What to Do if Your Dog Is Poisoned or Exposed to Toxins

Congratulations on giving your dog a safe, loving forever home! Of course, the downside is that you have to worry about everything from fleas to poisonous foods. The good news is that with a bit of research and preparation, you can help prevent an emergency if your pet ingests a toxic substance. Still, it’s best to be prepared for anything in case an accident does happen.

Prepare a safe space.

  • Put down a sheet or blanket on the floor so that your pet has a soft place to lie down. This will help keep their body temperature up and make them feel more comfortable while they’re getting treated.
  • Have towels, water bowls and waste baskets nearby in case there is an accident or mess during treatment time (or later).
  • Keep the number of your vet handy in case anything goes wrong—you’ll need it if you need medical assistance right away!

Do your research.

When it comes to toxins, dogs are no different than humans. Both species have a similar gastrointestinal tract and liver, which means that the same toxins can have similar effects on each of them.

If you’re not sure about what toxin your pet has been exposed to or poisoned by, do some research first. There are many different types of toxins out there that cause all sorts of symptoms in both people and animals — some of the most common include antifreeze (or ethylene glycol), pesticides, lead paint, fire extinguishers or smoke detectors, cleaning products like bleach or ammonia-based cleansers (which can be harmful when ingested), xylitol (a sweetener found in many foods and medications), spoiled food containing food poisoning bacteria like salmonella or E. coli; rat poison; rat traps; chocolate; fertilizers/weed killer (especially those containing caffeine).

If possible, bring the package of the toxin or poison with you to the vet.

If you can, bring the package of the toxin or poison with you to the vet. It will help them identify exactly what your dog ingested, which may help in treatment. If you don’t have it on hand, try to describe it as best as possible. If that’s not enough and there was no label attached to the container, bring a picture of what it looked like if possible.

If your pet is having trouble breathing, do not force them to lie down.

Keep them standing and calm while you call the emergency vet and prepare to take them there.

Do not give anything by mouth. This includes water, food, or any medications (even if they are labeled as “pet safe”). Do not give anything that contains alcohol. Do not give anything that contains sugar or salt; these will make things worse by drawing more fluid into the lungs (and could even cause a seizure).

Do not try to induce vomiting unless specifically instructed by a veterinarian (this may be appropriate for some poisons but not others). If the poison was ingested within 30 minutes of ingesting it, inducing vomiting may help absorption of some toxins from the stomach but doesn’t necessarily remove all traces from a pet’s system in time for treatment at an emergency veterinary clinic.

Keep calm and keep your pet calm as well.

You may have just noticed that your dog has been poisoned or exposed to toxins, and you’re feeling a little out of sorts.

In this situation, it’s important to keep calm and stay focused on what needs to be done. If you panic, so will your pet—and that could make an already tense situation even worse.

Stay calm and take deep breaths until you feel like yourself again. If possible, try to find something else for yourself (or another person) to focus on besides the dog in question; otherwise, bring his attention back in small doses until he stops reacting as strongly as before.

Get to an emergency vet immediately.

If your dog is having seizures: Do not try to hold him down or force him into any position (like lying down). He may bite or scratch you while he’s seizing, but this is normal behavior for a dog experiencing a seizure. If needed, you can use objects near by (like a chair) as temporary restraints until he stops seizing.

If your pet is having trouble breathing: Don’t force them into any position where they might be uncomfortable (like lying down), as this could worsen their symptoms while they’re having difficulty breathing. You can also put oxygen tubes into their nose if necessary—just make sure that when attaching these tubes, it doesn’t block off one nostril so your furry friend has both nostrils free for breathing!


It’s important to know what to do in the event of a toxin exposure, because it will help you feel prepared. This will make you feel more confident when faced with an emergency situation, and your pet will also benefit from this knowledge. A toxin exposure is a stressful experience for pets as well as their owners, so knowing what to do can make a big difference in both cases.

In general, it’s best to err on the side of caution when dealing with any of these scenarios. Don’t wait to see if your pet is feeling better before you consult a professional. Acting quickly and using the right methods can make all the difference in preventing lasting damage.