How to Know if Your Dog Has Eaten Something Toxic (2023)

Think your dog has been poisoned? Learn the signs and what your vet can do.


How to Know if Your Dog Has Eaten Something Toxic (1)

By Brendan Howard August 24, 2020

There are many toxins, plants, chemicals, or food that can be poisonous to your dog. Common causes of poisoning in dogs can be found in your bathroom cabinet, in the backyard, in spoiled food scarfed on a walk, and human food that's stolen off the counter or dropped from the kitchen table.

No matter what the toxin is or where it came from, here's what you need to know to notice potential signs of poisoning and take quick steps to help your dog survive.

tired dog lying on yellow couch

How to Know if Your Dog Has Eaten Something Toxic (2)

Credit: Kerkez / Getty

Signs of Poisoning in Dogs

Beyond a mangled plant, empty bottle, or missing food, there are many clinical signs that could indicate your dog has eaten a toxic food, chemical, poisonous plant, or spoiled dog food. The following is not a complete list but gives you a general idea of common signs to look for if you suspect your dog has been poisoned, and things your veterinarian can find with proper testing and a complete physical exam.

A dog eating a toxic plant is a common reason for pet owners to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's hotline, according to Tina Wismer, DVM, MS, DABVT, DABT and senior director of the center. The situation can be extremely urgent, depending on the plant.

"Most common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and seizures," Wismer says. "In severe cases, ingestion of poisonous plants can lead to liver failure, kidney failure, and cardiovascular problems.

Clinical signs of poisoning in a dog may include:

  • Gastrointestinal signs: vomiting, diarrhea, extreme salivation, loss of appetite, and nausea or dry heaving
  • Internal bleeding:indicated by pale gums, a racing heart, coughing up or vomiting blood, weakness or lethargy, or a dog's falling over or collapsing
  • Kidney failure: increased or decreased urination, increased drinking as well as lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Liver failure: yellow gums, acting abnormally or dully as well as tarry stool (melena), vomiting, diarrhea, or collapsing due to low blood sugar.

What to Do if Your Dog Has Been Poisoned

If you know your dog has eaten something poisonous, here's what to do:

  1. Make sure your dog is breathing, alert, and behaving normally.
  2. Keep your dog and everyone else away from the source of the poisoning. Note what was eaten and keep any labels of information about the product or object. That will help medical professionals make the right decision for treatment.
  3. If the poison is in the dog's fur, wash the dog thoroughly, if you can do so safely.
  4. Don't use any at-home remedies or antidotes. And don't try to make your dog vomit before you talk to a veterinarian. Vomiting may be the right approach, but it might also be dangerous based on what your dog ingested and what's happening in the dog's body.
  5. Make an immediate call to your veterinarian or a phone hotline to help with pet poisoning, like Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661, or ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. Remember, hotlines like these do charge for their services, so a consultation fee may apply.
  6. If your dog needs medical help, call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible. The sooner you get help for a dog poisoning, the better the chances your dog can recover from poisoning.

Treatment, whether at home under a veterinarian's orders or in a veterinary hospital, will be specific to the poison. Your veterinarian may recommend that you induce vomiting in your dog in some situations, but not in others. Once in the hospital, your veterinarian may give your dog intravenous fluid, flush your dog's stomach, give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the toxin, or perform surgery. Supportive medications may help your dog's kidneys and liver process the poison and heal.

The ASPCA Poison Control estimates that 25 percent of poisoned pets recover within two hours. Even with treatment, one in 100 poisoned pets will die.

What if I Suspect Someone Poisoned My Dog?

Intentional poisonings are rare and can be difficult to prosecute without hard evidence that your dog was poisoned on purpose.

However, if you suspect someone has intentionally poisoned your pet, follow the steps detailed in the link above and contact your veterinarian along with the police. Your vet may be able to detect toxins with diagnostic testing. If your pet has died, a veterinary lab may be able to perform an autopsy to determine cause of death.


What are the symptoms of toxic poisoning in dogs? ›

Symptoms can cause:
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Bleeding from the gut.
  • Convulsions.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Kidney failure.

How long does it take for a dog to show signs of toxicity? ›

Affected dogs show signs 30 minutes to 4 hours after ingesting the poison. Initially affected dogs become anxious and have an elevated body temperature. Panting is usually seen. Progressively they become worse and staggery.

How do I know if my dog ate something bad? ›

An upset stomach is one of the most obvious signs that your dog has eaten something bad, and it's also one of the first signs to show up.
Common gastrointestinal signs that your dog is sick include:
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Extreme salivation.

