March 15th to 21st is National Poison Prevention Week in the US but it is something we should also take notice of in the UK. In honour of raising awareness about accidental poisoning, particularly following the unfortunate incident with Jagger, the Irish Setter who sadly died from poisoning after winning a silver medal this year at Crufts, we are writing this blog to highlight some of the household objects and foods that are potentially fatal for your pets, the symptoms that occur if these objects are ingested and what to do.
This is commonly found in paracetamol and can cause liver damage in dogs.
Once swallowed, acetaminophen is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and intestines and can achieve significant levels in the blood within 30 minutes. The main toxic effects are liver damage (particularly in dogs) and damage to red blood cells (particularly in cats) which prevents oxygen from being supplied to the body’s vital organs.
Symptoms of acetaminophen toxicity are:
- decreased appetite
- lethargy (tiredness)
- difficult or rapid breathing
- abdominal pain
- brown discolouration of the gums
- brown urine
- blue gums (known as cyanosis, indicates inadequate oxygen supply)
- swelling of the face or paws
- shock, collapse, death
Acetaminophen toxicity can be fatal. However, if the condition is recognised, diagnosed, and treated quickly pets can survive this.
Take your pet to the vets as soon as possible where they may induce vomiting, anaesthetise your pet in order to flush out the contents of the stomach or administer a special preparation of liquid activated charcoal to slow absorption of toxic material from the stomach and intestines.
Most cases of acetaminophen toxicity are preventable. Do not give medications meant for people to your pet unless told to do so by your vet and keep all medications in the home secured to help prevent accidental swallowing.
Do not leave batteries within reach of dogs. Many dogs love to chew on remote controls, however, if they manage to puncture the battery casing, this could cause a lot of harm.
If battery fluid has been ingested by your dog, the tips and sides of their tongue will usually appear red and raw, or will have a whitish-grey appearance due to dead skin. The dog will generally drool heavily and may vomit. He may be quiet or may whimper or cry due to pain. Although many animals will stop eating because of oral pain, some dogs will continue to eat, but may chew slowly and carefully. The dog may appear to have difficulty swallowing. These signs often are delayed and may not appear for up to 12 hours.
When ingestion is recent, the most important initial treatment is to give them small quantities of milk – based on the weight of the animal – to dilute the corrosive fluid. Large amounts, however, may cause diarrhoea. You should not induce vomiting without consulting a vet as the corrosive fluid could significantly increase the damage to your dog’s throat.
Chocolate, depending on the amount and type eaten, can cause seizures or death in dogs. The two chemicals in chocolate that can be toxic to dogs are caffeine and theobromine, both of which are more present in dark chocolate and baking chocolate than in milk or white chocolate.
Symptoms in dogs having eaten chocolate are:
- increased heart rate
- muscle tremors
- chocolate smell on breath
- lethargy (weakness/tiredness)
- anxiousness, restlessness, and pacing
Signs of chocolate poisoning can begin to occur within an hour of ingestion and can lead to death within 24 hours so call your vet immediately.
These can contain poisonous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, herbicides, pesticides and additives such as fungicides. Keep dogs and cats away from treated lawns until they are dry, especially as fertiliser can be very attractive to dogs.
Fertiliser can cause intestinal upset, including diarrhoea and vomiting, but it should resolve itself in a few days; however, specific fertilisers can be more toxic than others and they may need fluids for hydration and medications to settle and soothe the stomach and intestines so always consult with your vet.
A good tip is to give your dog one slice of very burnt toast as this will neutralise any toxins in their system. Also, feed them a bland diet and give them small portions every few hours. Mixing half a teaspoon of plain yoghurt into one of the portions will also add good bacteria into their digestive system and make sure they drink plenty of water.
