How to identify a possible poisoning and what to do if you think your pet has been poisoned


There are lots of different chemicals, drugs and plants that are poisonous to our pets.  Here is an overview of common poisons. dog with headache

Symptoms of poisoning

  • Contact poisons – chemicals or plants that come into contact with your pet’s skin can cause irritation.  You may see sign of discomfort, agitation, excessive scratching, swellings (hives) or pain.
  • Swallowed poisons – can cause gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, staggering, disorientation, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, twitching, dilated pupils, ulcers, heart palpitations, and coma.
  • Inhaled poisons – coughing, drooling, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness or coma.

Poisons for which immediate care should be sought:

Skin contact

  • Tar
  • Petroleum products
  • Household chemicals
  • Paint or paint remover
  • Gasoline
  • Stinging nettles
  • Flea and tick medication – if overdosed, or if dog products are used on cats

Inhaled poisons 

  • Smoke
  • Tear gas
  • Insecticides
  • Household chemicals

Swallowed poisons

  • Alkalis
  • Acids
  • Household and garden chemicals
  • Petroleum Products
  • Antifreeze, screen wash
  • All drugs/medications – human or pet
  • Luminous necklaces/glow sticks
  • Batteries

Poisonous plants 

  • Ivy
  • Foxglove
  • Hemlock
  • Mushrooms
  • Mistletoe
  • Oleander
  • Lilies, including daffodils
  • Tulip
  • Oak/acorns

Food items

  • Chocolate
  • Onions, garlic, chives
  • Raisins/grapes
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Avocados
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol (an artificial sweetener commonly used in chewing gum and diabetic sweets)

What to do if you think your pet has been poisoned – immediate care

  • Contact your vet immediately upon ingestion or exposure to any known or possible toxin with as much information as possible regarding the toxin (name, strength, amount ingested).
  • If the poisoning is primarily from noxious fumes or a gas, get your pet to fresh air, but don’t put yourself at risk for poisoning.
  • If the poisoning is by contact with the skin, wear protective gloves and remove the substance from the skin/hair. Use paper towels or clean rags to remove liquids. Do not use water, solvents or anything else to remove the poison unless specifically directed to do so by your vet.
  • If the poison was in the mouth or swallowed, contact your vet. DO NOT induce vomiting unless specifically directed to do so, as some poisons can cause more damage if vomiting occurs than if left in the stomach.

Veterinary care – what to expect

  •  Diagnosis can usually only be made if you have observed your pet eating a specific toxin.  It is impossible to test for all toxins and for some toxins there is no test available.  Other tests may be done to assess the function of your pet’s internal organs and other health parameters.


  • If we know the specific poison, we may be able to give an antidote (but not all poisons have antidotes). If the type of poison is uncertain, or there is no antidote, treatment will be supportive in nature (i.e., we treat the symptoms) in an effort to maintain normal function of the organs until the poison has been processed out of the body. Unfortunately, for some poisons, despite treatment your pet may not survive. 


  • Keep your pet away from areas where chemicals and toxins are being used (kitchen, bathroom, garage) and ensure all chemicals are safely contained and stored out of reach of inquisitive paws and noses when not in use.
  • Do not keep poisonous plants in or around your home and watch for them while taking your dog outside.
  • If you use insecticides and/or rodenticides, follow the instructions carefully and make sure your pet cannot reach the treated area(s).
  • Keep human and pet medications stored in a safe and secure location. Label them carefully and keep count of how many are in each container. This information will be extremely useful in case of ingestion or an overdose.

dog with med bottles