First Aid for Dogs – Ingesting a toxic substance

Ingesting a toxic substance is one of the more frequent mishaps that can happen to a dog and require the application of first aid for dogs.

Examples of things that can be toxic or cause problems if ingested by your dog include alcohol, aspirin, panadol (very toxic to cats), nurofen, onions, bones from fish/poultry/other meat source, cooked bones (can splinter), chocolate, caffeine, grapes and raisins, human vitamin supplements, macadamia and almond nuts, garbage, mushrooms, avocado, raw eggs, salt, tobacco, corn cobs, string, arsenic, lead, marijuana, slug and snail bait (very serious), rat bait poison, various insecticides – dips, pour-ons, flea collars, sprays, car antifreeze and weed killer.

Some example of toxic plants include deadly nightshade, kale, rape, white bryony, cherry laurel, ergot, hemlock, dumb cane, foxglove, egg plant, horsetails, St John’s wort, rhododendron, laburnum, linseed, dog’s mercury, oak, philodendron, bracken fern, ragwort, rhubarb, spurge laurel, sugar beet, black bryony, yew, tomato, tobacco, winter cherry and woody nightshade.

If you know your pet has ingested something toxic, there are several things you should do:

  1. Keep the packaging, as this often contains crucial information about the amount of toxic substance your dog may have ingested.
  2. Call your veterinarian, as if your dog has ingested a toxic dose of the substance, they may be able to make them vomit. However there is a crucial window of opportunity and if your pet ingested the substance more than 2-4 hours prior, then it may have passed to the small intestinal tract and induction of vomiting won’t work. Therefore, time is definitely of the essence.
  3. If you are unsure or your vet is closed, the poisons line can often help with information around whether a substance is toxic to a dog. The number in Australia is 131 126. Have the packaging on hand for this phone call.
  4. Never try to induce vomiting at home, it can be very dangerous.
  5. If your pet is seizing as a result of the toxin ingestion, see what to do in the event your dog is seizing.
  6. If the toxin is on the pets coat, for example, weed killer or road tarr, then immediately wash with soapy water and apply a head collar if possible to prevent them licking it off their fur. It is best to check with your vet how toxic the substance potentially can be as further treatment, for example shaving the pets fur, may be necessary.

If you are not sure, and your pet has ingested something unusual, call your vet for advice ASAP.

If the toxin is on the pets coat, for example, weed killer or road tarr, then immediately wash with soapy water and apply a head collar if possible to prevent them licking it off their fur. It is best to check with your vet how toxic the substance potentially can be as further treatment, for example shaving the pets fur, may be necessary. See also first aid for ‘Chemical Burns’.

Dr Abbie Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery) Tipler, BVSc, MACVS (Surgery)

Dr Abbie is a Small Animal Veterinarian with 10 years full-time experience. Her passion is Small Animal Surgery and in 2011 she studied towards and obtained her Memberships in Small Animal Surgery from the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists. Although surgery is her special interest, she loves all aspects of General Practice, especially canine medicine. She lives with her family and two Ragdoll cats.