According to Pet WebMD, pet poisoning cases each year in the United States number over 100,000. What makes these numbers particularly alarming is that many could have been prevented because they occurred when dogs ate substances common in households. Things people eat and use regularly are huge sources of poisoning for dogs. The foods are surprising, because they are often the most dangerous. For example, chives, garlic, leeks, and onions are used daily in many kitchens, but when a dog chews or swallows these common recipe ingredients, they can cause upset stomachs and even anemia. Here is a list of twenty poison dangers which dog owners should know of. The first ten are in order of the most common, and the second ten include some dangers which are often less familiar.
1. Prescription medications people use
The number one dog poison is the pill a person drops. Dogs are notorious for eating just about anything, and unfortunately, people pills are often coated with a sweet layer which is just as tasty to dogs as it can be to humans. Anti-inflammatory prescriptions can give dogs intestinal or stomach ulcers or cause their kidneys to fail. Antidepressants can cause dogs to vomit, or even worse, cause serotonin syndrome which dangerously raises blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature leading to seizures. Dogs must also be kept away from blood pressure medications.
2. OTC Flea and tick insecticides
Though these products are supposed to keep dogs free of these pesky invaders, when over the counter flea and tick fighters are applied, dogs tend to lick their coats. Accidental ingestion causes thousands of unintentional poisoning cases each year, with breathing difficulties, vomiting and seizures. Products for dogs shouldn’t be used on cats, or vice versa. Smaller dogs are also at risk of receiving too much, and when the excess absorbs into their body, they become ill. It’s best to ask a veterinarian about which ones are safe. Don’t make the mistake of using house or yard treatments on dogs, either.
3. OTC pain killers
While pain killers can be very helpful for humans, dogs have very different reactions to the same products. Dogs can get liver damage from swallowing Tylenol, which contains Acetaminophen. The Ibuprofen in Advil and Motrin can cause severe ulcers, anemia, kidney and liver failure. Veterinarians recommend also keeping dogs away from naproxen in Aleve, fish oil tablets, joint remedies and other herbal supplements.
4. Veterinary pet drugs
When the vet prescribes de-wormers or painkillers, its assumed that they are safe. But some dogs are severely allergic to certain brands of de-wormers and will vomit repeatedly, become lethargic or experience severe diarrhea. Painkillers, when given properly, still may have mild to severe side-effects. But the worse problems are caused by overdoses, and these include shallow breathing, anxious behavior, a slowed heart beat and hallucinations. Because these symptoms can lead to the dog collapsing or even dying, finding immediate emergency vet services is required.
5. Household products
There are many products which poison both people and dogs. Chances are that if something will make a human sick, it will also do so with dogs. The symptoms depend on the product, but include upset stomachs, problems breathing, chemical burns, depression, kidney failure and deaths. The following products are high on the list of common dog poisoning sources:
- Drain cleaner
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Fire logs
- Paint thinner
- Pool chemicals
6. Food for people
It may be surprising to learn that grapes, grape juice, raisins and currents may be severely toxic to dogs. Even in small amounts, these common fruits can cause a dog’s kidneys to fail. Other foods to keep away from dogs include avocados. The substance persin in avocados causes diarrhea, vomiting and more in dogs. Dogs may overheat, vomit, and become weak after eating Macadamia nuts. The Xylitol used to sweeten gum and candy has caused blood sugar level drops, seizures, weakness and liver failures. Dogs can also suffer from alcohol poisoning just as people do. Dogs can have trouble breathing, may vomit or fall into a coma, and when severe, die.
Chocolate contains methylxanthines which cause vomiting after small doses are ingested. Larger quantities can cause death. Because dark chocolate contains more of these substances, they are more dangerous to dogs than milk or white chocolate. While a large dog breed might not die after ingesting 4 to 8 ounces, a smaller dog breed could die after ingesting only a half-ounce. Chocolate is very dangerous for dogs. Coffee and other caffeinated products should be kept from pets, as they contain similar chemicals.
