Signs of Poisoning in Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

Signs of Poisoning in Dogs

Poisoning in dogs is a serious and often life-threatening condition that can result from ingestion, inhalation, or contact with toxic substances. Early recognition of the signs of poisoning is crucial for timely intervention and treatment. This article provides a detailed overview of the signs, common toxins, and steps to take if you suspect your dog has been poisoned.

Many dogs will get into anything they come across, from rat poison to dropped medication to antifreeze. And of course, that puts the dog’s health at risk. Teaching a “leave it” cue to your dog can be a lifesaver, but you can’t watch your pet every minute of the day. It’s important to know the common signs of poisoning and how to respond in case your dog encounters something dangerous.

Common Causes of Poisoning in Dogs

Common Causes of Poisoning in Dogs
  1. Household Chemicals: Cleaning agents, antifreeze (ethylene glycol), and insecticides can be highly toxic to dogs if ingested or inhaled.
  2. Human Medications: Over-the-counter and prescription medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and antidepressants are dangerous to dogs.
  3. Food Toxins: Certain human foods, such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, and xylitol (a sugar substitute), are toxic to dogs.
  4. Plants: Many common household and garden plants, including lilies, azaleas, and sago palms, can cause poisoning if ingested.
  5. Rodenticides and Insecticides: Products designed to kill rodents and insects often contain substances that are toxic to dogs.
  6. Heavy Metals: Lead, zinc, and mercury exposure can result in poisoning.
  7. Toxic Animals: Some toads, snakes, and insects can be toxic if a dog encounters or ingests them.
  8. Recreational Drugs: Marijuana, cocaine, and other recreational drugs can be extremely harmful to dogs.
Also Read: Pumpkin and Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

    General Signs of Poisoning

    Symptoms of poisoning in dogs can vary widely depending on the type of toxin, the amount ingested, and the dog's size and health. Here are the general dog poisoning signs to watch for:

    1. Gastrointestinal Symptoms

    • Vomiting: Frequent vomiting can indicate ingestion of a toxin or poisonous substances.
    • Diarrhea: Watery, sometimes bloody stools are a common sign of poisoning.
    • Loss of Appetite: Refusal to eat can indicate nausea or discomfort.
    • Drooling: Excessive salivation is often a reaction to irritants or a toxic substance.

    2. Neurological Symptoms

    • Seizures: Sudden, uncontrollable shaking or convulsions can occur in a dog's body.
    • Tremors: Involuntary shaking or shivering may indicate nerve damage.
    • Lethargy: Unusual tiredness or weakness is a common sign.
    • Disorientation: Confusion, aimless wandering, or difficulty walking.
    • Agitation: Restlessness or hyperactivity can occur with certain toxins.

    3. Respiratory Symptoms

    • Difficulty Breathing: Rapid or labored breathing may indicate respiratory distress.
    • Coughing: Persistent coughing can be a response to inhaled toxins.
    • Nasal Discharge: Watery or bloody discharge from the nose.

    4. Cardiovascular Symptoms

    • Irregular Heartbeat: Abnormal heart rhythms, including rapid or slow heart rates.
    • Pale Gums: Gums may appear pale or white, indicating poor circulation.

    5. Behavioral Symptoms

    • Changes in Behavior: Sudden aggression, fear, or depression.
    • Excessive Panting: Panting more than usual without apparent cause.

    6. Other Physical Symptoms

    • Swelling: Swelling of the face, mouth, or throat.
    • Skin Irritation: Redness, rashes, or hives on the skin.
    • Jaundice: Yellowing of the eyes, gums, or skin indicating liver damage.

    Also Read: The Dangers of Dogs Swimming and Drinking Pool Water

    Common Dog Poisons

    Common Dog Poisons

    • Over the Counter Medications: This group contains acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen and naproxen (Advil, Aleve), as well as herbal and nutraceutical products.
    • People Food: Your canine companion may look so cute as they sit there begging for a bite of your chocolate cake or a chip covered in guacamole, but not giving them what they want could save their life. Animals have different metabolisms than people. Some foods, such as onions and garlic, as well as beverages that are perfectly safe for people can be dangerous, and sometimes fatal, for dogs.