Grapes and raisins
Even small amounts of these fruits can cause acute (sudden) kidney failure in cats and dogs. It is unknown what the toxic agent is in these fruits, however, symptoms can occur within 24 hours of eating and include:
- lethargy (tiredness)
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- oliguria (passing only a small amount of urine)
- anuria (complete cessation of urine)
- kidney (renal) failure
If you are positive your dog has ingested grapes, raisins or even grape juice, induce vomiting before the toxins in the fruit can be absorbed only if your dog hasn’t already been sick and if they are conscious. You can do this by administering a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution of one teaspoon (five millilitres) for every 10 pounds of body weight. If you are unsure or your dog has not vomited, call a vet as soon as possible and ask them what to do. They may suggest giving your dog activated charcoal or that your dog needs a stomach wash and fluid therapy.
Lily of the Valley
Lilies are not usually toxic to dogs, however, Lily of the Valley is the exception. The toxic component of the plant is convallarin, a type of glycoside that can trigger a variety of unpleasant symptoms in pets including:
- abnormal heartbeat
- decreased blood pressure
Make sure your dog never goes near this plant, much less puts it into his mouth. If you have any reason to suspect ingestion, get veterinary attention immediately.
Onions, shallots, garlic, scallions, etc. all contain compounds that can damage red blood cells in dogs if ingested in sufficient quantities. A rule of thumb is “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.” It is uncommon that eating raw onions and garlic will cause serious problems in dogs, however, ingesting concentrated forms of onion or garlic, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk of toxicosis. The effects of ingesting these products usually becomes apparent three to five days after a dog eats these vegetables. Affected dogs may seem lethargic, or they may appear to tire easily after mild exercise. Their urine may be orange-tinged to dark red in colour. These dogs should be checked immediately by a vet. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be needed.
Unbaked bread dough
When unbaked dough is swallowed by a dog, the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, causing the dough in the stomach to expand. Expansion of the dough in the stomach may be severe enough to decrease blood flow to the stomach wall, resulting in the death of tissue.
The expanding stomach may also press on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulties. Perhaps more importantly, the yeast in the dough produces alcohols that can be absorbed, resulting in alcohol intoxication leading to seizures, respiratory failure or even a coma and death. Affected dogs may show signs such as a lack of coordination, disorientation and vomiting (or attempts to vomit). Dogs showing mild signs should be closely monitored, and dogs with severe abdominal distention or dogs who are so inebriated that they can’t stand up should be monitored by a vet until they recover.
A sugar-free sweetener commonly found in chewing gum, breath mints, toothpaste and sugar-free baked products, xylitol can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar and liver failure if ingested by dogs. Within 30 minutes of ingesting products containing xylitol, dogs may develop disorientation and seizures, or the signs may be delayed for several hours. Dogs that ingest large amounts of xylitol can develop liver failure, which can be fatal. All dogs ingesting xylitol-containing products should be examined by a vet immediately.
When dogs eat metal, coins, metal board game pieces, nuts, bolts, staples, zips, and jewellery containing zinc, zinc toxicity can happen. Even ingesting a single zinc penny can be fatal.
Stomach acids break down metal, releasing the zinc from these objects, allowing it to be absorbed in the small intestine potentially firstly causing vomiting and a loss of appetite. Hours or even days later, anaemia, jaundice and red urine may be seen and in the later stages, depression, seizures and liver, kidney or heart failure.
In cases of dogs swallowing an object containing zinc that are detected early, you should induce vomiting to remove the item from the stomach. An endoscopy or surgery to remove the metal items will be needed as soon as possible if items aren’t removed by vomiting.
For severely anaemic cases, blood transfusions may be needed.
Keep your doggy safe from accidental poisoning by keeping these dangerous products for dogs out of reach at all times. Accidents happen, but at least you now know what to do to save your dog should he or she sneakily eat one of these things when you aren’t looking.
Here at Gudog we are passionate about taking the best care possible of dogs and look for people who feel the same way. If you a also a dog-lover and would like to provide them with a happy, healthy and safe environment while their owners are away, join the Gudog team and become a dog sitter.