Prevention & First Aid for Ingested Poison

3 min read
Nov 14, 2023

Even the best-behaved dog will occasionally get into something they shouldn’t. Sometimes, it’s harmless, but they can also ingest or be exposed to potentially deadly substances.

To keep your furry friend safe, you need to know dog poisoning symptoms, what to do in a poisoning emergency if your dog eats something bad, and what poisons to keep away from pets.

Don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661. Both hotlines are available 24/7.

Dog Poisoning Symptoms

It’s vital to be aware of the symptoms of dog poisoning so you can take appropriate steps. Signs of poisoning in dogs to watch for if you think your pet has ingested, inhaled, or been exposed to some form of poison can include:1,2

  • Rapid or decreased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing or heavy panting
  • Muscle tremors or seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling or foaming
  • Collapsing
  • Lethargy or anxiety
  • Unsteadiness when walking or standing
  • Blisters, sores, or other skin irritation where poison made contact
  • Swelling
  • Unusual behavior

If you notice any of these symptoms, try to stay calm and call your veterinarian or poison control and do exactly as instructed.

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs can appear in as little as 30 minutes or take as long as several hours or days to show up.3

Note that size matters regarding poisoning, whether ingested, absorbed, inhaled, or injected under the skin. What could kill a Chihuahua may have no effect on a Saint Bernard. The ability for any potentially poisonous substance to cause health issues is proportional to the animal’s body weight.4

Treatment for Dog Poisoning

Understandably, you may feel panicked if your dog ingests a poisonous substance. To quickly get them the care they need and improve their chances of recovery, stay calm and follow these steps:

  • Keep calm and move your dog away from the potentially poisonous substance.
  • Take note of the situation and your dog’s symptoms.
  • Contact your veterinarian — always have their number saved in your phone. Contact the nearest emergency clinic or a pet poison hotline if it's after hours.
  • Don’t induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by a veterinary professional.

Get to the vet

If your vet instructs you to bring your pup in, do so immediately. If possible, safely bring along whatever poison your pet came into contact with and a sample of their vomit, if applicable.

Once there, your vet may perform a number of measures to prevent additional absorption of the poison into your pet’s body. These can include:

  • Activated charcoal to lessen absorption of poison in the digestive tract1
  • Medication to induce vomiting1
  • Stomach flushing5
  • Laxatives or enema1,5

Poisoning Can Be Scary. Vet Bills Don’t Have To Be.

Find Out More

Poisonous Substances for Dogs

There are plenty of things that are toxic to dogs, ranging from common household items to certain plants outside. Pet owners should be aware of things to always keep out of their dog’s reach.

Human foods

It’s tempting to give pups a nibble of what we’re eating, especially if they give you those irresistible puppy eyes. But many of the foods — and ingredients in those foods — we enjoy aren’t good for dogs.

Here are some foods to keep away from your dog:

  • Chocolate: Because chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, it can cause life-threatening complications.
  • Garlic: Garlic and other alliums, like onions, contain thiosulfate, a toxic compound.
  • Grapes: While veterinarians don’t know exactly why grapes are so toxic for dogs, ingestion can cause kidney failure.
  • Xylitol: Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in some sweet treats, like peanut butter, candy, and chocolate.

Over-the-counter medications

While you can get pain medication for your dog prescribed by a vet, human medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen are toxic to dogs.

Prescription medications

If you have any prescriptions, like antidepressants or blood pressure pills, be sure to put them in a safe place where your dog won’t come into contact with them.

Additionally, if your dog’s been prescribed any medications, those also need to be safely stored so your pup doesn’t ingest higher than recommended dosages.1

Household products for cleaning

Cleaning products, like bleach, can be safely used in your home if you store them where your furry friend can’t inhale or ingest them.

In addition to symptoms like vomiting, which can occur if ingested, some cleaning products could cause burns on your dog if they come into contact with their skin.6

Toxic plants

Many plants and flowers are dangerous if your dog ingests them. Take care to ensure whatever potted plants you keep indoors or outside in your garden are safe to protect your pup from being poisoned.

A few examples of poisonous plants and flowers are daffodils, lilies, sago palms, and tulips. 7


Sometimes, you need to use products like ant traps or rat poison in your home, but these must be kept away from your dog's access.1

Preventive Measures

Be prepared when your furry kid needs you the most. Pets can become poisoned by toxins they inhale, that are injected (i.e., insect stings), and absorbed through their paw pads and skin.

Consider the following steps to help keep your pets safe from poisons:

  • Get down on all fours and be proactive, making sure your pet’s environment is free of potentially hazardous substances.
  • Install childproof locks on cabinet doors if you share your life with curious critters.
  • Read labels and purchase “pet-friendly” chemicals and cleaners.
  • Always be sure to supervise your pet, remove potential dangers, and keep the scene safe.
  • Learn pet first aid in case the worst happens.

Be sure to check out our guides on inhaled poisons and injected poisons for more information.

Pet Insurance Can Help if Dog Poisoning Happens

Worrying about the cost of treatment shouldn’t be a concern if your dog ingests, inhales, or is exposed to poison. A dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet can help give you peace of mind following a poisoning incident.

Take Bruce, for example. He experienced poisoning when he ingested some acetaminophen. But his pet parents were able to focus on Bruce getting better, not the bills. Because of their MetLife Pet Insurance policy, they were reimbursed for about $2,400 of the $2,900 claim.8

Looking for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy? Consider investing in a MetLife Pet Insurance policy. Get your free quote today.

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**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “The Common Signs and Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs,” American Kennel Club

2 “Emergencies in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

3 “What Are the Symptoms of Poisoning in Dogs?,” Wag Walking

4 “Common Dog Poisons (What to Avoid),” Dutch

5 “General Treatment of Poisoning,” Merck Veterinary Manual

6 “Household Hazards For Dogs: Beware of These Potentially Poisonous Items,” American Kennel Club

7 “Poisonous Plants for Dogs,” American Kennel Club

8 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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