      • Alcohol: Symptoms of alcohol poisoning in animals are similar to those in people, and may include vomiting, breathing problems, coma and, in severe cases, death.
      • Avocado: You might think of them as healthy, but avocados have a substance called persin that can act as a dog poison, causing vomiting and diarrhea.
      • Macadamia nuts: Dogs may suffer from a series of symptoms, including weakness, overheating, and vomiting, after consumption of macadamia nuts.
      • Grapes and Raisins: Experts aren’t sure why, but these fruits can induce kidney failure in dogs. Even a small number may cause problems in some dogs.
      • Xylitol: This sweetener is found in many products, including sugar-free gum and candy. It causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, resulting in weakness and seizures. Liver failure also has been reported in some dogs. Other foods you should keep away from your pet include tomatoes, mushrooms and most seeds and nuts
    • Prescription Medications for People: Drugs that might be beneficial or even lifesaving for people can have the opposite effect in pets. And it doesn’t always take a large dose to do major damage. Some of the most common and harmful medications that poison dogs include:
      • Prescription Anti-inflammatory and Pain Medications can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers or kidney failure.
      • Antidepressants can cause vomiting and, in more serious instances, serotonin syndrome -- a dangerous condition that raises temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and may cause seizures.
    • Chocolate. Though not harmful to people, chocolate products contain substances called methylxanthines that can cause vomiting in small doses, and death if ingested in larger quantities. Darker chocolate contains more of these dangerous substances than do white or milk chocolate. The amount of chocolate that could result in death depends on the type of chocolate and the size of the dog. For smaller breeds, just half an ounce of baking chocolate can be fatal, while a larger dog might survive eating 4 ounces to 8 ounces, though 8 ounces would be extremely dangerous. Coffee and caffeine have similarly dangerous chemicals.
    • Plants. They may be pretty, but plants aren’t necessarily pet friendly. Some of the more toxic plants to dogs include:
      • Azaleas and rhododendrons. These pretty flowering plants contain toxins that may cause vomiting, diarrhea, coma, and potentially even death.
      • Tulips and daffodils. The bulbs of these plants may cause serious stomach problems, difficulty breathing, and increased heart rate.
      • Sago palms. Eating just a few seeds may be enough to cause vomiting, seizures, and liver failure.
    • Household products. From cleaners to fire logs. Just as cleaners like bleach can poison people, they are also a leading cause of pet poisoning, resulting in stomach and respiratory tract problems. Not surprisingly, chemicals contained in antifreeze, paint thinner, and chemicals for pools also can act as dog poison. The pet poisoning symptoms they may produce include stomach upset, depression, chemical burns, renal failure and death.
    • Veterinary products. This includes medications as well as flea and tick treatments. Just as we can be sickened or killed by medications intended to help us, cases of pet poisoning by veterinary drugs are not uncommon. Some of the more commonly reported problem medications include painkillers and de-wormers. And you may think you’re doing your dog a favor when you apply products marketed to fight fleas and ticks, but thousands of animals are unintentionally poisoned by these products every year. Problems can occur if dogs accidentally ingest these products or if small dogs receive excessive amounts. Talk to your vet about safe OTC products.
    • Rodenticides. Unfortunately, many baits used to lure and kill rodents can also look tasty to our pets. If ingested by dogs, they can cause severe problems. The symptoms depend on the nature of the poison, and signs may not start for several days after consumption. In some instances, the dog may have eaten the poisoned rodent, and not been directly exposed to the toxin.
    • Insecticides. Items such as bug sprays and ant baits can be easy for your pet to get into and as dangerous for your pet as they are to the insects.
    • Lawn and garden products. Products for your lawn and garden may be poisonous to pets that ingest them.

    Also Read: Is Nail Polish Safe for Dogs?

