Intoxication in Dogs This article is verified by a vet

Dog in blanket

Plenty of dangers lurk in day-to-day life that can lead to intoxication in dogs.

All dog owners fear intoxication. Although the police often warn of poisonous bait, innocent dogs die from rat poison and the like every year. Find out here which foods and substances can lead to intoxication in dogs and when you should go to the vet.

How dangerous is intoxication in dogs?

The extent to which intoxication in dogs is dangerous depends on the dosage and type of toxin. If your dog has consumed a high dosage, you can expect heart or kidney failure as well as fatal liver damage if left untreated.

Symptoms: How to recognise intoxication in dogs

The general rule is that the dose makes the poison. The higher the dose, the more harmful it is for your dog. However, the following are typical signs of intoxication in dogs:

  • Nausea and salivation
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting (possibly with blood in the faeces)
  • Bloody spots on the mucous membrane (petechiae)
  • Bloody urine
  • Central nervous disorders (e.g. cramps, muscle tremors, paralysis, unconsciousness)

If the consumed dose is too high and help comes too late, intoxicated dogs can die as a result of this.

First-aid measures: What you can do to counteract intoxication in dogs in an emergency

If your dog has recently consumed a high dose of toxins, you should force it to vomit. You can do this by gradually feeding your dog spoonfuls of a saturated salt solution. You can also give your dog charcoal tablets, which should absorb the toxic substance.

When do I have to see a vet?

It’s better to be safe than sorry if your dog has consumed a toxic substance. If your dog shows typical signs of intoxication, you should see a vet as soon as possible.

In order for the vet to be well prepared, you should call them beforehand if possible and tell them about your dog possibly being intoxicated. If you have an idea which substance your dog may have consumed, this information is also helpful for successful treatment. If your dog has eaten an unknown plant or tablet, you should take it with you to the vet.

Puppy receiving infusion therapy
An intoxicated puppy receiving infusion therapy.

Treatment: Can intoxication in dogs be treated?

It’s important to act quickly if a dog is intoxicated. As soon as you have arrived at the vets, they will start with the following countermeasures:

  • They administer emetics to your dog by injection.
  • If necessary, they pump the stomach under anaesthetic.
  • If the vet is able to identify the toxin, they will administer an antidote.

After causal therapy, your dog will generally receive infusion therapy for several days. This is important to flush as much toxin from the blood as possible. If the toxin has severely damaged the kidneys, dialysis may also be necessary.

The vet admits your dog as an inpatient so that they can react to dangerous delayed effects as early as possible. Over several days they will monitor vital parameters like respiratory rate, pulse and the state of the mucous membrane. If your dog is nauseous, the vet can also give it anti-emetics.

Causes: Which foodstuffs and substances are toxic for dogs?

There are many intoxication hazards lurking in a normal household. The ingested dose of the toxin plays a crucial role here.

These things are toxic for dogs:

1. Foods

There are several foodstuffs that can be toxic for dogs. In the article Foods that dogs should not eat, we have put together a detailed list of which foods are toxic for dogs, which can only be fed in moderation and which your dog should only consume when cooked.

2. Chemical toxins

There is a whole range of chemical substances that can be dangerous for your dog. These include:

  • Rat poison (Coumarin)

Consumption of rat poison is one of the most common causes of intoxication in dogs. The coumarin contained in rat poison disrupts blood clotting in the liver, therefore intoxicated dogs can bleed to death internally without countermeasures such as administering vitamin K.

Sausages as toxic bait
Hate towards animals: Sausages as toxic bait.
  • Anti-freeze (ethylene glycol)

Anti-freeze is very helpful in winter, therefore many store this fluid in the car boot. If your dog destroys the canister unnoticed during a car journey, it may consume large quantities of this extremely sweet-tasting fluid and the toxin ethylene glycol that it contains.

  • Medication

Some medications, such as painkillers in the form of chewable tablets, are very tasty for dogs. However, too high a dose of these medications can lead to intoxication in dogs and damage the liver and kidneys. You should also keep pesticides like slug pellets away from your dog.

3. Plant toxins

Toxic plants are attractive but can be harmful for dogs. Amongst others, rubber trees, ficus trees and poinsettias trigger mild intoxication. In contrast, the yew tree with its berries or the oleander is highly toxic for dogs. Further examples are ivy, castor plants and lily of the valley.

Read more on the subject of toxic garden and house plants in the article: Plants that are toxic for dogs.

Prevention: How to protect your dog from intoxication

Toxins are found almost everywhere: in the garden, in the household and outdoors. Hence, it’s important to never let your dog out of your sight on walks.

If your dog consumes an unknown substance, you should be sure to watch out for any noticeable signs in the coming hours and days. Always put toxic foods in inaccessible places or store them behind sealed cupboard doors.

Franziska G., Veterinarian
Profilbild von Tierärztin Franziska Gütgeman mit Hund

At the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen I was extensively trained as a veterinarian and was able to gain experience in various fields such as small animal, large animal and exotic animal medicine as well as pharmacology, pathology and food hygiene. Since then, I have been working not only as a veterinary author, but also on my scientifically driven dissertation. My goal is to better protect animals from pathogenic bacterial organisms in the future. Besides my veterinary knowledge, I also share my own experiences as a happy dog owner and can thus understand and enlighten fears and problems as well as other important questions about animal health.

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