Many beautiful plants are highly toxic to dogs. Here are the top toxic offenders:
- Azaleas-the toxins these contain may lead to diarrhea, vomiting, coma and death
- Daffodils-these bulb plants affect the stomach, breathing, and increase the heart rate
- Rhododendrons-these have the same toxic problems as Azaleas
- Sago palm seeds- dogs which ingest these seeds can develop ingestion, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and liver failure
- Tulip bulbs-dogs like to dig up these bulbs, but they cause havoc to the dog’s breathing, stomach and heart
9. Rodent poison
This poison comes with extra precautions because dogs can die from eating a rodent who ate the poison first. Dogs can also eat the poison and die before the rodent finds it. Called rodenticides, these must be kept on high shelves or metal cabinets so that dogs cannot reach them. Neighbors should also be told that rodenticides will be spread so that their dogs can be protected from them. When everyone in the neighborhood knows that rodenticides are used, all can take measures to protect all the pets in the area.
10. Slug and snail bait
These products are so often used in gardens and lawns that gardeners rarely think of them as toxic to pets. But some are seriously poisonous to dogs. Because the product ingredients vary widely, veterinarians recommend checking the product labels for ingredients. Each ingredient will result in different symptoms, so it’s important to know exactly what’s in the products. Storing these products where pets cannot reach them is the best way to reduce poisoning possibilities.
Batteries are potentially a significant problem because they exist everywhere. They are in smoke alarms, clocks, remote controls, watches, CD players, toys, holiday ornaments and dog toys. They are so common that they are often forgotten until they become a chew toy for the dog.
Batteries contain the toxic substance potassium hydroxide which will cause ulcers on the skin, the tongue, inside the mouth and down the esophagus. Dogs generally puncture the battery casing while chewing on it, and when the fluid leaks out, it burns the dog’s mouth. Dogs may drool, vomit or cry from pain. A visit to the veterinarian is a must, to determine if the battery is chewed into pieces, which are very dangerous, or if it is intact. Surgery may be necessary to keep the battery from blocking the dog’s intestines. The dog may heal, but have future damage to its esophagus which is permanent and will cause eating and swallowing problems in the future.
Detergents are known to cause ulcers when ingested. Beginning with the mouth, passing through the esophagus and depositing in the stomach, they irritate the tissues all the way down. Fabric softener sheets do the same, and are problematic because they can seem like a floating play toy to an unlucky dog.
13. Ethylene glycol
This common ingredient in antifreeze, engine coolant, motor oils and windshield de-icing products is lethal because dogs are attracted to the sweet flavor it has. But kidney failure can result from ingesting a small teaspoonful. Dogs who do manage to ingest this substance may suffer stomach upset, depression, and even die, so it’s recommended that products be kept in a storage area which they cannot access. Important to watch for is windshield wiper fluid which contains methanol, because this substance can cause a dog’s blood sugar to drop dangerously low.
Dogs must be kept away from fertilized lawns until they are completely dry. That’s because fertilizers contain pesticides, herbicides, zinc, nitrogen, iron, phosphorus and potassium in poisoning amounts. Some brands also require washing the product into the lawn before dog’s can walk on it safely.
15. Gasoline, Kerosene
The problem with these liquids is that they are often stored in containers kept in the garage. This allows the casual accident, where pets track through inadvertent spills or simply lick the containers. It’s difficult to control these products when pouring into the home lawn or other gasoline powered tool. All it takes is a quick lick and swallow for a pet to become ill. These, and tiki torch lighting fluids, can cause breathing difficulties and drooling. The primary trouble occurs when the dog vomits and may inhale gasoline particles into its lungs. An emergency visit to the vet is in order if more than diarrhea occurs. If the dog is dizzy or wobbly, then it must be seen right away.
16. Lily of the Valley and Jimson weed (also called Devil’s Trumpet or Devil’s Snare)
These beautiful flowers are not beautiful for dogs. Lily of the Valley contains the toxin convallarin. Lily of the valley can cause problems including abnormal heartbeats, vomiting, confusion, lowered blood pressure, convulsions, coma, and even lead to death. Jimson weed is highly toxic with hallucinogenic alkaloids which are powerful enough to be fatal to both animals and humans. Jimson weed can cause drunken walking, fast pulse, dilated pupils, and respiratory failure. The toxins quickly inhibit muscle and nerve reactions throughout the entire body, so that severe paralysis of these systems result in death in the worst cases. Whenever either of these toxic plants are ingested, prompt veterinary care is necessary.
