brown dog lying down on table in vet on drip - IV fluids can help to treat poisoning

Dog Poisoning 101: Symptoms and Signs


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Hopefully, dog poisoning symptoms and treatment are something you never have to deal with. But given the average household has plenty of items that are toxic to dogs – like cleaning supplies, plants, and food – it can happen too easily. Ditto for when you’re out, like with toxic sea creatures, algae or tree berries.

And though it hardly bears thinking about, there’s also a possibility that another human might poison your dog intentionally.

That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of dog poisoning, as well as what actions to take if you suspect it. Having the right knowledge and being well prepared could save your dog’s life in the case of poisoning, as prompt treatment is crucial.

What can lead to dog poisoning?

There are basically two ways your dog could be poisoned: accidentally and deliberately. Accidental is more common in New Zealand, but deliberate poisoning isn’t unheard of.

Accidental poisoning

As you can imagine, quite a few things that are poisonous to humans are also harmful to dogs (and cats!). So things like medications, pesticides, cleaning fluids, rodent poisons and so on can be poisonous to your dog if ingested. These should always be kept out of harm’s way.

Dog poisoning symptoms can also develop from things you might otherwise think are harmless. Most of us know about chocolate toxicity in dogs and cats, so we wouldn’t share the Lindt with them. But there are plenty of other food items that can poison your dogs too.

Xylitol is one and it’s found in plenty of foods. Our article about xylitol toxicity in dogs will give you some fast facts to remember.

As for another often overlooked one.. Can dogs eat grapes? Nope, they can be poisonous too, just like raisins, onion, garlic, apple cores and more. We’ve put together a list of foods dogs can eat (and can’t!) and another about other things that can poison your pet.

Even essential oils can be toxic. And don’t forget the poisonous plants either. Fiddle leaf fig, for example, is poisonous for our pooches.

pomeranian dog looking at medicine paracetamol in packets

Deliberate poisoning

There have been occasional cases of dogs being poisoned deliberately in New Zealand. When this happens, often poison is hidden in meat or treats and fed to your dog or thrown over the garden wall. This might be in order to gain access to your property for a break in, or it could be a malicious individual who doesn’t want your dog around.  

It’s one of the main reasons dogs should sleep indoors instead of outdoors. If you rely on them for protection or as an early warning alarm system, perhaps reconsider this. Read our article on pros and cons when dogs sleep outside.

Dog poisoning symptoms

You don’t want to be frantically asking Google what dog poisoning symptoms are when you notice something is wrong. Instead, get familiar with it so you can act as decisively as you would when your dog asks to go outside so they don’t have an accident on your new carpet.

Some of the signs and symptoms of dog poisoning include:

  • Agitation
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Diarrhoea
  • Kidney failure
  • Excessive bruising or bleeding
  • Nosebleeds
  • Inability to stand on their feet (unstable)
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Drooling
  • Oral irritation
  • Pale gums
  • Inability to urinate

As you can tell, the list of symptoms is long and slightly vague. You might have noticed some of these symptoms before in relation to something completely different to poisoning. Especially broad symptoms like agitation or vomiting, which can be attributed to a lot of different causes such as gastroenteritis, separation anxiety in pets, and more.

You know your dog best, and it’s likely you’ll recognise if they’re displaying abnormal behaviour. If you notice any of the above dog poisoning symptoms and think they’re out of the ordinary for your pup, get them to an emergency vet ASAP.

this Maltese dog looking out the window was dog vomiting from dog poisoning symptoms

Dog poisoning FAQ

We’ve collected the frequently asked dog poisoning questions and answers so you can have all the info in one place. Read on…

What do I do if my dog is poisoned?

The Australian Animal Poisons Helpline is available to all New Zealand pet owners. Kiwis can contact this on 0800 TOX PET (0800 869 738) to get treatment advice, assessments, and a referral if needed.

According to the Helpline, you should first rinse or wipe your pet’s mouth to get rid of any possible extra traces of poison.

When you call the Helpline, they may ask:

  1. Your dog’s or cat’s name and weight
  2. Details about the poison(s) they’ve been exposed to, including the product name and the amount. Try to have the bottle/packaging in front of you when you call
  3. How they’ve been exposed (did they swallow it, get it on their skin or eyes, inhale it, were they bitten by something, etc)
  4. The time since exposure
  5. If they have any symptoms
  6. If they have any previous medical conditions
  7. Any treatment you’ve already performed

What shouldn’t I do?

If you don’t know the answers to all of the above questions, don’t let it deter you. If you notice dog poisoning symptoms, call your vet or the Helpline immediately regardless of how much info you have. But what you shouldn’t do is:

  • Don’t try to make your pet eat or drink anything until you’ve spoken to the Animal Poisons Helpline or your vet.
  • Don’t try to induce vomiting either, unless instructed to by these professionals. This can often make things worse.
  • Don’t give your pet milk. Dogs and cats are lactose intolerant and this can make the situation worse. (Read our article on cat milk)
black dog vomiting on grass after poisoning

How long does it take for poison to affect a dog?

How long it takes for dog poisoning symptoms to kick in depends almost entirely on the type of poisoning.

While your pet will only show symptoms of chocolate toxicity after a few hours, they’ll show symptoms of antifreeze poisoning much quicker. Rat poisons can take as long as a few days to cause symptoms.

How do you treat poisoning in dogs?

Once again, the best treatment will depend on the type of dog poisoning.

Your vet may give your dog intravenous fluid via a drip. They could also flush your dog’s stomach, or give your dog activated charcoal to absorb the toxin. It may even be necessary to perform surgery. Supportive medications can be used to help your dog process the poisons and to heal as best as possible.

If you know what poisoned your dog, bring it along with you. This can help the vet determine what they’re reacting to and can help them make an informed decision around the best treatment for your pup.

Peace of mind with pet insurance

In the unfortunate event you have to deal with dog poisoning symptoms and what lies beyond, the only thing you want to be thinking about is how best to help your dog. Not how you’ll pay the bill.

Medical emergencies, medication, surgery and more can get very expensive, very quickly. A pet insurance policy can help dedicated pet parents avoid the heartbreak of having to choose between lifesaving treatment and their bank account. Why not take two minutes to get a quote now?

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