What Should I Do If My Dog Eats Something Poisonous?

Step one: Don’t panic 😱

person holding a dog with question marks

If your dog eats something toxic, especially if it’s the first time he’s been sick, your first reaction might be to panic. What are you even supposed to do if your dog eats something poisonous?!

Don’t freak out — if you follow these tips and contact your vet ASAP, your dog will most likely be just fine.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Travis Davison, a veterinarian at Bluffton Veterinary Hospital in South Carolina, to find out what you should do if your dog eats something poisonous.

What to do if your dog is poisoned

Here are the steps to take if your dog eats something he shouldn’t.

Take the toxic substance away from him

If you catch your dog in the act of eating something toxic, the first thing you should do is get the substance away from your dog as quickly as you can, and make sure he doesn’t eat any more of it.

Your dog might try to eat it faster if he notices you trying to take it from him, though. So the best way to take anything from your pup is by distracting him first (with a loud noise, for example) or by exchanging it with something else, like a high-value treat.

Identify the type of poison

One your pup no longer has access to the toxic substance, you should try to figure out how much of it he ate.

If your dog starts showing symptoms, but you don’t see him actually eating something poisonous, try to determine what your dog ate — this might be easy if there are remnants of chocolate or gum wrapper on the floor or pieces of plant in his vomit or poop, for example.

It’s important to gather as much information as you can about what your dog ate, how much he ate and how long ago it was eaten to provide this info to your vet. The more you can tell your vet, the faster they can treat your dog, which in most cases will lead to a better outcome.

Contact your vet

Call your vet as soon as you realize your dog ate something poisonous or notice your dog showing signs of poisoning.

“Contact your vet ASAP,” Dr. Davison told The Dodo. “They may have you contact an animal poison control center (they will charge a fee, but it's worth it).”

The treatment your vet gives your dog will depend on a few things, which is another reason why it’s important to provide as much information as you can. These factors include the type of toxic substance your dog ate, how much he ate, how long it’s been since he ate the toxin and if he has any preexisting conditions or illnesses.

“Some things can be fixed very quickly and easily, [but] some require more intensive care — inducing vomiting, IV fluids, medications to manage symptoms, monitoring lab work for blood sugar/organ damage, etc.,” Dr. Davison said.

Dog poisoning treatments can include:

  • Inducing vomiting
  • IV fluids to flush the toxin out of your dog’s system
  • Laxatives
  • A stomach tube to remove any of the toxic substance
  • Activated charcoal to prevent absorption of the toxin
  • Surgery
  • Additional supportive treatment to control seizures, heart rate, pain, etc.

Always be prepared

You should always be prepared in case of an emergency so you’re not scrambling to find the info you need to help your dog.

Keep your vet’s phone number and address in a place where you can easily reach it. You should also keep your dog’s medical information where you can find it, including a list of any conditions, allergies or illnesses.

It’s a good idea to always keep these numbers on hand in case of an emergency as well:

Signs of poisoning in dogs

The symptoms of poisoning in dogs can vary depending on what type of poisonous substance your dog ate, but it’s a good idea to know the typical signs so you can act quickly if your dog eats something toxic.

For example, symptoms if your dog eats chocolate can include increased heart rate and hyperactivity, while symptoms of eating a toxic plant can include weakness and seizures.

According to Dr. Davison, symptoms can include “vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, lethargy, seizures or just odd behavior.”

Here are some signs of poisoning to watch out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Not eating
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of coordination
  • Mouth or skin irritation

Depending on what your dog ate, signs of poisoning can show up within a few hours up to a couple of days, so it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as you realize he ate something toxic.

Things that are poisonous to dogs

There are a lot of common household items and foods that are poisonous to dogs that aren’t super obvious (which is also why you shouldn’t feed your dog anything that you’re not sure is safe for dogs to eat).

Chocolate, onions, grapes and raisins, alcohol, sugar-free gum (with xylitol as the sugar substitute) and high-fat foods are the ones that I see issues with most commonly,” Dr. Davison said.

Some other foods that are poisonous to dogs include caffeine; avocados; macadamia nuts; peaches; plums; and raw or undercooked eggs, meat and fish.

Many common flowers and plants can be poisonous for dogs as well.

Some of these flowers include azaleas, Easter lilies, foxgloves, stargazer lilies, cyclamen, oleanders, tiger lilies and daffodils.

Some plants that are poisonous for dogs include sago palms, poinsettias, hydrangeas, ivy, tomato plants, aloe, marijuana plants and snake plants.

And finally, everyday household products can be poisonous to your dog, such as human medications, antifreeze, fabric softener sheets, pesticides, lawn fertilizers, weed killers, moth balls, rat poison, paint and bleach. (Most of these items are also harmful if humans eat them, so it should be easier to remember to keep them away from your dog.)

Ways to prevent poisoning in dogs

The best way to avoid poisoning in dogs is to prevent it!

Luckily, if you follow a few simple tips, you can help prevent your dog from eating something toxic:

  • Make sure that your garbage cans are covered so that your dog can’t get into them. The Dodo team likes the Simplehuman pet-proof trash can, which earned our Paw of Approval. You can get it from Amazon for $59.99+.
  • Be aware of the types of foods that are toxic to dogs.
  • Try to avoid feeding your dog any human foods unless you’re positive they’re safe for dogs to eat (and even then, you should only feed them in moderation).
  • Keep dangerous items, such as household cleaning products or plants and flowers, out of your dog’s reach, and don’t plant them outside.
  • Wash your hands after touching raw meat, fish or eggs.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone for long periods of time, especially if he tends to get bored and tries to get into things he shouldn’t.

Hopefully your dog won’t eat anything poisonous, but if he does manage to eat something toxic, gather as much info as you can and contact your vet ASAP. If you take your dog to the vet as soon as you can, there’s a good chance your dog will be OK.

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.