How to spot signs of dog poisoning

The death of a dog this week in Saskatoon raises questions about how to identify poisoning and what to do if your pet ingests something toxic.

A Saskatoon veterinarian outlines the symptoms of a potentially fatal poisoning

Stacey Lemieux walking Doris in the alley where the bullmastiff swallowed a substance that looked like rat poison earlier this month in Saskatoon. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

The death of a dog this week in Saskatoon raises questions about how to identify poisoning and what to do if your pet ingests something toxic.

A five-year-old basset hound became sick shortly after going for a walk at the Avalon Dog Park on Monday. It died that night.

The veterinarian who attended to the dog said the animal displayed symptoms of poisoning. One test performed so far has ruled out strychnine and the cause of death is still inconclusive. 

Dr. Teresa Chu outlined the symptoms and actions pet owners should take if they suspect their dog has ingested poison, whether intentionally or accidentally, outside or inside the home.

  • Neurological signs: Chu says most animal poisons such as rodenticides or other baits cause neurological effects. Watch for tremors, shaking, seizures and unusual anxiety especially after just visiting a park or a back alley. If you suspect poisoning and the animal does not seem stable, rush to a vet hospital. Chu recommends the animal hospital at the U of S since it is open at all hours.
  • Colour of gums or tongue: Chu says if the colour of the gums or tongue has changed dramatically, turning pale or blue, or if the dog is very rigid or having trouble breathing, these are other sings of a potentially serious poisoning, and you should again rush the animal to a vet hospital.
  • Inducing vomiting: If the pet is stable, but you suspect a poisoning, or you know for certain the animal ingested something toxic, call your vet. They may recommend that you try to induce vomiting at home, especially in the first two hours. But it depends which poison they ingested. Anything caustic can burn the dog's esophagus if the animal vomits.
  • Watch for bleeding: If the animal ingests warfarin, a common ingredient in older rat poisons, they may not show symptoms for up to three days. The symptoms include blood in urine or stool, bleeding gums or easily bruising. Contact a vet immediately if you see these symptoms or if you are aware the animal has ingested this poison.
  • Watch for xylitol: This sweetening ingredient can be found in some chewing gum as well as some brands of peanut butter. It is toxic to dogs. 

Chu recommends resources such as the poison control section of the ASPCA website to find more information on preventing, identifying and dealing with cases of poisoning in your animals.


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