listed here it does not mean that it is not toxic to dogs. For a more comprehensive list of both toxic and non-toxic plants for dogs, visit the ASPCA website where you should be able to find the plant in question among those listed. The Vets’ Library also has information on toxins for dogs.
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Azaleas
  • Black Locust
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Buttercups
  • Castor Bean
  • Cherries (Wild and Cultivated)
  • Daffodil
  • Daphne
  • Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane)
  • Elderberry
  • Elephant Ear
  • Foxgolve
  • Golden Chain
  • Hyacinth
  • Jack In The Pulpit
  • Jasmine
  • Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple)
  • Lantana Camara (Red Sage)
  • Larkspur
  • Laurels
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Mayapple
  • Mistletoe
  • Monkshood
  • Moonseed
  • Narcissus
  • Nightshade
  • Oak Trees
  • Oleander
  • Poison Hemlock
  • Rhododendrons
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosary Pea
  • Star of Bethlehem
  • Water Hemlock
  • Wisteria
  • Yew
This list of toxic plants for dogs was gathered from the Cornell University – Department of Animal Science website.
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