How to Treat a Poisoned Dog or Cat

  1. Notify your veterinarian. Your pet has the best chance of survival if you get help immediately.
  2. Keep your pet calm.
  3. If the poison is on your pet's skin, bathe him or her. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse.
  4. If the poison was ingested, get a sample of the poison's container so your veterinarian can determine the best treatment.
  5. Give activated charcoal or Endosorb (as recommended by a veterinarian) for poisons such as chocolate or bromethalin.

Treatment for a poisoned dog or cat is specific for the poison involved and the symptoms. If your pet just gobbled up poison, the treatment may begin by making your pet vomit. Your veterinarian will tell you whether or not to induce vomiting based on what your pet ate. Your veterinarian will explain how to get your pet to vomit using salt water, dilute hydrogen peroxide, or Ipecac.

One type of poisoning for which vomiting is often prescribed occurs when your pet swallows a handful of a medication, such as aspirin, blood pressure pills, or too many of his or her own medications. On other occasions, your veterinarian will tell you not to induce vomiting. Vomiting is actually harmful if your pet ate something that will cause a lung infection if any of the vomitus is coughed into the lungs. For example, poisons that contain petroleum products cause lung infections (aspiration pneumonia) when vomited. If your pet swallowed paint thinner (a petroleum product) your veterinarian will tell you not to induce vomiting. In cases like this, your veterinarian may tell you to give your pet activated charcoal to adsorb the poison. Endosorb can also be used to adsorb toxins in the stomach and intestines. It is available as tablets or liquid and is less messy than charcoal. Your pet may also need IV fluids.

About 25% of poisoned pets recover within two hours. Of the pets that take longer to recover, many can be treated at home with the advice of your veterinarian or with advice from the ASPCA Poison Control Center (telephone 1-888-426-4435). Even with treatment, one in 100 poisoned pets dies.

For charcoal to work fully, give ten times as much charcoal as poison.

The charcoal is often given multiple times rather than all at once. Charcoal causes diarrhea in some pets and constipation in others. The stools are dark black. Don't give charcoal when your pet is poisoned with an oil.

When advised to do so, induce vomiting. Never induce vomiting in an unconscious or convulsing pet, or in horses, rabbits, and rodents because they don't vomit.

To induce vomiting use 3% hydrogen peroxide at 1-2 teaspoons/10 lbs. Insert a syringe or squeeze bottle between back teeth to give hydrogen peroxide to cats. Repeat the dose in 10 or 15 minutes if your pet hasn't vomited.

At the veterinary clinic, vomiting might be induced with Ipecac, which is diluted with equal parts of water and given to provide 1ml/lb for dogs, and 1 ½ ml/lb for cats. Unlike hydrogen peroxide, which may be repeated if your pet has not vomited after the first dose, Ipecac is not repeated. Activated charcoal is not given with Ipecac.

Use salt water to induce vomiting only when instructed to do so by your veterinarian because salt can cause salt toxicosis (poisoning) in some pets.

What your veterinarian might do if your pet is poisoned

For pets that shouldn't or can't vomit, your veterinarian may give your pet an anesthetic to flush the stomach. Gastric flushing removes a large amount of material, and removes materials that are slow to exit the stomach. Veterinarians will not use this technique with convulsing pets, or with pets that swallowed caustic materials such as bleach or petroleum products.

Preventing further damage from poisoning

After being poisoned, your pet's liver and kidneys may be affected. Antioxidants, herbs, homeopathics, and liver supplements that benefit the liver and kidneys help these damaged organs heal. Omega 3 fatty acids will help control inflammation. Examples of products that may help include T-Relief Tablets, Be Well for Dogs, and Denosyl.

Recommended products to help prevent kidney and liver damage to posioned pets
Helpful contacts

The ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has an Animal Poison Control Center open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for pet poison-related emergencies. Your pet's veterinary clinic is also an excellent place to get help. Keep the clinic's phone number on your refrigerator for emergencies.