      Specific Signs Based on Toxin Type

      1. Chocolate Poisoning:

        • Hyperactivity: Increased energy and restlessness.
        • Increased Heart Rate: Rapid or irregular heartbeats.
        • Tremors and Seizures: Severe cases may lead to muscle tremors or seizures.
      2. Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol) Poisoning:

        • Drunken Behavior: Staggering, uncoordinated movements.
        • Increased Thirst and Urination: Drinking more water than usual and frequent urination.
        • Acute Kidney Failure: Sudden onset of vomiting, lethargy, and refusal to eat.
      3. Rodenticide Poisoning:

        • Bleeding: Unexplained bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums.
        • Weakness: General weakness and lethargy.
        • Pale Gums: Indicative of internal bleeding.
      4. Insecticide Poisoning:

        • Muscle Tremors: Involuntary shaking.
        • Excessive Salivation: Drooling and frothing at the mouth.
        • Respiratory Distress: Difficulty breathing.
      5. Plant Poisoning:

        • Mouth Irritation: Drooling, pawing at the mouth, and difficulty swallowing can occur when toxic plants are ingested.
        • Vomiting and Diarrhea: Digestive upset.
        • Cardiac Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeats in severe cases.

      Immediate Steps to Take After Poisoning in Dogs

      Immediate Steps to Take After Poisoning in Dogs
      1. Stay Calm: Keep calm to effectively handle the situation.
      2. Prevent Further Exposure: Remove the dog from the source of poisoning immediately.
      3. Identify the Toxin: Try to determine what the dog ingested, inhaled, or came into contact with. This information is crucial for the vet.
      4. Contact a Veterinarian: Call your vet or an emergency animal poison control center immediately. Provide as much information as possible.
      5. Do Not Induce Vomiting Without Guidance: Some substances can cause more harm if vomited. Only induce vomiting if instructed by a veterinarian.
      6. Transport to Vet: If directed, take your dog to the nearest veterinary clinic or emergency animal hospital.

      Also Read: The Benefits of Pet Insurance

        Veterinary Treatment

        1. Decontamination: Inducing vomiting or performing gastric lavage (stomach pumping) to remove the toxin from the stomach.
        2. Activated Charcoal: Administering activated charcoal to bind toxins and prevent absorption.
        3. IV Fluids: Providing intravenous fluids to flush out toxins and support organ function.
        4. Medications: Administering specific antidotes or medications to counteract the effects of the poison.
        5. Supportive Care: Providing supportive care such as oxygen therapy, pain relief, and nutritional support.
        6. Monitoring: Close monitoring of vital signs and organ function.

          Prevention From Poisoning in Dogs

          Prevention From Poisoning in Dogs

          1. Secure Toxic Substances: Keep household chemicals, medications, and harmful foods out of reach.
          2. Proper Disposal: Dispose of hazardous materials properly.
          3. Supervision: Supervise your dog to prevent access to unknown or potentially toxic substances.
          4. Education: Educate yourself about plants, foods, and other substances that are toxic to dogs.


            Recognizing the signs of poisoning in dogs is essential for early intervention and treatment. Understanding the potential toxins and their specific symptoms can help you take quick and effective action. Always keep emergency contact numbers for your vet and poison control centers readily available, and ensure your home is safe for your furry companion. It's very easy for a pet to consume or get into a poisonous substance. With prompt attention and appropriate care, many cases of poisoning can be successfully managed, ensuring your dog remains healthy and safe.


            PRIDE+GROOM emphasizes the importance of regular dog grooming not just for maintaining a pet's appearance, but also for their overall health. Using high-quality dog shampoos and conditioners, such as those from PRIDE+GROOM, helps keep your dog’s coat clean and healthy, reducing the risk of skin issues. Moreover, grooming sessions are ideal for spotting early signs of poisoning, such as unusual skin reactions or changes in behavior. Ensuring your pet's environment is free from toxic substances and using safe grooming products are key steps in protecting your dog from potential poisoning.

            Author Image


            Paige Chernick is a Social Media and Communications expert living in NYC. For 10 years, she ran her own consulting company called PaigeKnowsFirst where she managed social content & strategy for many brands, finding her niche within the pet industry.

            Paige has been a guest contributor for several publications and featured in articles on her successes with pets and social media. Paige’s rescue dog, Charlie, famously known by her social media handle @puppynamedcharlie, has accumulated hundreds of thousands of fans and made her a successful pet influencer early on in the game. Paige is also one of the Founders of The Pet Summit, a conference in the pet industry for creators and marketers, where she used her experience to create programs and classes to help guide and teach others.

            In 2022, Paige became the Social Media Director for PRIDE+GROOM. She is now the Senior Vice President of Communications and remains very immersed in the pet industry on both the corporate side and the influencer side.