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Substances Toxic to Dogs


I heard a story recently about a dog that likes to retrieve clay targets – not just from the ground, but while they fly. The owner thinks it’s pretty funny. My first reaction was to want to count how many teeth the dog has left in its mouth. Then I remembered reading about how most clay pigeons contain coal tar and lead as well as zinc and nickel, all of which can be toxic if ingested. The article went on to say that if you have a hunting dog – or any dog – that likes to retrieve rocks and hard, solid objects, beware of clay targets. Small pieces can be swallowed and could be poisonous.

While most of us are aware of things that can be toxic to dogs, it’s always good to review the list. Here are some of the commonly found household items, foods and plants that can be poisonous to dogs. (Please leave a comment below if you know of an important toxin I’ve overlooked here.) Levels of toxicity vary, and the amount ingested affects the severity of the symptoms and danger.

  • antifreeze, gasoline, kerosene, turpentine
  • rat and mouse poison, insect bait, animal bait, insecticides
  • mothballs
  • human medications
  • batteries, hand warmers
  • lead, zinc
  • chocolate
  • raisins and grapes
  • macadamia nuts
  • onions, peach pits, apple seeds
  • raw bread dough
  • coffee grinds
  • xylitol artificial sweetener
  • marijuana
  • milkweed, laurel, azalea, foxglove, amaryllis, poppy, mistletoe
  • nightshade family of plants
  • some ivy species, asparagus fern, spider mum
  • some types of mushrooms, particularly the “death cap” mushroom
  • blue-green algae

Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, behavioral changes, weakness, excessive salivation, and neurologic problems like stumbling, convulsions, or seizures. If you know what the dog has ingested and it is not a caustic substance, you can induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide. If it was caustic or you don’t know for sure, you don’t want to make the dog throw up because the acid coming back up will double the damage. It’s best to always have available the phone number for one of the animal poison control centers. They can help identify the best course of action if you know or even suspect your dog has ingested something poisonous.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

10 Responses to “Substances Toxic to Dogs”

  1. Aaron says:

    A quicker way to induce vomiting in a dog than hydrogen peroxide is table salt. On a large dog it takes a lot to even start and it may take up to ten minutes. One solid tablespoon of salt in the dogs mouth and massage it down while it swallows and ten seconds later they have everything in their stomach cleared.

    Learned that from Animal Poison Hotline when my pup ate rat poison and wouldn’t vomit with peroxide.

  2. Tom says:

    Please add hops to the list.

  3. rick says:

    I have never heard about grapes, raisins or apple seeds? My 8 year old lab will literally climb our apple tree pull down a bunch of apples and eat them all and never has been sick?

  4. Mighty GR says:

    Grapes and raisins cause renal failure in dogs.

  5. JOHN CATLIN says:

    I’ve given my dogs grapes many times without any effect, but I guess that’s one more thing I’ll have to change (along with letting dogs jump down from the tailgate, which can injure their spines …).
    The poison in apple seeds is a form of cyanide. The cyanide is within the seed covering, and if the covering isn’t broken, it will pass through the dog’s system intact. Cyanide is poisonous to all animals because it prevents the blood from carrying oxygen, but remember, deer and other animals eat apples and don’t die because they probably don’t break the seeds, and they don’t eat nearly enough seeds in the first place.
    So, a cored apple would be safest but actually giving an apple core to a dog wouldn’t be dangerous at all, it seems to me.

  6. Bruce Youngberg says:

    You listed zinc which is correct, keep in mind that pennies (the newer ones) are mostly zinc. My short hair chewed up a roll of pennies and when we counted we only had $.47, the vet induced vomiting and evidently we miss counted when we sleeved up the pennies..she is fine.

  7. Michelle Flynn says:

    Hibiscus – I brought a hibiscus into the house for the winter and our 3 dogs were eating the leaves ravenously – they loved them. It drove me nuts that they were destroying my plant, but didn’t know there was a problem to the dogs until they started vomiting regularly and had diarrhea. We moved the plant out of their reach and they got better. Vet did not recommend treatment other than removing the plant.

    Additional Common Names: Rose of Sharon, Rose of China
    Toxicity: Toxic to Dogs, Toxic to Cats, Toxic to Horses
    Clinical Signs: Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, anorexia.

  8. Jdanger says:

    As somebody else mentioned hops should be on the list.

  9. Patti Carter says:

    Bittersweet, vine and berries
    That orange and yellow, decorative plant used in many fall displays. I had a 7 week old pup, go into shock and die within an our of eating a few of its berries.

  10. CStein says:

    Margarine can also be added to this list. My pup is very ill right now and all she did was lick out the container. There was very little in it. She has been through all the tests at the vet, has had her injections and is on medications. We are hoping for a quick recovery, but were told to be prepared for an emergency trip to the vet tonight if she does not improve.


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