Common dog poisons

There are many ways that dogs can get poisoned by ingesting things commonly found around the home. You can find additional information on human foods to avoid for dogs and toxic plants for dogs.

What to do if you think your dog is poisoned

Try not to panic and arrange to take your dog to the vet immediately. Take the time to safely collect and have at hand any material involved. This may be of great help to your vet, as they determine what poison or poisons are involved. Also, collect in a sealable plastic bag any material your pet may have vomited or chewed.

If you witness your pet consuming material that you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek emergency assistance, even if you do not notice any immediate adverse effects. Sometimes, even if poisoned, an animal may appear normal for several hours or days after the incident.


It is advised not to give any medication to your dog without consulting your vet first. Many human medications can be poisonous and even lethal to dogs.

Common medications given to dogs by the owners that cause poisoning include aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen:

  • Aspirin: The signs of aspirin toxicity may include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhoea, black-tarry stool, weakness and hyperthermia.
  • Paracetamol: The signs of toxicity may include tiredness, swelling of face, brown gums, difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Ibuprofen: The signs of toxicity may include vomiting, diarrhoea, black-tarry stool, weakness, pale. With larger ingestions, dogs can develop kidney failure, liver failure and neurological conditions.

Many other medications can also be toxic to dogs.

Household hazards

Common household chemicals that cause poisoning include:

Ant baits: These contain boric acid which is toxic to dogs if eaten in a large amount. Ant baits have a sweet smell and taste to attract ants but it also appear to attract dogs.

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol): Antifreeze is a common cause of poisoning in small animals. Dogs will seek out antifreeze as they find its smell and taste appealing. Antifreeze poisoning has three phases:

  1. Phase 1 includes a drunken appearance, drooling and vomiting, generally within 30 minutes to 12 hours of ingestion.
  2. During phase 2 your dog may appear to transiently recover (approximately 12 hours after ingestion), but actually the animal is progressing to phase 3.
  3. Phase 3 signs include vomiting, seizures, lethargy, coma and even death. This phase occurs within 36-72 hours of ingestion.

Fertilisers: Fertiliser products generally contain varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) compounds. They may be in liquid, granular or solid form and contain additives such as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Since fertilisers are usually a combination of ingredients, the effects of ingestion may vary. In general, they cause mild to moderate stomach upset, which may present signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, hypersalivation and abdominal pain.

Lead:  lead poisoning is less commonly seen than in the past. It may occur from ingestion of lead-containing household items, such as paint and car batteries. The signs of lead poisoning include vomiting, drooling, reduced appetite, diarrhoea, drunken walking, convulsions, blindness and tremors.

Rodenticides (rat or mouse bait): These are a common cause of dog poisoning. Most rodent poisons use anti-coagulants that kill the animals by causing uncontrollable bleeding. Signs of rodenticide ingestion include lethargy, weakness, coughing and staggering. There are different active ingredients in rodenticides, and each has a different mechanism of action of poisoning. It is important that you and your vet have correctly identified the active ingredient in the products ingested to make sure treatment is appropriate.

Insecticides: These usually contain organophosphates and carbonates that are highly toxic to dogs. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhoea, drooling, muscle tremors and seizures.

Molluscicides (snail and slug bait): Molluscicides come in a variety of forms and may be mixed with other toxins. Ingestion can be fatal and there is no antidote. The effects of ingestion are rapid and severe, and include anxiety, elevated heart rate and breathing, drunken walking, severe muscle tremors and death.

Many other household chemicals can also be toxic to dogs.

Page last updated: 24 Jun 2020