A poison is any substance harmful to the body. Animal baits
are palatable poisons that encourage ingestion. This makes them an obvious
choice for intentional poisoning.
Dogs are curious by nature and have a tendency to hunt small game, or
explore out-of-the-way places such as woodpiles, weed thickets and storage
ports. This puts them into contact with insects, dead animals and toxic
plants. It also means that in many cases of suspected poisoning the actual
agent will be unknown. The great variety of potentially poisonous plants
and shrubs makes identification difficult or impossible unless the owner
has direct knowledge that the dog has eaten a certain plant or product.
Most cases suspected of being malicious poisoning actually are not.
In some types of vegetation, only certain parts of the plant are toxic.
In others, all parts are poisonous. Ingestion causes a wide range of
symptoms. They include mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea,
hallucination, seizures, coma and death. Other plant substances cause
skin rash. Some toxic plants have specific pharmacological actions that
are used in medicines.
The following tables of toxic plants, shrubs and trees are included for
A. That give rash after contact with the skin or mouth:
Pot mum > might produce dermatitis
Spider mum > might produce dermatitis
B. That are irritating to mucus membranes (toxic oxalates); the mouth
especially gets swollen; painful tongue; ore lips:
Heart leaf (philodendrum)
Saddle leaf (philodendrum)
Split leaf (philodendrum)
C. That may contain a wide variety of poisons. Most cause vomiting,
abdominal pain, cramps. Some cause tremors, heart and respiratory and/or
kidney problems, which are difficult for owners to interpret:
Bird of paradise
Crown of thorns
Outdoor Plants with Toxic Effects
A. Outdoor plants that produce vomiting and diarrhea in some cases:
Wisteria Castor beanwoody
Ground cherry Skunk cabbage
B. Trees and shrubs that are poisonous and may produce vomiting, abdominal
pain and in some cases diarrhea:
English holly almond
Bird of paradise
C. Outdoor plants with varied toxic effect:
E. Outdoor plants that produce convulsions:
If you think that your dog may have been poisoned, the first thing
to do is try to identify the poison. Most products containing chemicals
are labeled for identification. Read the label. If this does not
give you a clue to its possible toxicity, call the Poison Control
Poison Control Centers are located throughout the United States and
Canada. All available information on the toxic ingredients in thousands
insecticides, pesticides and other registered commercial products
has been placed confidentially in the centers by the government in
Poison Control Centers. It is estimated that 1,500 new items are
added each month. The local Poison Control Center's telephone number
in the front of most telephone directories. Alternately, you can
call the emergency room of your local hospital and ask them to request
information that you require.
The first step in treatment is to eliminate the poison from your
dog's stomach by making it vomit. The second step is to delay absorption
of the poison from the dog's intestinal tract by coating it with
that binds it. This is followed by a laxative to speed elimination.
Note: Do not induce vomiting or give charcoal by mouth if your dog
is severely depressed, comatose, unable to swallow or experiencing
Before proceeding, consult Vomiting, How to Induce in this chapter.
How to Delay or Prevent Absorption
1.Mix activated charcoal (one tablet to 10-cc water). Give one teaspoonful
per two pounds body weight and follow with a pint of water. Depending
upon the dog's condition, this may need to be given by stomach tube.
Veterinary assistance usually is required.
2. Thirty minutes later, give sodium sulphate (Glauber's salt), one
teaspoonful per ten pounds body weight, or Milk of Magnesia, one
five pounds body weight.
Note:If these agents are not available, coat the bowel with milk,
egg whites or vegetable oil and give a warm water enema.
If your dog has a poisonous substance on the skin or coat, wash it
well with soap and water or give a complete bath in lukewarm (not
as described in the SKIN chapter. Even if the substance is not irritating
to the skin, it should be removed. Otherwise, the dog may lick it
off and swallow it. Soak gasoline and oil stains with mineral or
oil. Work in well. Then wash with a mild detergent, such as Ivory
When signs of nervous system involvement begin to show, the dog is
in deep trouble. At this point, your main objective is to get your
a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Try to bring with you a sample
of vomitus, or better yet the poison in its original container. If
the dog is convulsing, unconscious or not breathing, see Shock and
Respiration. (Also see NERVOUS SYSTEM:Fits).
The poisons discussed below are included because they are among the
most frequently seen by veterinarians. Strychnine - Strychnine is
a rat, mouse and mole poison. It is available commercially as coated
pellets dyed purple, red or green. Signs of poisoning are so typical
that the diagnosis can be made almost at once. Onset is sudden (less
than two hours). The first signs are agitation, excitability and
apprehension. They are followed rather quickly by intensely painful
that last about sixty seconds, during which the dog throws the head
back, can't breathe and turns blue. The slightest stimulation, such
the dog or clapping the hands, starts a seizure. This characteristic
response is used to make the diagnosis. Other signs associated with
nervous system involvement are tremors, champing, drooling, uncoordinated
spasms, collapse and paddling of the legs.
