Poisoning: First Aid and After Care for Your Dog

It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare: your dog is poisoned. Dogs are prone to get into everything and anything, and sometimes those things are detrimental to their health. Some dangerous items dogs are attracted to may be plants, household cleaning products, alcohol, antifreeze, garbage, or medications. Dogs can also be vulnerable to poisonous spider or snake bites.


As a responsible dog owner, you do everything you can to keep your dog away from toxic products and circumstances. But what can you do if, despite your best efforts, your dog is poisoned? Here are the critical steps you need to follow to give your dog a chance to survive.

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Poisoning?

If you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, look for any of the following symptoms:


  • Cardiac symptoms such as irregular heartbeat

  • Loss of blood (bruising, blood in stool, nosebleeds, anemia)

  • Seizures and other neurological disorders

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Inability to urinate

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Loss of balance

  • Skin rash

  • Swelling of tongue

  • Muscle rigidity and tremor


If your dog is suffering from one or more of the above symptoms, get help for him immediately.

First Aid for Poisoned Dogs

If you believe that your dog has been poisoned, what steps should you take to administer first aid? Your next critical actions are dictated by what means and method your pet has been poisoned.


First, try to determine what your dog was exposed to, and look around for evidence. This proof may be a pool of antifreeze, an open pesticide container, broken bottles of medication, or a container of rodenticide. Then contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately.


Be prepared with the answers to these questions when you call:


  • Breed, sex, age, and weight of your dog

  • Symptoms

  • If known, name or describe the substance that your dog was in contact with

  • How and in what amount was your dog exposed to it (or in case of consumption, how long since your dog ate it)

  • If possible, have the packaging of the products on hand for reference


Follow the directions provided to you by your veterinarian or the poison control center. They may advise you to do any of the following actions before bringing your dog to the veterinarian’s office:


For skin or eye poisoning, follow the directions on the product label for people exposed to the product. You may need to wash your dog’s skin with soap and water (keeping it out of his eyes, ears, mouth, and nose) if his skin has been exposed to toxins. Flush your dog’s eyes out with water as soon as possible.


For consumption of poisonous products, your vet may instruct you to induce vomiting in your dog. Keep some vegetable oil, 3% hydrogen peroxide, syrup of Ipecac, and active charcoal handy for just such a circumstance. Collect anything that your dog has vomited or chewed, seal it in a plastic bag, and bring it to the veterinarian’s office.


It’s critically important to note that there are circumstances in which you should not induce vomiting in your dog. If you see any of the following symptoms, take your dog immediately to your veterinarian, and do not induce vomiting:


  • If the poison ingested was a cleaning product, a strong acid, a petroleum product, or an alkali such as bleach

  • If your dog swallowed the poison more than two hours ago

  • If your dog is semi-conscious, unconscious, or convulsing

After Care for Poisoned Dogs

A poisoning episode means a long road to recovery for your dog, and the duration of that recovery is linked to what poison affected him.


Skin rashes, bites, and stings can often be cared for topically or in combination with vet-approved antihistamines.


Ingestion of poison is trickier to recover from as two vital organs, the liver and kidneys, are most affected by poisonous substances. In this case, your dog may need to be on a very bland, easily digestible diet for some time to give the liver and kidneys a chance to rest and recuperate. Avoid feeding your dog fats and proteins as these two organs are responsible for processing them.


In some situations, your veterinarian may recommend that your dog takes antioxidant vitamins and minerals or nutritional supplements to assist your dog’s body in recovering from the poison.


The best scenario for any dog owner is never to have your dog experience poisoning. Prevention is the best cure possible, so do everything that you can to dog-proof your home and remove all poisonous substances, from medications to plants to cleaning products, out of your dog’s reach.


That said, dogs have a habit of getting into what they should not, so if your dog does become poisoned, call your veterinarian for advice and guidance right away. With your vet’s help and with your preparedness, you can give your dog the best chance possible to fully recover from poisoning.

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