By Grace Kulkarni
You've probably heard that onions are dangerous for dogs to eat - did you know garlic and avocado are both toxic, too? No guacamole for the dog, unfortunately. We all know chocolate, especially dark and baking chocolate varieties, are poisonous for dogs to ingest - but really, any excessive sugar can spike their blood glucose dangerously and any caffeine can affect a dog's heart in a major way. You know that grapes and raisins are bad for dogs, but un-baked yeasted dough is far more dangerous in smaller quantities. It makes sense that prescription and over-the-counter human medicines are extraordinarily bad for dogs, but just like childproofing, dog owners should secure all household cleaning products. You'll already know that rat poison and insecticides are potentially lethal for dogs too, and we've all heard about antifreeze. What you may not be aware of are heavy metals found in coins or lead paint. You may have heard about the dangers of poinsettia, but many plants are toxic for dogs: daffodil and tulip bulbs, the leaves or berries of ivy and holly.
Symptoms of poisoning in dogs:
Most common: vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool.
Longer term: decreased appetite, bruising, lethargy, dysuria
Facial: nosebleeds; gums or tongue colored blue, white or bright red
Cardiac & Respiratory: audible wheezing, panting for more than 30 minutes consecutively, heart rate above 180 bpm
Neurological: seizures, but also staggering, appearing dizzy or disoriented
What to do if you suspect your dog has ingested poison:
Stay calm! Identify and collect a sample of the poison itself - and any box with information about ingredients! Also retain any feces or vomit your dog has produced. Keep a record of your dog's symptoms, and their approximate start/stop times so a chronology or timeline can be developed for a vet to follow the poison's trajectory.
DO NOT force fluids, this might just circulate the poison faster.
DO NOT induce vomiting - if they need to, they will, and forcing them to might cause them to choke.
DO call your veterinarian, go to an urgent vet center (base fees in the D.C. area are typically around $100-$150), or call a poison control hotline - the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435 which charges just $60 for a consultation.
Over 100,000 pets are poisoned each year - but this is down from 150,000 from 5 years ago (2011). That's great progress, and being aware of the easy fixes (put away your antifreeze!) helps keep our dogs safe!