In our daily lives, we are surrounded by things that are poisonous or toxic if ingested. This isn’t a problem for most of us, as we really don’t have to stop and think about the fact that we shouldn’t chew on the rat poison.

Our dogs, though, don’t share our better judgment, and their curiosity often leads them to snack on hazardous items. According to WebMD, in 2008 there were over 10,000 animal poisonings in the US. Because our bodies are different than those of our dogs, items that won’t hurt us can prove deadly for them. During the holidays we reviewed some of the food items that can be dangerous for your dog. This week, the 50th Anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week, let’s look at some other commonplace items harmful to our dogs.

Some of the biggest dangers are human medications, including herbal supplements and vitamins. Things such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Imodium, diphenhydramine, Naproxen and various sinus, cold and flu medications, as well as supplements and vitamins are given to dogs by their owners in hopes of alleviating symptoms of illness or improving general health. Some of these should never be given to dogs, while others should be administered only in carefully considered dosages.

It is critical that you never give your dog human medication, supplements or vitamins of any type without consulting your vet. Accidental ingestion can occur when a pill is dropped, or when your dog finds a bottle of pills.

You should always respond immediately if you discover your dog has gotten a hold of any of your medications or supplements, as they can be fatal to him.

Nicotine is another people-product that can harm our best friends. Found in a variety of sources, primarily cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum and nicotine patches, it doesn’t take a lot to poison our dogs. A 10-pound dog, for example, would only need to eat two to four cigarettes in order to show toxic signs, and tobacco retains a significant amount of nicotine residue, even after smoking, so butts can be harmful. Large amounts of consumption can be life-threatening, but even small amounts can induce symptoms. Without treatment, nicotine toxicity can cause death within just a few hours.

As spring approaches and you start spring cleaning or gardening, beware. Chemicals contained in antifreeze, paint thinner, and chemicals for pools can act as dog poisons, as can common household cleaners. Fertilizers can contain substances that are toxic to your dog, and products containing metaldehyde, used to kill snails and slugs, can kill your pooch as well.

Another seasonal danger to be wary of are mushrooms. Not all are poisonous, but some are and can be deadly. If you suspect that your dog has eaten a mushroom, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The effect of a poison is not always immediate. Damage to your dog’s body is based on how much he ingested and how long the poison was in the body before treatment.  Some poisons don’t cause illness for days, weeks or even years, though common poisons usually result in signs of illness within three to four days of exposure. Therefore, if you see your pet ingesting a potentially toxic substance, don’t be lured into thinking he’ll be fine just because he doesn’t immediately become ill. Every toxic ingestion is cause for concern.

If you think your dog has been poisoned, stay calm, but act quickly. Do not attempt to make your dog vomit unless advised to do so by a medical expert. Gather up any of the potential poison that remains, as well as any packaging associated with it. If your dog has vomited, collect it as well, as it may be helpful to your vet. Keep your pet calm and call your vet immediately, or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. If treatment is immediate, many poisons do not result in significant illness. Some, however, regardless of how quickly treatment is administered, are fatal or result in permanent damage, so prevention and caution are important. Like children, our dogs depend on us to look out for their best interests. Being aware of potential toxins is one of the ways we do this.

Come meet me this Saturday the 24th at Responsible Dog Ownership Day at Keisel Park in Auburn from 9 a.m. until 12 noon. There will be low-cost rabies vaccinations, microchipping, low-cost spay/neuter information and much more. Karlene’s K-9 Academy will be there as well, offering Canine Good Citizen (CGC) testing as well as information about dog training. Please stop in and say hello.


Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcomed to send their questions to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for possible inclusion in future columns. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.