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The Top 10 Canine Toxins: Part I

Posted December 18, 2014 in Dog Toxins & Poisons


Dr. Justine Lee's specialty is pet poison prevention, and in this blog she discusses some of the most dangerous toxins for dogs. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

Next week – March 17-23rd – is Poison Prevention Week, marking over five decades of safer homes and saved lives. While this nationally-recognized awareness effort was originally directed towards parents of two-legged kids, it has since morphed to include our four-legged canine and feline family members! 

In conjunction with Poison Prevention Week, Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control based out of Minneapolis, recently released the Top 10 canine toxins from 2012. A huge shout out to them for helping spread this great info! We’ll cover the top 5 most common dog poisons this week, followed by the remaining in Part II (make sure to check out the top 5 cat toxins of 2012, too!).
Top 10 canine toxicants:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Mouse and rat poisons (rodenticides)
  3. Vitamins and minerals
  4. NSAIDs
  5. Cardiac medications
  6. Insect bait stations
  7. Cold and allergy medications
  8. Antidepressants
  9. Xylitol
  10. Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)

While one or two chocolate chips isn’t a big deal for your dog, larger amounts can be poisonous. Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which is toxic to dogs (and less so, to cats). Remember this fact: the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. That means that baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates are the most dangerous, while white chocolate (which barely has any real chocolate in it) is generally less of a poisoning concern. Signs of chocolate poisoning include gastrointestinal signs (e.g., drooling, vomiting, diarrhea), an elevated heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, anxiety, hyperactivity, and even tremors or seizures. Don’t forget about foods covered or dipped in chocolate; these can also be dangerous, as in addition to the chocolate, the food inside (including macadamia nuts, espresso beans, and raisins) can result in a different type of poisoning too. 

Mouse and rat poison (rodenticides)
When it comes to mouse and rat poisons, there are several different active ingredients and types of action, making all of them potentially poisonous to dogs. Depending on what type was ingested, poisoning can result in internal bleeding, brain swelling, kidney failure, or even severe vomiting and bloat. Signs of poisoning include difficult breathing, coughing (of blood), walking drunk, tremoring, seizuring, vomiting, excessive

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.