When mothballs contain naphthalene, dogs who ingest them can experience diarrhea, vomiting, increased drinking and urinating, and even seizures. Depending on the amount absorbed through the skin eaten, or inhaled, the symptoms may be moderate to life threatening. It can take minutes to days for these symptoms to show. Owners should look for breath that smells like mothballs, lethargy, and appetite loss. A painful abdomen is another sign. Without treatment, dogs can have brain swelling and go into a coma. Additional conditions such as Heinz anemia or jaundice and liver problems. The dog must be seen immediately by a veterinarian. The mothballs may be removed within 30 to 60 minutes after they are swallowed. Toxins may be absorbed using activated charcoal. Oxygen to help breathing may be administered and the dog may need to be hospitalized.
Zinc is found in nuts and bolts, some diaper rash ointments, sunscreen, dietary supplements, metal objects and coins. Keep all items containing zinc away from dogs, as they will lick and possibly ingest them. Dogs also enjoy playing with coins and will swallow pennies. But the zinc in the pennies can cause them to die from heart, liver or kidney failure. Anemia is also one serious condition which may result from ingesting just one penny. Pennies made before 1982 used to be 100 percent copper. Copper is not toxic. But zinc is much cheaper, so the government began to make pennies made of zinc with just a thin covering of copper. Dogs that swallow pennies suffer from zinc toxicity when the outer copper coating dissolves in the acids in its stomach. Then, the zinc leaches out into the body. Dogs with zinc poisoning may vomit or have diarrhea. Their urine may be tinged with blood. Their whites of their eyes and their gums may be yellow colored. They should be seen by a veterinarian, who can take an x-ray. If a zinc object is discovered, it can be promptly removed with an endoscope or with surgery. The dog may need fluid therapy, anti-nausea medications, stomach coating medications, and a blood transfusion if anemia is indicated.
The nicotine in cigarettes, cigarette butts, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff, the tobacco plant and patches used to stop smoking, if ingested, can cause dogs to vomit, have tremors, or at the very worst, collapse and die. Dogs are attracted to the smells and new flavors in nicotine products. But, even a small amount can cause severe problems, as the nicotine can be absorbed very rapidly into the body. Dogs who have ingested nicotine may become paralyzed in the lungs and muscles and this results in failure to breathe. The dog’s central nervous system and heart can be damaged as well. As soon as a dog is thought to have ingested any amount of nicotine, take it to an animal hospital or a veterinarian immediately.
20. Unbaked bread dough
This is one of the last things one would expect could be toxic to a dog. The problem is that it contains yeast; which has two characteristics which are dangerous. Yeast causes dough to rise, and if a dog eats it, the dough can continue to expand, even inside the dog’s stomach. This can cause the stomach to expand severely or twist and cut off the dog’s blood supply. The second problem with yeast in bread dough is that it can ferment and cause the dog’s blood alcohol level to increase to toxic levels. This can lead to respiratory failure and seizures.
Dogs will try to vomit it up, but dough is sticky. The dog may have a distended stomach, have breathing difficulty, salivate excessively, be disoriented or depressed, be weak and cold. In the worst cases, the intestines can rupture when they become bloated with gas from the fermenting yeast. In the early stages, drinking cold water is the first thing the dog should do to slow the proliferation of yeast. It can cool the stomach and break up the dough. The dog must receive professional veterinary treatment which may include x-rays, intravenous fluids, medications for seizures and coma and possible surgery to remove the unbaked lump of dough.
Because dog poisoning can happen when least expected, professionals recommend that dog owners keep a contact list by a phone or posted in clear view where everyone in the family can find it easily during an emergency. Dogs who have suffered overdoses or ingests toxic products or foods need veterinary help quickly. Here are the steps for contacting the right help, right away:
- Call the dog’s regular veterinarian immediately.
- Call an emergency veterinarian clinic or 24-hour pet hospital immediately.
- Call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at
1-888-426-4433 or 1-800-548-2423
Available around the clock. Fee is $65
Call the Pet Poison Hotline at
Available around the clock. Fee is $49 for all calls related to one incident.