Seizures caused by strychnine and other central nervous system toxins
sometimes are misdiagnosed as epilepsy. This would be a mistake as
immediate veterinary attention is necessary. Epileptic seizures are
the signs usually appear in a certain order, and each attack is the
same. They are over before the dog can get to a veterinarian. Usually
are not considered emergencies (see NERVOUS SYSTEM: Epilepsy).
Treatment: With signs of central nervous involvement, don't take
time to induce vomiting. It is important to avoid loud noises or
handling that trigger a seizure. Cover your dog with a coat or blanket
and drive to the nearest veterinary clinic.
If your dog is showing signs of poisoning, is alert and able to swallow
and hasn't vomited, induce vomiting as discussed above.
Sodium Fluroacetate (1080)
This chemical, used as a rat poison, is mixed with cereal, bran and
other rat feeds. It is so potent that cats and dogs can be poisoned
eating the dead rodent. The onset is sudden and begins with vomiting
followed by excitation, straining to urinate or defecate, an aimless
staggering gait, atypical fits or true convulsions and then collapse.
Seizures are not triggered by external stimuli as are those of strychnine
Treatment: Immediately after the dog ingests the poison, induce vomiting.
Care and handling is the same as for strychnine.
Arsenic is combined with metaldehyde in slug and snail baits, and
may appear in ant poisons, weed killers and insecticides. Arsenic
a common Impurity found in many chemicals. Death can occur quickly
before there is time to observe the symptoms. In more protracted
cases the signs
are thirst, drooling, vomiting, staggering, intense abdominal pain,
cramps, diarrhea, paralysis and death. The breath of the dog will
have a strong
smell of garlic.
Treatment: Induce vomiting. A specific antidote is available but
requires professional use. Metaldehyde - This poison (often combined
is used commonly in rat, snail and slug baits. The signs of toxicity
are excitation, drooling and slobbering, uncoordinated gait, muscle
tremors and weakness that leads to inability to stand in a few hours.
are not triggered by external stimuli.
Treatment: Immediately after the dog ingests the poison, induce vomiting.
The care and handling are the same as for strychnine.
Lead is found in insecticides and is a base for many paints used
commercially. Intoxication occurs primarily in puppies and young
dogs that chew on
substances coated with a lead paint. Other sources of lead are linoleum,
batteries, plumbing materials, putty, lead foil, solder, golf balls
and some roofing materials. Lead poisoning can occur in older dogs
ingestion of insecticides containing lead. A chronic form does occur.
Acute poisoning begins with abdominal colic and vomiting. A variety
of central nervous system signs are possible. They include fits,
uncoordinated gait, excitation, continuous barking, attacks of hysteria,
stupor and blindness. Chewing and champing fits might be mistaken
for the encephalitis of distemper, especially in young dogs.
Treatment: When ingestion is recent, induce vomiting. Otherwise,
coat the bowel as described above. Specific antidotes are available
This chemical is present in rat and roach poisons, fireworks, matches
and matchboxes. A poisoned dog's breath may have a garlic odor. The
first signs of intoxication are vomiting and diarrhea. They may be
by a free interval, then by recurrent vomiting, cramps, and pain
in the abdomen, convulsions and coma. There is no specific antidote.
you would for strychnine.
This substance also is found in rat poisons. Intoxication causes
central nervous system depression, labored breathing, vomiting (often
weakness, convulsions and death. There is no specific antidote. Treat
as you would for strychnine.
Warfarin (Decon, Pindone)
Warfarin is incorporated into grain feeds for use as a rat and mouse
poison. It causes death by interfering with the blood clotting mechanism.
This leads to spontaneous bleeding. There are no observable signs
of warfarin poisoning until the dog begins to pass blood in the stool
or urine, bleeds from the nose or develops hemorrhages beneath the
and skin. The dog may be found dead with no apparent cause. A single
dose of warfarin is not as serious as repeated doses.
Treatment: Induce vomiting. Vitamin K (for clotting) is a specific
antidote. It is given intramuscularly (or in cases where there are
it can be given by mouth as a preventative).
Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
Poisoning with antifreeze is not uncommon because ethylene glycol
has a sweet taste that appeals to dogs and cats. In dogs, a toxic
is one half teaspoonful per pound body weight. Signs of toxicity,
which appear suddenly, are vomiting, uncoordinated gait (seems "drunk"), weakness,
mental depression, coma and death in twelve to thirty-six hours. Convulsions
are unusual. Dogs that recover from the acute phase may have damage to
the kidneys and go on to kidney failure.
