Help, my dog ate a chocolate candy bar! My dog ate a shoe! My dog ate it’s toy!…these are some of the most common questions that get asked on VetBabble. Dogs can be extremely stealthy and fast when they find something that looks enticing to eat. Sometimes you can get to them fast enough to grab it out of their mouth, but oftentimes they swallow it too fast and then you are stuck thinking, Well, now what do I do?!
This can be especially concerning if your dog ate something that is known to be toxic. However, there is a saying in toxicology that says –
anything is toxic. It simply depends on the dose.
This does not mean that you need to be careful for everything that your dog eats, but it does mean that eating too much of just about anything can cause harm. The general thing you will want to know is how much of the toxin your dog has eaten and how much your dog weights. From there, it is typically a matter of finding the correct resource to find out if it is toxic. If this is a commercial product, then you will be able to read the ingredients and finding out the dose that was ingested. With this information, you can search internet for the specific substance and what dose is toxic. Depending on how common it is, the more likely you are to find it. However, it is always recommended to call the ASPCA poison control as they have a team of toxicologists that will give you the best advice possible. There is a fee for the service, but it is well worth it and it supports the program.
There phone number for the ASPCA Poison control is: (888)426-4435
In case you are unable to call, we also discuss some of the basics on toxin ingestion below. This will help a pet owner know a bit better of when it is important to take your your pup to the veterinarian and what things can be done at home.
Substances toxic to dogs
There are many things that dogs can sometimes get into that are certainly toxic to them, and can even cause death if they aren’t treated immediately. These items can fall into a variety of categories.
There are many human medications that are toxic to dogs, especially anti-inflammatory pain medications, such as Alieve and Ibuprofen. Other toxic medications include anti-depressants and anxiety medications, anti-histamines with decongestants in them, medications that treat Psoriasis, and medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, high blood pressure and a multitude of other conditions. If your pet has eaten one or some of your medications, never assume they will be okay- always call either your veterinarian’s office or as mentioned before, the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888)426-4435 to find out what you should do.
Some medications that are specifically made for your dog, such as pain medications and antibiotics, may actually be formulated to taste good. If you accidentally drop the bottle or your dog pushes it off of a table and then eats all the pills at once, the dose they ingested could also be toxic to them and you should call your veterinarian right away.
Animal Baits and Household Items
One of the most common toxic items dogs get into is mouse and rat poison. These are extremely toxic to dogs, and depending on the type of rat poison, they might not even have an antidote to counteract the detrimental effects they cause, resulting in death. Other types of baits, such as ant bait and gopher bait can make your dog very sick as well.
A common source of toxicity in the wintertime is antifreeze. Antifreeze has a very sweet taste and dogs just love to lap it up if they find it in puddles on the ground. Even very small amounts of it can cause kidney failure and seizures in dogs. Most dogs who ingest even just a little bit of it need to be hospitalized until it is out of their system; and, if not treated, it can result in death.
A very discreet household item that may be lying around in easily accessible places is pennies. These may seem benign, but pennies that were made after 1982 can be very toxic to dogs if ingested, as they contain zinc and could cause your dog to become extremely anemic. Oftentimes dogs that ingest these pennies need to have blood transfusions and have surgery to remove the penny from their stomach before it can cause more harm.
Other things to keep out of reach of your dog are cigarettes, nicotine patches, household cleaning items, essential oils, dish detergent pods, and dryer sheets.
There is a multitude of plants that are toxic to dogs, though most of them may just cause irritation of the stomach and intestines resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. For a full list of toxic plants to avoid having in your home, you can click here:
One plant in particular that can be especially toxic to dogs is the Sago Palm, which if eaten can result in liver failure. Other plants to be aware of that can be very toxic that may be found in your yard are Black Walnut Trees and Amanita Mushrooms.
There are a variety of foods that can be toxic to dogs, but the ones you really want to prevent your dog from getting into are chocolate (especially baker’s chocolate), grapes, raisins, onions, anything containing xylitol (such as sugar-free gum, other sugar-free sweeteners), and anything that has marijuana baked into it. For a more comprehensive list of human foods to avoid in dogs, please visit:
Other things you should be aware of and watch out for your dog eating are clothing items, such as socks and underwear, carpet, or strings. While not necessarily toxic, these can become lodged in your dog’s intestines, requiring them to have major abdominal surgery in order to remove. If you catch your dog in the act of swallowing something such as this, call your veterinarian to see if they recommend you bringing your dog in right away for them to induce vomiting in order to prevent the need for surgery.
Do I need to take my pet to the vet?
Generally speaking, if your dog ate something that could potentially be toxic, or you suspect they may have eaten something that could be toxic, you need to take your dog to your closest veterinary clinic right away. For most ingested items, if your dog vomits them up within thirty minutes to one hour of ingestion, this is the best way to prevent complications from occurring. If more than an hour has passed, it is likely that the item has already passed out of your dog’s stomach, and causing them to vomit will not help but could potentially make things worse.
Your veterinarian can give your dog a medication, called Apomorphine, either as an injection or as an eye drop to safely cause your dog to vomit and rid them of the toxic substance. Depending on the risk of the item ingested, your veterinarian may also give your dog a substance called “Activated Charcoal” to help bind any lingering pieces that already passed through your dog’s stomach to help them move through and not be absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream. Your veterinarian may also give your dog some intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids or recommend they be hospitalized for observation to make sure they are okay.
What if I’m too Far Away from My Veterinarian’s Office?
If you cannot get your pet to the vet within an hour, you can try to get your dog to vomit at home by giving them hydrogen peroxide. You can find more information on this here:
However, there is a risk that if your dog inhales some of the hydrogen peroxides, they could develop pneumonia. Additionally, there are some toxic substances that could cause more harm to your dog if you try to get your dog to vomit them back up. It is always best to first consult with either your veterinarian’s office or the ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) immediately and before you try to get your dog to vomit on your own.
For more information on substances toxic to dogs, please visit: