Has Your Dog Been Poisoned? The Deadly Signs of Poisoning
Your dog is acting strange and your wondering what's wrong with them. Have they have eaten something they shouldn't? Just what are the signs of poisoning in dogs? Clearly it depends on the poison but many symptoms of poisoning are the same.
There are many potential poisons out there that your dog may accidentally come into contact with or eat. If you haven't seen my articles on the most common of these then be sure to check out the toxins in your house and around the garden or different poisonous food in the kitchen linked towards the end.
Obviously different poisons and toxins act in different ways and so the symptoms will be different. Despite this, many symptoms cross over and so we can make some generalizations and break them down into those affecting different parts of the body.
Probably the most common group is intestinal signs. This might include excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhea. But these are pretty common symptoms so when should you be worried that it is more than a simple tummy upset? If your dog has only vomited or had diarrhea a couple of times and is otherwise bright, happy and well then severe poisoning is unlikely (unless of course you have seen them eat something toxic). If however they are otherwise unwell, if there is blood in their vomit or if you see anything unusual in their vomit or stool then poisoning could definitely be the cause and you should get your dog checked over by your vet.
Our next big common group of signs is neurological problems. Issues with the bodies nervous system are again a relatively common feature, becoming more common if higher doses of poison are consumed or if treatment is delayed. These signs might involve twitching, tremors, wobbliness (also known as ataxia), in-coordination, seizures and fitting. Any of these signs, regardless of cause, should prompt a visit to your vet as soon as possible.
Problems with the blood is our number 3 symptom group with several toxins causing issues here. Bleeding is a result of rat bait poisoning, one of the most common poisonings seen. This bleeding could be anywhere and so may not be obvious but bloody vomit or coughing up blood are symptoms you would certainly notice. Bleeding evidence can also be seen by looking at your dogs gums. If they are pale or even white then blood loss is one possible cause.
Looking at your dogs gums can show other signs of concern. Anything other than a normal healthy pink generally indicates something is not quite right and should prompt a visit to your vet. Blue tinged gums suggest the lungs are not working properly. If they are yellow then the liver may be having problems or the bodies red blood cells may be being destroyed. Other colors to watch out for include muddy brown and bright brick red. Take a look at your pet's gums now, when they are healthy. This will give you something to compare with in the future if you are concerned about your dog and think they might be unwell for any reason.
Heart and lungs
The heart and lungs are other areas commonly affected. Many toxins will cause the heart to become much more rapid than normal. This might be because the body in general is under some degree of stress or because the toxin is directly affecting the heart, causing it to beat more quickly. Tied to this is the potential for the heart rhythm to also become erratic and for an arrhythmia to develop. An arrhythmia in itself can be fatal but can also lead to less blood traveling around the body which may result in damage to other body organs such as the kidneys.
Placing your hand on the left hand side of your dogs chest, just behind their front leg should allow you to feel their heart beating. A normal rate depends on both the size and fitness of your dog, the bigger and fitter they are then the lower their normal heart rate. A rate of over 160 beats per minute in a dog who is resting in their home environment would generally be abnormal. If your dog is big or fit then an abnormal rate is likely to be much less. You may also be able to feel if the heart is beating regularly or if it is becoming erratic, although this can be quite difficult to determine just by feel. If your pet is overweight you may also struggle to feel their heart in this way. This is another thing you can practice at home so that you know what is normal for your pet.
If the lungs are affected then the most common symptom would be a fast breathing rate. In some cases this can be accompanied by an increase in the effort needed to take each breath. In those animals that are really struggling to breath, their neck may be stretched forwards and their elbows held away from the body in an attempt to make breathing easier. If this is the case then their gums are also likely to be blue rather than a healthy pink. Again, knowing your own pets breathing rate when they are resting at home will allow you to know if they are breathing much faster than normal. A normal rate would be less than around 30.
Liver and kidneys
Next up are the kidneys and liver. Both of these organs can be involved in processing and removing toxins from the blood and both can be affected or irreparably damaged by some toxins. With kidney damage, symptoms may be very vague and just consist of your pet appearing lethargic, going off their food and being generally very unwell. This is because damage can happen very quickly. If it takes place over a longer period of time then you may notice that your dog starts to drink or urinate a lot more than they normally do. Their urine itself may also appear abnormal, in some cases turning bloody. The situation is the same with liver damage, although another sign of any liver disease can also be the gums turning yellow, especially if the damage has taken place over a longer period of time.
Our final group of potential poisoning symptoms in dogs are those who do not fit into the other categories. These include pain or discomfort, restlessness, hyperactivity, abdominal bloating, a raised body temperature, coma and finally death.
You can see from everything discussed here that there are so many different symptoms that might indicate your pet has come across something poisonous, and this list might not include some of the more unusual things your dog might have access to or come across in their lives. If you are ever worried that your pet is suffering from the effects of poisoning then your vet should always be the first person you call. Time is critical in the treatment of poisoning. Rapid intervention might be enough to avert a potentially life-threatening situation.
As with most things, prevention is by far the best strategy. Learn about the most common dangerous foods in your kitchen as well as all of the other common poisons in your house and garden. If you know what is potentially dangerous then you can take steps to shut them away from your pet so that they never have access to them in the future.
If you have any questions or stories about your own pet coming across something nasty then I would love to read them in the comments below. Also if it's your first time here sign up to my newsletter to make sure you don't miss out on future content and so allow me to continue to help you and your pet live a healthier, happier life.
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