To a dog owner, the worst feeling in the world is discovering a pile of chocolate wrappers next to your quivering dog.
Or realizing that your dog may have consumed some of your family member’s prescription medications, but you have no idea how much they have eaten.
Most dog poisoning cases are preventable, and yet it can happen to anyone… even if you have a dog who you think would never eat something that isn’t theirs.
For Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month, we’re learning about the most common ways dogs are poisoned in their own home, and how these incidents can be prevented.
What Exactly Does Chocolate Do To Dogs?
Most people know that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, but don’t realize just how dangerous it can be.
Both Theobromine and caffeine in chocolate cause heart palpitations, hyperactivity and heavy panting, and in large doses, tremors, seizures and heart attacks.
Many chocolate-flavoured snacks are actually low in cocoa, so they may cause no more than an upset stomach. Even a small amount of dark chocolate candy, on the other hand, can be a lethal dose for your dog.
If you’re certain of how much your dog has eaten, you can use a chocolate toxicity calculator to assess the risk. An early sign of theobromine poisoning is hyperactivity – if your dog is running around, drinking a lot of water, or otherwise seems “off”, rush to an emergency vet.
Other Foods That Are Dangerous To Dogs
Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, lethargy and seizures.
Some dogs eat grapes and do not show signs of kidney damage, while others experience the effects from eating just a few. If your dog eats grapes, raisins, jam or jelly, call your vet – even if they do not show any symptoms.
Some varieties of wild mushrooms are toxic to dogs, though any found at your grocery store are safe to share.
Garlic and onions contain a substance called thiosulfate that can cause anemia in dogs, though it’s unlikely to be harmful in small amounts. Do not worry if your dog sips on some seasoned broth, though small amounts may affect your dog over time.
The Growing Danger Of Xylitol
One of the most recently growing reasons for calls to the ACC is xylitol poisoning. Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in toothpaste, chewing gum, mouthwash, sugar-free candy and breath mints.
Xylitol is also found in some brands of peanut butter, particularly sugar-free varieties. Always check the ingredients in your peanut butter when buying a new jar. Organic, all-natural peanut butter with no sugar or salt added is best for dogs.
It only takes a small amount of xylitol to cause seizures, hypoglycemia and liver failure in dogs. If you suspect your dog has eaten any amount, see an emergency vet right away.
Keep Medicine Out Of Your Dog’s Reach
Prescription and over-the-counter medication are the most common reason for calls to the Animal Poison Control Center. Heart medications, ADHD medication and antidepressants are highly toxic to dogs, and because they’re typically taken daily, it can be too easy to forget to tighten a bottle, or to look out for pills that fall to the floor and roll away.
You should also make sure your pets do not get into vitamin supplements. While water-soluble vitamins like c and b-complex flush out of the body without severe side effects, you should still call your vet if your dog has ingested them. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K, though, are more harmful because they can be stored in the liver and fat tissues, so they can build up within the body.
Never use human medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, to attempt to treat your dog at home. Though many dog medications are similar or identical to those used for treating humans, your vet will need to guide you through using a safe dosage for your dog’s weight, age and body condition.
Poisons Encountered On Dog Walks
When you walk your dog or go to the dog park, be vigilant about poisons in your environment.
Discarded cigarettes, cooked bones and chewed gum are some of the most common, harmful litter that dogs can pick up on walks. If your dog likes to scavenge, you can use a muzzle to keep them from eating trash.
Also be on the lookout for poison bait. Some people may set out poison for coyotes. Others, for seemingly no reason, attempt to poison dogs in dog parks. If you see any treats, sausages, meat or anything that could possibly be poisoned or tampered with in your neighborhood or park, it’s best to pick it up before your dog or any others can pick it up. Then, take it to your local police to be tested.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has Been Poisoned?
If you even suspect that your dog has eaten something harmful, call your veterinarian or emergency vet right away. The person on the phone will likely be able to walk you through deciding if you should go in, or just wait to see if your dog develops symptoms. In many cases, by the time your dog shows symptoms, their condition will have progressed, so it’s better to seek treatment sooner rather than later.
Do not attempt to induce vomiting without the guidance of your vet’s office. Inducing vomiting is not always the safest option. In some cases, it’s the right thing to do, but depending on what your dog has eaten and how much time has passed, the substance could cause more harm on its way back up. It is also possible for your dog to aspirate on their own vomit.
At the vet’s office, your vet will typically use an injection of apomorphine to induce vomiting. Then, they may give your dog charcoal to help absorb the poisons before they can reach your dog’s bloodstream.Your dog may be kept overnight for observation.
Treating your dog for poisoning is expensive, especially if you have to go to an emergency vet after-hours. But when it comes to saving your dog’s life, you should not hesitate to rush to your vet. “Waiting it out” may result in your dog showing symptoms only after it’s too late to treat them. In the event of an emergency, your vet may be able to treat your dog right away and discuss payment options once your dog is stable.
Ways To Keep Your Dog From Ever Getting Poisoned
Most poisoning cases are preventable. We all make mistakes as pet parents. No matter how careful you are, you or someone in your family may leave a gift bag of chocolate on the coffee table, for example, or leave medications in a purse where a dog can reach it.
Management is the most effective course of action. Baby gates, cabinet locks and dog-proof containers can all keep your dog away from toxic temptations. If you feel as though management is difficult, for example, if you think you can’t keep your dog away from your chocolate stash – stop buying it, or only buy what you can finish before you get home.
You can train your dog to “leave it” even when faced with a fresh meatball on the floor. You can train a dog to “drop it” when they have the tastiest drumstick in their mouth. You can also keep your dog in the habit of waiting before lunging for a morsel that you dropped in the kitchen.
Punishing your dog for scavenging teaches them to be sneaky. When punished, they tend to just eat forbidden snacks even faster. Positive training is the only way to raise a dog who is happy to comply with boundaries, and will wait for your permission before grabbing everything they see because they trust that you’ll offer them something that’s just as yummy.
Need help with poison prevention training? Learn “leave it”, “drop it”, and “wait” with Healthy Houndz. We offer positive dog training in North York and Toronto so you and your dog can learn to stay safe from common poisons – and have fun while doing it.