sniffing out the signs: spotting dietary indiscretions early

Most pets will eat something they shouldn’t at some time in their lives, but if the un-fur-tunate should happen, acting quickly can give your pet the best chance of a making a full recovery. Start with these simple steps:

We've got the paw-fect plan to get you started:

  • Print out and fill in this Poison Reference Guide
  • Familiarize your family with the danger signs of poisoning and foreign body ingestion
  • Learn how to react if you spot dog poisoning symptoms
  • Build a fur-bulous First Aid Kit and make sure the whole family knows where it is kept

signs of poisoning

Toxin ingestion is a genuine emergency, and pet parents should always seek urgent veterinary advice.The more quickly the pet is seen, the better his chances of making a full recovery. Time is of the essence, so call your vet if you spot any of these signs, often linked to poisoning:

  • heavy drooling: Pets drool if they feel sick, or if they've licked something that's irritated their mouth.
  • incoordination or staggering: Lack of coordination is a serious sign that the central nervous system is affected.
  • sudden weakness or lethargy: Many problems can cause lethargy, but if it comes on suddenly, it's time to take notice.
  • repeated vomiting: Many toxins irritate the stomach lining, leading pets to vomit.
  • dark, tar-like feces: This can be a potential sign of blood being present somewhere in the digestive tract. Many medications can cause bowel ulceration, so blood is a significant finding.
  • excessive thirst: A sudden increase in thirst is particularly noteworthy.
  • collapse: Regardless of the cause, this is an emergency situation.
  • excessive shaking or seizure: Amphetamine ingestion can lead to seizures.
  • dilated eyes: Illegal drugs, pesticides and insecticides can stimulate the nervous system.
  • racing heart rate: Chocolate and caffeine can overstimulate the cardiovascular system.
  • nosebleeds or bleeding gums: Rodenticides affect clotting factors, resulting in bleeding.
  • pale gums: A sign of internal bleeding or anemia, which can be caused by rodenticides

in an emergency

If you spot any signs that make you suspect your pet’s eaten something toxic, follow these steps:

  • First, try to identify what your pet ate, and how much. If you spot any packaging, hold onto it so you can easily reference any toxic ingredients.
  • Call your veterinarian, who will advise you on what to do, including whether your pet needs to be seen. If your vet is unavailable, call the Poison Control Hotline.
  • Make sure you have your first aid kit nearby in case you’re directed to give your pet something to counteract the toxin.

Do not attempt to induce vomiting without talking to an expert first. Some corrosive toxins, like household cleaners, can do further damage to your pet’s system during the process of being expelled.

signs of a foreign body ingestion

The saying goes that "curiosity killed the cat" whereas in reality, dogs are far more likely to sniff out and investigate something they shouldn't. They are even more likely, when they've found that intriguing morsel, to chew and see what it tastes like. This accounts for foreign bodies getting stuck where they shouldn't being a much more common occurrence in dogs than cats.

Of course, that playful puss toying with a piece of string may swallow the end and get herself in a tangle. So be aware of the warning signs that something is stuck, including these common symptoms of blockage in dogs and cats:

  • lack of appetite: Not all pets go off their food entirely, but many with a foreign body have a tummy ache and so lose their appetite.
  • vomiting: The blockage stops food passing through the gut and so vomiting is a common sign of a foreign body. If the object is stuck in the stomach, some pets will not even be able to keep water down. If your pet is vomiting back water, most definitely seek urgent advice.
  • constipation: The combination of not eating and the blockage preventing food passing along the bowel results in a reduced output of poop.
  • diarrhea: If the obstruction is only partial then this can result in diarrhea.
  • abdominal pain: If your belly-scratch-loving pet is showing her teeth when you touch her tummy, she’s likely in pain.
  • lethargy: Tiredness is a common symptom something is off, especially if your pet seems exhausted without reason.
  • collapse: If left untreated a possible consequence is bowel rupture and peritonitis. This is life-threatening and leads to collapse.

in an emergency

If you suspect your pet’s got more than treats in his tummy, follow these steps:

  • Try to determine what he ate. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a pet has eaten something dangerous – Iike when there’s a big chunk missing from a rubber toy! But sometimes we can’t spot what’s gone missing. Do your best to guess.
  • Call your vet immediately, even if you can’t determine what’s causing your pet’s trouble. If you’re unsure, it’s much better to be safe than sorry. Your vet will advise you on whether your pet should be monitored at home, or if he should be seen quickly.
  • Go with your gut. Pets who ingest foreign bodies may show these or other symptoms, or none at all. You know your pet better than anyone, so if you feel something’s amiss, it's best to seek veterinary advice.

further prep-paw-ration:

triage for four-legged friends

Petplan contributing veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Jackson has a cat-astic list of specific steps to help you cope when your four-legged family member is bleeding, has a seizure or eats something they shouldn't.

what to pack in your first aid kit

Petplan's chief veterinary medical officer, Dr. Jules Benson has the purr-fect list of tips on what that vital first aid kit should contain. A helpful hint: make two kits, one for the home and one in the car – for those times when your dog needs a helping paw on the road.