Top Ten Things to Remember When Your Pet Is Poisoned

Jaime Shriver, DVM
Associate Veterinarian, Clinical Toxicology

  1. Don’t induce vomiting before you call Pet Poison Helpline®. In fact, don’t administer any sort of treatment before calling Pet Poison Helpline® or obtaining veterinary guidance.  Many pet owners panic in a poisoning situation and immediately induce vomiting.  This can be a very serious mistake.  Some poisons, such as drain cleaner, are corrosive and can cause more damage on the way up than they did on the way down.   Please always call us or your primary veterinarian before you do anything.
  2. The only safe way to induce vomiting at home with dogs is utilizing 3% hydrogen peroxide. Other methods listed on the internet, such as giving your pet salt (which can cause swelling in the brain), sticking your finger down your dog’s throat (dogs don’t actually have a gag reflex and are more likely to bite you than vomit), or feeding your dog large amounts of cooking oil (this puts your pet at risk of aspiration pneumonia), are very dangerous.
  3. There is no safe or effective way to induce vomiting with cats at home. They are very sensitive to the effects of hydrogen peroxide and it makes them hypersalivate, instead of vomit.  Induction of vomiting in cats is tricky and must be done by a veterinarian.
  4. Before you call make sure you have all product packaging information for the poison in front of you and bring it along to the vet. In almost every case the specific AI, percentage and volume ingested are imperative to determining the need for evaluation and treatment.  We can more effectively help you if we have this information.
  5. Many pet owners feed their dog milk after a potential poisoning because they believe it will help neutralize the poison. This is rarely helpful and dogs and cats are generally lactose intolerant.  Don’t give your pet milk unless a veterinary professional tells you to do so.
  6. Don’t leave your pet alone after a potential intoxication. It is very important that someone is monitoring the dog, and when you call us we will ask you how the patient is doing.  Someone should be watching your dog at all times, until we determine there is no risk to your pet.
  7. Do not believe everything you read on the internet! Many internet websites have inappropriate information about pet toxicity and you should always make sure to consult a veterinary professional before assuming something is OR isn’t toxic!
  8. If you accidentally apply an insecticide to your cat that is not meant for cats and your cat is asymptomatic, the best way to remove the product is washing with Dawn dish soap. Regular soap may not remove the product thoroughly.  Please call us to determine the need for further treatment.
  9. Not all rodenticide is D-Con, there are many types of rodenticides with varying active ingredients. Some rodenticides have a wide margin of safety, other are very potent and even a small amount can be a problem.  Some have an antidote called vitamin K, others have no antidote.  Many look very similar and none can be identified just by how they look.  Product packaging is very important in evaluating rodenticide toxicity and not all rodenticides are created equal.   Make sure you are only identifying the poison from the product packaging.
  10. Some things that are toxic to your pet are toxic to you too! Make sure to protect yourself when attempting to decontaminate your pet.  Wear protective clothing if needed when washing irritating chemicals or potential toxins off of your pet.  If in doubt, wait and let your veterinarian handle decontamination and call us for further information about the potential poison.