Do You Know Dog Poisoning Symptoms?

Each year, more than 200,000 pets are poisoned in the United States. Most of these cases are accidental after a dog ate something they shouldn’t have. Poisoning can be fatal, and time is of the essence. Would you recognize dog poisoning symptoms if your pup presented them? Here’s what to look out for.

Dog Poisoning Symptoms

Dog poisoning symptoms can range from barely noticeable to severe and potentially fatal and may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Blood in the stool
  • Excessive panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bruising
  • Loss of balance
  • Pale or bleeding gums
  • Inability to urinate
  • Excessive urination
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Respiratory distress
  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Coma

Types of Dog Poisoning Symptoms

If you aren’t sure what your dog got into, you might get a hint by the type of symptoms your pup is experiencing. Here are some of the most common types of dog poisoning symptoms and which toxins are most likely to cause those types of symptoms.


Gastrointestinal symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or blood in the stool and are typically caused by things like:

  • Lead paint
  • Toxic plants
  • Chocolate and other people foods
  • Medications

Seizures or Neurologic

Neurologic symptoms like seizures or loss of balance can be caused by things like:

  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Medications
  • Household products like cleaners
  • Insecticides and flea repellants
  • Some plants, including horse chestnuts and buckeyes
  • Some animals, including poisonous species of spiders, snakes, and toads


Heart symptoms, like an unusual rhythm, can be triggered by:

  • Some plants
  • Many medications

Bleeding and anemia

Anemia (low red blood cell count) and bleeding can be caused by:

  • Rat or mouse poisons
  • Excessive amounts of onion or garlic
  • Bracken fern
  • Sweet clover


Liver problems can be the result of exposure to things like:

  • Some plants
  • Many medications


Kidney problems can be triggered by:

  • Antifreeze
  • Some plants

How Quickly Will My Dog Get Sick?

Some poisons work quickly, and your dog will start to show symptoms within a few hours. Other toxins work slowly, and your dog might not show any signs for several days. Just because it takes longer for your dog to get sick, that doesn’t mean the poisoning is any milder.

Any poisoning can be fatal, so you should take your dog to the vet as soon as they show any symptoms.

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Been Poisoned?

If you know what poisoned your dog, you should call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at (888) 426-4435. The Poison Control Center can tell you whether your dog consumed enough of the poison to warrant a trip to the vet.

When in doubt, though, you should always call your vet first. They will let you know whether you should bring your pup in, or if there is something you can do at home to help your pup recover.

DO NOT try to get your dog to throw up the poison without talking to your vet or a poison control specialist first. Some toxins will cause more damage than it’s worth if your dog throws them up.

Diagnosing Dog Poisoning

If you know what your dog got into, or if they throw up something recognizable (like the telltale blue of rat poison), then that may be enough for a diagnosis. Usually, though, poisoning is diagnosed (or at least confirmed) with blood testing.

Dog Poisoning Treatment

The treatment for dog poisoning varies depending on the type of poison. For some poisons, inducing vomiting can help get rid of enough of the toxin for your dog to feel better. Giving a dog activated charcoal can help absorb some toxins inside the intestinal tract, but it doesn’t work on all poisons. A few toxins, like rat poison, can be treated with an antidote. Sometimes, the only thing that can be done is to give the dog supportive care until their symptoms have passed.

Is Activated Charcoal Used to Treat Dog Poisoning?

Sometimes, activated charcoal can help bind to toxins that your dog has swallowed and help them pass through your dog’s digestive tract without causing damage. It is NOT used for dogs who have ingested caustic materials or chemicals like fluoride, ethanol, or fertilizer.

Should I Make My Dog Throw Up if They’ve Been Poisoned?

Always talk to a vet or poison control specialist before making your dog throw up. While it can help in some cases, it can cause more damage in other situations. NEVER make your dog throw up if they’ve swallowed acids, alkalis, hydrocarbons, or corrosive agents.

How to Prevent Dog Poisoning

Make sure to keep all potential poisons out of your dog’s reach. Crate training is a great way to help keep your dog safe when you aren’t around to keep an eye on them. Rather than a punishment, a crate should feel like a comfortable, safe place for your dog. If you work away from home, doggie daycare can also keep your dog safely occupied and away from your trash and potential poisons.

What Is Poisonous to Dogs?

Many things can be poisonous to dogs, including some people foods, certain plants, rat poison, and antifreeze. Here are the most common dog poisons to keep out of your dog’s reach:

  • Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve). Herbal and nutraceutical products fall in this category, too.
  • Prescription medications (for people). A few examples include blood pressure medications; pain relievers, which can cause kidney failure or stomach ulcers; and antidepressants, which can cause serotonin syndrome with symptoms that include increased temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, which can lead to seizures.
  • Household products ranging from antifreeze to cleaners to pool chemicals can poison your dog.
  • People food, especially alcohol, avocado, chocolate, grapes or raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, and xylitol (an artificial sweetener).
  • Veterinary products, including flea and tick medication, if used improperly.
  • Rodenticides and insecticides. If it can kill another creature, the odds are good that it can kill your pup, too.
  • Plants, including sago palms, tulips, daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, and poinsettias, can make dogs very sick if they eat them.
  • Lawn and garden products can be very toxic if swallowed.

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