By Dr. Andrew Jones
The Pet Poison Helpline has an extensive database of Pet Toxins. Here are the top 12 toxins for dogs:
1) Chocolate: the less sweet and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is to your
dog. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem ( the toxin is
theobromine). Signs include: Hyperactivity,Restlessness, Vomiting, Elevated heart rate,
Hypertension (elevated blood pressure), Abnormal heart rhythms, Tremors, Hyperthermia
(elevated body temperature), Seizures, Collapse, Death
2) Rat/mouse poison (Rodenticides): cause internal bleeding, but it dosen’t happen
immediately. Most pet owners only notice their dog is lethargic (tired), and they may see
a swollen belly. Responds well to treatment ( Vit K), but must be diagnosed early.
3) Vitamins and minerals, Vitamin D3, iron are two common ones. Oxygen absorbers and
silica gel packets contain iron. Iron can cause Vomiting, Diarrhea, Abdominal pain, Shock,
Elevated heart rate, Panting, Tremors
4) NSAIDs: Metacam, Rimadyl, Ibuprofen, naproxen etc. This common dog toxin can cause
vomiting, diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death
5) Heart meds: these include vetmedin ( enlapril), diltiazem, etc. Some can cause mild
signs, such as weakness and dizziness from vetmedin. Others such as diltiazem can result
in severe poisoning. Overdose can result in heart failure, a very slowed heart rate,
severe hypotension (low blood pressure), and secondary acute kidney failure.
6) OTC cough and cold meds. Decongestants are of the biggest concern. They work by
constricting (or tightening) the blood vessels in the nose (and the rest of the body). The
most common types of decongestants are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. These drugs are
commonly found in cold, flu and allergy medications. When accidentally ingested by dogs,
decongestants can be deadly as they can result in vomiting, dilated pupils, severe blood
pressure changes (hypertension), abnormal heart rhythms and rates, tremors, and seizures.
7) Antidepressants: These are typically a class of medication called selective serotonin
re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This type of medication is sometimes used in veterinary
medicine also (for behavioral problems). At even therapeutic doses, it can result in
moderate to severe clinical signs. With accidental poisoning or ingestion, clinical signs
from SSRIs include sedation or central nervous system (CNS) stimulation, anorexia, and
lethargy. With larger poisonings, serotonin syndrome can be seen. Clinical signs of
serotonin syndrome include: CNS sedation or stimulation, vomiting, tremoring, seizures,
hyperthermia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dilated pupils.
8) Xylitol: sugar-free sweetener commonly found in many chewing gums, mints, foods (e.g.,
pudding and gelatin snacks, etc.), oral rinses, toothpastes, and OTC supplements (e.g.,
sugar-free multivitamins, fish oils, etc.).In dogs, ingestion of > 0.1 gram/kg can cause
an acute, life-threatening low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) within 10-15 minutes. Larger
ingestions can result in acute liver necrosis and liver failure. Signs of xylitol
poisoning in dogs include weakness, lethargy, collapse, vomiting, tremoring, seizures,
jaundice, malaise, black-tarry stool, and even coma or death.
9)Acetominophen (Tylenol), a common cause of liver failure. Be cautious in using tylenol
for dogs, and only give prescribed dose. Some of the signs of toxicity can include:
Vomiting, Decreased appetite, Lethargy (tiredness), Difficult or rapid breathing,
Abdominal pain, Brown discoloration of the gums (a result of methemoglobin), Brown urine,
Blue gums (known as cyanosis, indicates inadequate oxygen supply), Swelling of the face or
paws, Shock, collapse, death
10) Caffeine Pills. Dogs appear to be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than
people. While 1-2 laps of coffee, tea or soda will not contain enough caffeine to cause
poisoning in most pets, the ingestion of moderate amounts of coffee grounds, tea bags
or 1-2 diet pills can easily cause death in small dogs or cats. When ingested, clinical signs
of hyperactivity, restlessness, vomiting, an elevated heart rate, hypertension (elevated
blood pressure), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, hyperthermia (elevated body
temperature), seizures, collapse and death may be seen.
11) Grapes and raisins: 3-4 grapes cause kidney damage in some dogs.All types of grape- or
raisin-containing products (including grape juice, trail mix, bagels, etc.) can result in
this. Even organic, pesticide-free, grapes grown in home gardens can result in toxicity.
Signs include: anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially severe acute renal failure
(which develops several days later). The toxicity is not necessarily dose-dependent, and symptoms can occur with even small ingestions.
The cause is unknown.
12) Glucosamine joint supplements: Most overdoses Overdoses only cause diarrhea; in rare cases, liver failure.
If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these items or any other questionable
substance, call Pet Poison Helpline or your veterinarian for assistance. Accurate and
timely identification of the suspected substance is very important. Having the container,
package, or label in hand will save valuable time and may save the life of your pet.
24/7 Animal Poison Control Center
Andrew Jones, DVM
P.S. Every dog owner should have basic first aid skills, knowing what to do in an emergency. I have an comprehensive guide in my Manual of Pet First Aid. You can get a copy here:
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