How long does it take for a dog to react to toxic food? ›

Symptoms typically develop within 12-24 hours after ingestion of the contaminated food source. In severe cases, food poisoning can cause death. The most common symptoms of food poisoning in dogs include: Vomiting.

How do you flush poison out of a dog's system? ›

One of the most common treatment options for poisoning in dogs is inducing vomiting. Other treatment may include medication to reduce pain and symptoms, overnight monitoring, or IV's for flushing out the toxins in the system. The cost of treatment can vary from $250 to $5,000.

Can a dog survive toxic poisoning? ›

Typically, mild cases of poisoning have high recovery rates. In severe poisoning cases or cases where treatment was delayed the chance of recovery is extremely low. When pets do recover from severe poisoning there can also be long-term damage to their overall health.

What should I do if my dog ate something bad? ›

Contact your vet immediately for an emergency appointment if your dog has eaten something harmful. Never wait to see if a problem develops - your dog could become very ill or even die without treatment.

How long do toxins last in dogs? ›

Depending on the type of poisoning, dogs may take weeks or months to recuperate, and some dogs may have permanent organ damage after recovery.

Can dogs recover from food poisoning on their own? ›

Chances are good that your dog can recover easily on his own once the food poisoning is purged from their system, but if they repeatedly vomit or don't show signs of recovery after 24 hours, you should bring your dog in to see your veterinarian.

Does milk help dogs with poisoning? ›

No. Milk is unlikely to be helpful in the vast majority of poisoning situations and can sometimes make things worse. Most pets are lactose intolerant and giving milk can cause or worsen stomach upset symptoms.

What are the signs of poisoning? ›

General symptoms of poisoning can include:
  • feeling and being sick.
  • diarrhoea.
  • stomach pain.
  • drowsiness, dizziness or weakness.
  • high temperature.
  • chills (shivering)
  • loss of appetite.
  • headache.

What is the most common poison for dogs? ›

Rat and mouse poisons are other household items that are poisonous for dogs. These are one of the most common toxicities in dogs. If your dog has consumed any of these poisons, then they need to be seen by a vet immediately.

How long does it take for something to leave a dog's system? ›

When something is ingested by your dog, it usually takes between 10-24 hours to move through the entire digestive tract. Some objects, however, can take much longer – even months! Sometimes, objects are too big to progress through the digestive tract, and when this is the case, they cause an obstruction.

What are the symptoms of two step poison in dogs? ›

Symptoms of 'two-step' poisoning can include the following:

Vomiting, diarrhoea. Difficulty breathing, very fast breathing or coughing up slime (excessive secretions in the airways) Abnormally slow heart rate. Muscle tremors, shaking, twitching, weakness or loss of balance.

What foods are poisonous to dogs? ›

Toxic food for dogs
  • Onions, garlic and chives. The onion family, whether dry, raw or cooked, is particularly toxic to dogs and can cause gastrointestinal irritation and red blood cell damage. ...
  • Chocolate. ...
  • Macadamia nuts. ...
  • Corn on the cob. ...
  • Avocado. ...
  • Artificial sweetener (Xylitol) ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Cooked bones.

How do vets test for poison? ›

Routine blood and urine tests. Some poisons are diagnosed or suspected based on routine blood and urine evaluation. Some poisons are known to cause severe kidney damage, liver damage, electrolyte or mineral abnormalities. If these abnormalities are found on blood or urine tests, poisoning may be suspected.

What's wrong with my dog symptoms? ›

Coughing, sneezing, excessive panting, or labored breathing. Dry or itchy skin, sores, lumps, or shaking of the head. Frequent digestive upsets or change in bowel movements. Dry, red, or cloudy eyes.

What are the three most toxic foods for dogs? ›

Top 10 Toxic Foods For Dogs
  • People Food (Sugars, Fats, Salt)
  • Raw Eggs.
  • Milk & Other Dairy Products.
  • Human Vitamins Containing Iron:
  • Large Quantities Of Liver:
  • Mushrooms:
  • Macadamia Nuts:
  • Grapes and Raisins:

What are most poisonous to dogs? ›

  • Chocolate. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is toxic to dogs, due to its theobromine and caffeine content. ...
  • Grapes/raisins/currants. Main article: Grape and raisin toxicity in dogs. ...
  • Macadamia nuts. ...
  • Xylitol. ...
  • Fruit pits and seeds. ...
  • Onions and garlic. ...
  • Pesticides. ...
  • Rodenticides.


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