If your dog ingests an unknown substance, it is important to determine whether that substance is a poison. Most products have labels that list their ingredients, but if the label doesn’t tell you the composition and toxicity of the product, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for specific information.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
The Poison Control Center has a staff of licensed veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year. You will be charged a consultation fee per case, which can be charged to most major credit cards. At your request, they will also contact your veterinarian. You can also log onto www.aspca.org and click on “Animal Poison Control Center” for more information, including a list of toxic and nontoxic plants. Other poison control hotlines include the Angell Animal Poison Control Hotline, operated by Angell Animal Medical Centers and the Massachusetts SPCA (877-226-4355, www.smspca.org) and the Animal Poison Hotline, operated by the North Shore Animal League and PROSAR International Animal Poison Center at (888) 232-8870. In some cases, you can call the emergency room at your local hospital, which may be able to give you information about how to treat the poison. Specific antidotes are available for some poisons, but they cannot be administered unless the poison is known, or at least suspected by the circumstances. Some product labels have phone numbers you can call for safety information about their products. When signs of poisoning develop, the most important consideration is to get your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary facility at once. If possible, find the poison and bring the container with you. This provides the emergency personnel with an immediate diagnosis and expedites treatment. If the dog has ingested the substance recently, residual poison is often present in his stomach. An initial and most important step is to rid the dog’s stomach of any remaining poison. The most effective way to empty the stomach is to pass a stomach tube, remove as much of the stomach contents as possible, and then wash the stomach out with large volumes of water. This must be done by your veterinarian. In many cases it is preferable to induce vomiting at the scene rather than proceed directly to the veterinary hospital. For example, if you see the dog swallow the poisonous substance, it is obviously best to make the dog vomit it right back up. Similarly, if the poison was ingested within two hours but it will take 30 minutes or longer to get to a veterinary facility, it is frequently advisable to induce vomiting at home. However:
DO NOT induce vomiting
- If the dog has already vomited
- If the dog is in a stupor, breathing with difficulty, or shows any sign of neurologic involvement
- If the dog is unconscious or convulsing
- If the dog has swallowed an acid, alkali, cleaning solution, household chemical, or petroleum product
- If the dog has swallowed a sharp object that could lodge in the esophagus or perforate the stomach
- If the label on the product says,“Do not induce vomiting.”
How to Induce Vomiting and Prevent Poison Absorption: Induce vomiting by giving the dog hydrogen peroxide. A 3 percent solution is most effective. Give 1 teaspoon (5 ml) per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) body weight of the dog. Repeat every 15 to 20 minutes, up to three times, until the dog vomits. Walking the dog after giving each dose may help to stimulate vomiting. Syrup of ipecac has been recommended in the past, but hydrogen peroxide is a better choice for dogs. Syrup of ipecac (not ipecac fluid extract, which is 14 times stronger) is only 50 percent effective and can be dangerous to dogs. It should not be used to induce vomiting unless specifically advised by your veterinarian. The dose is .5 to 1 ml per pound (.45 kg) of body weight, with a maximum dose of 15 ml (1 tablespoon). Repeat in 20 minutes (once only) if the dog does not vomit. Once the poison has been cleared from the dog’s stomach, give him activated charcoal to bind any remaining poison and prevent further absorption. The most effective and easily administered home oral charcoal product is compressed activated charcoal, which comes in 5-gram tablets (recommended for the Home Emergency Medical Kit). The dose is one tablet per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of body weight. Products that come in a liquid or as a powder made into a slurry are extremely difficult to administer at home with a syringe or medicine bottle. The slurry is dense and gooey, and few dogs will swallow it voluntarily. These products are best administered by stomach tube. This is routinely done by your veterinarian after flushing out the stomach. If activated charcoal is not available, coat the intestines with milk and egg whites using 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) egg whites and 1⁄4 cup milk per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of body weight. Administer into the dog’s cheek pouch using a plastic syringe. Intensive care in a veterinary hospital improves the survival rate for dogs who have been poisoned. Intravenous fluids support circulation, treat shock, and protect the kidneys. A large urine output assists in eliminating the poi- son. Corticosteroids may be given for their anti-inflammatory effects. A dog in a coma may benefit from tracheal intubation and artificial ventilation during the acute phase of respiratory depression.
Seizures caused by poisons are associated with prolonged periods of hypoxia and the potential for brain damage. Continuous or recurrent seizures are controlled with intravenous diazepam (Valium) or barbiturates, which must be administered by a veterinarian. Note that seizures caused by strychnine and other central nervous system poisons may be mistaken for epilepsy. This could be a problem, because immediate veterinary attention is needed in cases of poisoning, but not for most epileptic seizures. Seizures caused by poisoning usually are continuous or recur within minutes. Between seizures the dog may exhibit tremors, lack of coordination, weakness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In contrast, most epileptic seizures are brief, seldom lasting more than two minutes, and are followed by a quiet period in which the dog appears dazed but otherwise normal. If your dog is having a seizure, see the treatment for Epilepsy.