Virginia Simpson and Chance

Common Canine Toxicities

by Elizabeth Gigis, DVM, West Chester Veterinary Center

A common misconception among dog owner is that all fruits and veggies that are safe for humans are safe for animals.   Also, Ibuprofen relieves a person’s fever, so many owners think that it is safe for their pets.   Does rat poison only hurts rats?   Canine physiology is very different from  human physiology.   Many things that are safe for us can be deadly to our pets.  It is important to know the most common toxicological emergencies, and how to address them.  One day, it may save your pet’s life.

Fruits and veggies are good for humans and most are good for dogs too!  However, all fruits are NOT made equal.  It has been found that grapes and raisins may cause kidney failure in large doses in dogs.  It is not well understood exactly the way the grapes affect the kidneys, but the toxicity is well documented.  It is thought that 1/3 pound of grapes could potentially be toxic to a 10 pound dog.  The symptoms usually start with diarrhea and vomiting and develop within a few hours.  Acute kidney failure can occur within 48 hours and has been associated with some fatalities.   Onions also may be toxic in large doses, causing anemia.   This means that the onion affects the red blood cells, which carry oxygen.  

Ibuprofen is commonly used by people to reduce fever and help alleviate pain.  It is logical to think that it may be useful for use in pets, but this is incorrect.  Ibuprofen ingestion in dogs can cause symptoms that range from vomiting and diarrhea to sudden death.  It is very toxic and medical attention should be sought immediately with any dog exposed to ibuprofen.

Antifreeze toxicity is a common problem because it only takes a small amount of antifreeze to cause severe kidney damage.   The antifreeze converts in the body to a compound which will precipitate and cause mineralization of the kidneys.  Treatment must given within a few hours to be affective.  The most common signs of antifreeze ingestion are lethargy, ataxia (pet walking like they are drunk), seizures and vomiting.   The treatment for antifreeze toxicity is very effective if given immediately and may save your pet’s life.  Pet safe antifreeze is also available for use in vehicles.   New federal guidelines have recently been enacted requiring that antifreeze have a bitter, rather than sweet, taste.

Many herbal products and vitamins may be toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion of aloe may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney inflammation.  Garlic ingestion can result in anemia (low red blood cell count), allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and contact inflammation of the skin.  This is important to note because many people give garlic and an herbal preventative for fleas.   Lily of the Valley may cause cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting and diarrhea.  Also, multivitamins made for humans contain the improper amount of vitamin content for pets.  If a dog ingests a human multivitamin, the most common toxicities associated are iron toxicity, Vitamin A toxicity, and Vitamin D toxicity. 

Rat Poison is toxic not only to small mammals, but also to our pets.  Rat poison can cause severe bleeding if not treated within 48 hours after exposure.  Rat poison interferes with the way that your pet clots his blood, by decreasing the levels of vitamin K in his system.  This can cause severe problems within several days, but is very treatable.  Oral vitamin K can be prescribed by a veterinarian to prevent bleeding problems, if given quickly enough.  If bleeding problems have already manifested, then more intense therapy may be needed, including blood transfusions.

An important first aid treatment to have at home is hydrogen peroxide.   If your pet eats something toxic at home, you may give 3% hydrogen peroxide at 5 mLs per 10 pounds. Some things should not be vomited up. This is because there is a risk of your dog inhaling the substance (aspiration pneumonia) or lacerating (tearing) the esophagus on the way up. If you are unsure about whether your dog ate something that is safe to make them vomit up, please contact a veterinarian.

The number for the Animal Poison Control Hotline, which is available 24/7, is (888) 426-4435.   There is a consultation fee for calling.  The Animal Poison Control Hotline has an extensive database of toxicological information. 

Elizabeth Gigis, DVM
West Chester Veterinary Center
7330 Liberty Way, West Chester, OH 45069