Treatment: Induce vomiting. Coat the bowel to prevent further absorption.
Intensive care in an animal hospital may prevent kidney complications.
Organophosphates and Carbamates
These substances are used on dogs to kill fleas and other parasites.
The common ones are dichlorvos, ectoral and sevin, but there are
others. They also are used in garden sprays and in some dewormers.
application of insecticides to the dog can lead to absorption of
a toxic dose through
the skin. These drugs effect the nervous system primarily. For more
information, see SKIN: Insecticides.
Treatment: For topical insecticides, bathe your dog immediately using
warm soapy water to remove residual compounds from the coat. Call
These compounds, like the organophosphates, are incorporated into
some insecticide preparations for use on the dog. The common products
veterinary use are chiordane, toxaphene, lindane and methoxychior.
is the same as for organophosphates.
Corrosives (Acid and Alkali)
Corrosives and caustics are found in household cleaners, drain decloggers
and commercial solvents. They cause burns of the mouth, esophagus
and stomach. Severe cases are associated with acute perforation,
stricture, of the esophagus and stomach.
Treatment: If acid is ingested, rinse out your dog's mouth. Give
an antacid (Milk of Magnesia or Pepto-Bismol) at the rate of one
per five pounds body weight. If an alkali, use vinegar or lemon juice.
Vinegar is mixed one part to four parts of water. The amount to give
is judged by the size of the dog. Do not induce vomiting; this could
result in rupture of the stomach or burns of the esophagus.
Petroleum Products (Gasoline, Kerosene, Turpentine)
These volatile liquids can cause pneumonia if aspirated or inhaled.
The signs of toxicity are vomiting, difficulty of breathing, tremors,
and coma. Death is by respiratory failure.
Treatment: Do not induce vomiting. Administer an ounce or two of
mineral oil, olive oil or vegetable oil by mouth; then follow it
minutes with Glauber's salt. Be prepared to administer artificial
Garbage Poisoning (Food Poisoning)
Food poisoning is common, as dogs are notorious scavengers and come
into contact with carrion, decomposing foods, animal manure and other
substances (some of which are listed in DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Common Causes
of Diarrhea). Signs of poisoning begin with vomiting and pain
in the abdomen; they are followed in severe cases by diarrhea (often
in two to six hours. If the problem is complicated by bacterial infection,
shock may develop. Mild cases recover in a day or two.
Treatment: Induce vomiting. Afterward, coat the intestines to delay
or prevent absorption. The condition may require antibiotics. (See
NERVOUS SYSTEM: Botulism.)Chocolate Poisoning
All dogs like chocolate, but chocolate can be dangerous. Chocolate
contains a caffeine like alkaloid called theobromine. While not toxic
in the amounts present in commercial foods, theobromine in these
amounts can be quite harmful to the dog.
Signs of chocolate toxicity occur within hours after the dog ingests
the chocolate. They include vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate,
rapid breathing, muscle tremors, seizures and coma.
A small dog weighing five to ten pounds can die after eating four
to sixteen ounces of milk chocolate; a medium-sized dog weighing
to forty pounds can die after eating sixteen to thirty-two ounces;
a larger dog after eating about two pounds. Individual variations
Unsweetened chocolate (used for baking) contains higher concentrations
of theobromine and is therefore more toxic. A large dog can die after
eating just four ounces.
Treatment: If you know your dog has eaten chocolate, induce vomiting
(see Vomiting, How to Induce). If two or more hours have passed,
administer activated charcoal to prevent the toxin from becoming
Don't feed your dog chocolates. To prevent accidental ingestion,
keep chocolate candy in the refrigerator.
Toad Poisoning - Since all toads have a bad taste, dogs who mouth
them slobber, spit and drool. In southern states a tropical toad
secretes a potent toxin that appears to affect the heart and circulation
of dogs, bringing on death in as short a time as fifteen minutes.
There are twelve species of Rufo toads worldwide.
Symptoms in dogs depend upon the toxicity of the toad and the amount
of poison absorbed. Signs vary from merely slobbering to convulsions
Treatment: Flush your dog's mouth out with a garden hose and attempt
to induce vomiting. Be prepared to administer artificial respiration.
Veterinarians frequently are called because a dog has swallowed pills
intended for the owner, or has eaten too many dog pills. (Some dog
pills are flavored to encourage dogs to eat them.) Drugs most often
are antihistamines, sleeping pills, diet pills, heart preparations
Treatment: Induce vomiting