Your dog ate something toxic: What’s next?

Your dog ate something toxic: What’s next?
Take immediate action if you suspect poisoning and see multiple symptoms. (File photo)

By Kim Jones Gilliam

With all the candy sitting around after Halloween, you may wonder what would happen if your dog found your secret stash and ate all that chocolate. Would you call poison control? Rush them to the vet? Try to make them vomit? 

These are questions that most pet owners don’t ask until faced with an emergency situation, but it’s important to be prepared so you are ready to jump into action. 

Each year, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals publishes a list of the most commonly reported toxins. Here are the top 10. 

1. Over-the-counter medications – Most commonly ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are often stolen out of backpacks and purses. 

2. Food – Especially grapes, raisins, xylitol, onions, garlic and protein/snack bars. 

3. Human prescription medications – Ensure medicine is stored in closed cabinets out of reach of animals. 

4. Chocolate – The effect depends on a dog’s weight, type and amount of chocolate consumed. 

5. Plants – Always make sure plants are non-toxic before bringing them into your home. 

6. Household toxins – Includes cleaning, beauty and home repair products. 

7. Veterinary products – Chewable medications are made to smell and taste good. 

8. Rodenticides – these are made to be appealing to rodents, but your dog will be tempted to eat them too. 

9. Insecticides – Try using pet-safe product alternatives to chemical baits and sprays 

10. Recreational drugs – Primarily marijuana and edibles. This was the first year that recreational drugs made the list. The ASPCA fielded nearly 300% more calls about marijuana toxicity in 2022 compared with the five years prior. With more relaxed laws around marijuana use in the DMV, an increasing number of pets are accidentally consuming the drug and experiencing the potentially dangerous symptoms of toxicity. 

The symptoms of poisoning vary depending on the substance and quantity your dog has ingested. Some common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, increased body temperature, muscle rigidity, increased heart rate, seizures or tremors, behavioral changes, bruising or bleeding and finding unusual material in a dog’s stool. 

Poisoning can cause a whole range of effects – from more immediate to those with lasting impact – some of these can only be identified by a veterinarian, e.g. irregular heartbeat or liver failure. That’s why, if you have any reason to suspect poisoning and see multiple symptoms, you need to take immediate action. 

Follow these steps. 

1. Remove your dog from the toxic substance, noting the situation and your dog’s symptoms. 

2. Contact your veterinarian, the nearest emergency clinic if it’s after hours, or a pet poison hotline. Ask if you should come in immediately or induce vomiting at home. 

3. Collect any of the remaining potential toxin and a vomit or stool sample. This will help the vet diagnose and treat your pet. 

4. Follow your veterinarian’s directions, bringing your pet in as soon as possible if needed. 

In the case you can’t reach a vet right away, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is available 24/7 at 888-426-4435. The Pet Poison Helpline at 855- 764-7661 charges a $59 fee per call, but offers lifetime access for $15 through AKC Reunite. The AKC Vetline enables you to contact trained pet care professionals and licensed veterinary staff 24/7 for $99 across the lifetime of your pet. 

While you would never intentionally poison your pet, accidents are called accidents for a reason and it happens more often than you think. Keeping toxic substances out of paw’s reach can decrease this likelihood and help keep your pet safe at home. 

The writer co-owns Frolick Dogs, a canine sports club in Alexandria.