There’s nothing worse than noticing your dog is “off”, and if they’ve eaten something poisonous or toxic, it’s often the reason.
It’s so worrying when our dogs get sick, or are appearing unwell, and one of the first things I do is panic, google, over analyse and then I try and take a step back to figure if it’s genuinely going to be a trip to the vet (which we tend to avoid if at all possible).
So, I decided to put this together for you, so that you can assess the situation.
If you are wondering what is toxic or poisonous to your dog, please check with the ASPCA list;
ASPCA Toxic & poisonous plants for dogs
ASPCA Toxic Human Foods For Dogs
ASPCA Poisonous Household Products
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number
It’s Good To Note…
There Are Grades Of “Poisonous”
Most things that are toxic to dogs are not deadly.
It’s commonly assumed that when we see that something is Toxic or Poisonous, that we assume it will kill our dogs.
Now, often, that’s not the case.
The best example I can give is Garlic – The original study1 is something that got widely publicised when the outcome was “We believe that foods containing garlic should be avoided for use in dogs,” – which was drawn from the fact that the study gave 1.25ml/kg of garlic extract to dog every day for 12 weeks.
So, for a 40kg dog (like Indie is), he’d be receiving 50ml of concentrated garlic. Which is the equivalent of about 40 cloves of garlic… every day… for a week.
When that was done? the result was slight affect on the red blood cells, but not enough to cause anemia — even after 12 weeks.
The moral of the story is “Toxic” is often refers to something that adversely affects the internal “balance”. But not that it will have any outward effects. If you want to read more about Garlic for dogs, the IVC has a great article Garlic.
However, if your dog has eaten something Genuinely deadly (e.g. grapes or raisins) then you’ll need to take them to the vet as soon as physically possible.
Typically your dog won’t eat things that are bad for them
Much like when your dog looks at the pill wrapped in the ham and knows that that ain’t happening? Dogs can usually tell what is going to be problematic for them – which is not to say your dog knows best.
This is more to indicate that if you’re fretting about something like Azaleas or Poinsettias, which are listed as toxic to dogs, then I can safely advise you that it’s highly unlikely that your dog will choose to eat them. And, even if they do, things like Poinsettas are really only going to give your dog a runny bum – unless you’re force feeding them to your dog.
Know Your Dog’s Normal
Honestly, the best prep you can do for this whole thing is to know and understand your dog’s relative “normal”. Know their normal habits, and know their normal patterns. If you understand that normal and they stray too far from it, for whatever reason, you’ll instinctively know whether they’re “off” or not.
And i do want to encourage you to follow your instinct!! And if you want the ability to check with a vet before rushing them to the hospital, something like Pawp – An Honest Review is a fantastic choice!
But if you want some good signals…
8 Signs That Your Dog Is Unwell
1 – Your Dog May Go Off Their Food
A change in appetite is usually indicative that their stomach isn’t great, that their constipated, or are struggling to create solid stools (e.g. diarrhoea).
This one really varies from dog to dog, some dogs have more of an appetite than others, that’s for sure! So, if your dog tends to have a low appetite, then it might not be a concern. But for a dog to go off their meal who tends to polish their bowl, then it’s likely that there is something awry.
You can try and tempt them too. Ignoring a bowl of kibble is one thing, but ignoring a cube of cheese? Well that’s a real cause for concern (or replace cheese with something else your dog loves!)
2 – Your Dog Might Drink More or Less
Drinking more or less is a sign too.
Sometimes your dog’s excessive drinking can be an attempt to try and flush things through.
And other times, they’ll really not want to drink because it worsens the nausea they’re feeling. I mean, we’ve all been there, right? Unsure if drinking is going to make it better or worse? Well it can be the same thing for your dog.
Drinking good clean water is always preferable though, so you can absolutely try freshening up their bowl and see if it makes a difference.
Note: if your dog is not drinking and it’s very hot? Make sure to monitor them closely for signs of dehydration.
3 – Your Dog May Get Disoriented Or Lack Coordination
Disorientation might come in walking closer to door frames, wobbliness, or bumping into things. It can be incredibly subtle because dogs rarely want to show that they’re weak. It might look like a stagger, or a reluctance to walk, all the way to an inability to move.
Watch them, and see if they’re looking distant, or poorly coordinated. This is a sign that they’re not ok, this one is usually a quick trip to the vets in the rebarkable household.
4 – Vomiting…
This one’s a pretty obvious one, but if your dog is puking, then you know it’s very likely to be a case that your dog is sick. This is the body’s natural reflex to bring up what’s troubling them.
I’m always a bit of a weirdo, because I check puke. Because the puke itself can tell you whole lot about why they’re sick. A foreign object can quickly highlight that was the reason, alternatively, blood? Another clue.
Excessive vomiting can create dehydration, so do be careful, if they’re truly off and cannot begin to regulate their vomiting, then calling your vet and heading down there is a good plan.
5 – Change in bowel movements or urination
Change from their regular is what you’re looking for. This might be dark, black, tarry stool, it might be poop that looks more like a cow pat.
The same goes for urine. Urine is more difficult to monitor because you can’t see it, but a great indicator is the frequency. If water is running through your dog, or if they’re producing more than they’re taking in, then it could be a sign that something isn’t working as it should within them.
Change in this can be subtle, it can also be not subtle. But knowing your dog’s normal, and not being able to put that change directly down to, say, a change in diet, then it’s quite likely that this is a sign that they’re unwell.
6 – Lethargy
An unusual tiredness might be a sign that there’s something wrong with your dog. That tiredness or lack of desire to get up, might well come fro the fact that they’re disoriented, but it could just but true exhaustion.
This might be seen as;
- a lack of desire to play
- a lack of desire to get up
- a lack of desire to walk
7 – Excessive drool
Drooling is once of those things that can mean a whole bunch of things, most commonly, it means you’re eating a sandwich right in front of them and it’s delicious looking. It can also be a sign that they have something stuck in their mouth (So make sure to sweep their mouth).
But, outside of that, it can be a sign that their insides are trying to “rinse” something out. It commonly happens to Lucy (my redtick coonhound) when she went through a phase of licking frogs – luckily they weren’t hallucinogenic ones.
This can be a sign of general nausea, and if you see it on it’s own, you might consider something as simple as a ginger biscuit to ease the affects of that nausea.
8 – Body Language
Your dog might also look sheepish, have a tucked tail, low ears and high brows, and be a little more private or evasive than normal. That is a solid sign that they’re not comfortable.
Dogs Often Hide Their Discomfort
Instinctively, dogs often hide or minimise their discomfort so as to not look weak. So, these signs might be incredibly subtle and you’ll need to be extra extra observant if they have eaten something poisonous.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number
If You’re Worried, Go To The Vet!
Or call the poison hotline.
It has to be said that one of these signs on their own may not actually indicate that there is truly an issue.
For me, as a pet parent, I will always err on the slightly more cautious side, and watch a little longer. But, I will say I am very lucky in the fact that I know that my dogs don’t get into stuff. We don’t currently have kids that leave toys around, and I’m very careful about what ours have access to, and that’s not a luxury everyone has.
I’ll always recommend you analyse the facts, and if there is doubt? Then go to the vet or call the hotline.
It’s always better to act if you’re unsure.
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
1 Chang HS, Yamato O, Sakai Y, Yamasaki M, Maede Y. “Acceleration of superoxide generation in polymorphonuclear leukocytes and inhibition of platelet aggregation by alk(en)yl thiosulfates derived from onion and garlic in dogs and humans”. Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, 060-0818 Sapporo, Japan, 2004.